Thursday night I got the exciting chance to see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel with my son. The movie stars Henry Cavill as Superman/Kal-El/Clark Kent, with Amy Adams as the boldest Lois Lane we've ever seen. And the movie itself was more... well, everything. Darker, more action-packed, more deeply emotional. It's a movie clearly made to appeal to adults. So what about kids? This is the comic-book hero Superman we're talking about here. Your kids may be begging you to take them to see it already. But should you? Here's my take on what parents should know before taking their kids to see Man of Steel.
First of all, there's no sex whatsoever, so no worries there. Superman and Lois Lane have a passionate kiss while fully clothed at the very end, and that's it. The next closest thing, though, is the birth scene at the very beginning of the movie. You don't see anything explicit, but Kal's mother's labor moans and screams are pretty intense. I was a bit uncomfortable watching that right next to my son.
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Otherwise, the movie is violent in a mostly bloodless way. There's a lot of smashing and crashing and epic fights. Innocent people are put in danger. You have to assume people are dying when, for example, Superman smashes his arch nemesis General Zod into a 7-Eleven, causing it to explode in flames. "That's not exactly saving the world," my son quipped.
The violent action kicks in from the very beginning. Soon after the birth we see a seated person take a sudden fatal chest blow from some sort of blaster -- and from there it's all fighting and chasing. As Jor-El, played by Russel Crowe, zooms around on a flying dragon through clashing metal and explosions I wanted to turn to my son and ask, ARE YOU NOT OVERWHELMED? (More like enthralled.)
So outsized is the violence, in fact, that to me it entered the realm of the absurd and was rendered almost meaningless. What happens if we keep ratcheting up the volume and the scale? Whole city blocks are decimated. Skyscrapers snap in half and then collapse (a little too 9/11 for my taste). At one point, a powerful punch sends someone crashing into a satellite outside the Earth's atmosphere. You can't help wondering what it all does to a child's mind to take it all in.
A singularity is created just a few hundred feet above the Earth's surface for the sole purpose of defeating the bad guys -- like a black hole isn't going to suck up the entire Earth and everything surrounding it. So if you care about your child's understanding of the laws of physics, please talk to them about the dangers of singularities after the movie. (Haha)
At least all the action kept my son from noticing the way I was drooling over Henry Cavill.
If you're concerned about the violence but you've got a kid who's dying to see the movie anyway, a compromise might be to see a non-3D version in a smaller theater. Also, you won't leave feeling like you need to take a Valium and a nap.
All that said, there were a few small moments of tenderness. And I think kids will find the themes of compassion for humanity and digging deep to realize the full extent of your powers inspiring. Man of Steel is dark in aesthetics and maybe some of the plot, but it is still very much the story of becoming a hero.
And speaking of heroes, I should mention that we were guests of the organization, Save the Children. They, along with IRC, Mercy Corps, and DC Entertainment are working together on the We Can Be Heroes campaign. Check out the website, where you can donate or shop to help end famine in the Sudan. Because in the real world, we don't face a threat from Kryptonites -- here the danger is that children are starving to death unnecessarily. It's not quite as thrilling as flying around in a cape, but by participating your kids can be heroes, too.
Do your kids want to see Man of Steel?
Image via WarnerBrosPictures/YouTube