Four years old is a little young to see this whole movie,” Ben Affleck told the Associated Press a few weeks ago. When asked whether he would take his son to see “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” Affleck explained: “I don’t want him to have nightmares.”
Indeed, one blogger lists “7 Reasons Why You Should NOT Take Your Kids to See Batman v Superman,” including foul language and brutal violence.
But it is not just these violent superhero movies — really intended for adults — that parents might want to think twice about. It’s the entire moviegoing experience. Over the course of the past few decades, thanks to some amazing technology, going to the movies has become a much more intense experience. The screens have gotten bigger, the volume has gotten louder, the graphics have become much more realistic.
Common Sense Media rates movies in terms of violence, sexual content, foul language and even “consumerism,” but few adults seem to take into consideration that even the most innocent cartoons can make the hearts of kids beat faster. I noticed this first when I took my oldest daughter to see “Tangled,” the Disney remake of Rapunzel in the theater several years ago. All of the sudden in the middle of a scene when a group of men were riding on horseback, she screamed and sent her popcorn flying across the floor. Just the quick movement of the hooves along with some suspenseful music was enough to send her over the edge.
Parents regularly tell me, almost embarrassedly, that even at the age of 7 or 8, their kids don’t really like to go to the movies. “Is that odd?” one mother asked me. Some think it’s because their children haven’t been exposed to a lot of other media or that they have been sheltered from scary stories — who reads their kids Hansel and Gretel anymore? But more likely it is simply the special effects that we adults have become used to.
Cartoons are often worse than the non-animated movies. A movie like “Yogi Bear” doesn’t need all of the frantic music and graphics of, say, “Zootopia,” because it is already realistic. There are actual people in it.
During a recent trip to the aquarium, my 3-year-old asked to see the movie about whales. When she walked into the IMAX theater, she pointed to a small square in the front of the theater and asked if that’s where the movie was going to play. I don’t think she understood that the entire theater was going to be the screen until lifesize whales started swimming across it. “We have to go now,” she told me.
Now it seems like our media companies have, as they say, kicked it up a notch. The emergence of virtual-reality devices may seem like a really neat way to give kids a more immersive experience. Indeed, earlier this year McDonald’s launched a promotion in Sweden of Happy Meal boxes that could be turned into virtual-reality viewers.