Is Batman V Superman suitable for kids? Don’t be silly.
This is a golden time for the comicbook nerd. As a superhero loving child, I never dreamed that my beloved comicbook heroes would be dominating both the box office and the cultural conversation in the way that they currently are.
As I was growing up, it used to drive me nuts that people could only see superheroes in terms of the sixties Adam West TV show. Superheroes were primarily silly as far as the general population was concerned. I knew better.
That slowly began to change in the 1980s, with the likes of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, and Alan Moore’s Watchmen and breakthrough Batman: The Killing Joke. Finally, the idea was getting into people’s heads that superheroes weren’t just for kids.
Except now, things have gone too far. Way too far.
These great superhero movies that are filling up screens on an almost weekly basis? They’re all rated 12/PG-13 as standard. So despite having toys, clothes, and other merchandise marketed to them with these characters – the films that are driving this superhero resurgence are being deliberately produced to be unsuitable for young children.
In terms of movies, I’ve barely had the chance to share my love of Marvel superheroes with my 4-year-old daughter as yet. They are all pitched to an early teen audience. We have watched a couple. The plots are fine, even when they include death they are useful ways of discussing mortality. But the tone of violence is just too visceral to really be considered suitable.
It gets even worse. Warner Bros. have released an R-Rated version of Batman V Superman, so is not recommended for anyone under 17.
This is absolutely insane. Perverse even. The idea of having a mainstream movie with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman that children are not supposed to see is mind-blowingly ridiculous.
Should Batman V Superman be ok for children?
These characters are first and foremost for kids. Yes, the revisionist takes by Miller and Moore I mentioned were useful pop culture reference texts. But instead of informing our fundamental understanding of these characters and genres, they have become go-to texts in themselves.
I (mostly) love what Chis Nolan did with Batman. But he took it as far as it should go, and even then he gave the character a real heart at the centre of his darkness. Conversely, I almost totally hate what Zach Snyder has done with Superman. Disaster-porn was a correctly used phrase to describe Man of Steel. It was a travesty of what Superman represents.
Currently, Deadpool is rightly rated R, and Jessica Jones on Netflix is also correctly pitched as adults only too. That network’s Daredevil I’m on the fence about, but doing justice (again) to Frank Miller’s interpretation is the right way to go.
But looking ahead we have DC adult movie Suicide Squad, and even the promise from Hugh Jackman of an R-Rated Wolverine.
So in all of this, where are the superhero movies for kids? In the past it seems.
DC had some great animated series, beginning with the Batman Animated Series in the nineties. Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) are amazing (I would like someone to lock Zach Snyder in a darkened room to watch them repeatedly one day).
And that silly Batman TV show that used to bug me so much? I love it. It’s awesome. It is visually inventive, has great actors terrific playing characters, and is great family viewing – working brilliantly for children and adults. It has one of the best title sequences in TV history. And it gave us Batgirl!
Saying something is ‘for kids’ has been seen (including by me in the past) as saying something is dumb, simplistic, stupid. A bit rubbish.
Well, that’s rubbish. It doesn’t mean that. Making a superhero movie work as a great story with compelling characters, without resorting to ‘gritty’ violence, is a real challenge that takes great skill, effort, and ability.
It is interesting that the best superhero movie ever made is still Superman: The Movie (1978), an epic movie that spans galaxies, has a cast of legends, and gave the source material – comic books for children – the reverence it deserves.
Perhaps things weren’t so bad for onscreen superheroes in my childhood after all.
‘Batman v Superman’ images courtesy of Warner Bros. The Ultimate Edition has been rated 12 in the UK.