If you have children over the age of 6, chances are they are talking about the new Iron Man film. My oldest son is 8 and he and his friends have been buzzing about the new movie for weeks. Jafta and I had a chance to preview Iron Man 3 a few weeks ago, and many other parents have asked for feedback about whether or not the movie is appropriate for kids. I'm going to do my best to detail the information parents will want to make an informed decision about the movie, without giving away the plot.
I really enjoyed Iron Man 3. I wouldn't consider myself a comic book fan, yet there is something really engaging about the Iron Man franchise. Robert Downey, Jr. lends so much humor and humanity to the role of Tony Stark... he's a likeable yet flawed hero and this third movie continues to explore the way his narcissistic tendencies are at odds with his sueprhero calling. The movie was a fun thrill-ride that both adults and kids will enjoy, but parents will want to take caution with some of the more adult themes in the movie.
There was a good deal of violence in the film -- perhaps a bit more than the last two films in the trilogy. The movie depicted footage of terrorism involving the bombing of civilians as well as executions. While not necessarily graphic, it was implied that people were being killed by machine gun attacks, bombs, and firing squads shooting men on their knees. There was also a scene with an implied execution of a hostage in which a gun was held to his head at close range and we hear the gunshot. A gun is also held to a child's head. There is gun fight throughout the movie, and at one point a main character kills another main character at close range. The antagonists in the film have no regard for human life. Children may struggle with the violent imagery in this film, and parents may be concerned for younger children or boys who could be prone to imitating violent behavior.
The cursing/swear words were minimal in the Iron Man 3 film, with phrases like "son of a bitch" and "go to hell" used by the movie's hero. Iron Man also asked another character to "stop being a pussy."
There is intense action through much of the movie, sustained at a stressful level that could prove stressful for young children. Someone's life is in peril in a majority of the scenes in the movie.
Horror, Gore, or Supernatual Elements
The bad guys in this particular film, called Extermis, are quite frightening. They have a zombie-like appearance and super-human strength, and are very violent. Their eyes and skin glow, and cracks in the skin appear bloody. During scenes that depict the creation of Extrems, people are depicted with missing limbs and extreme scars from war.
There was both overt and covert sexuality depicted in the film, which may concern parents. It was implied that Tony Stark had a one night stand, with the woman shown in her underwear the next day. It was also implied that Tony lives with his girlfriend and that they shower together. There are a few benign kissing scenes. Other scenes of concern include women in their underwear playing tennis and two women in underwear waiting in bed for a man to join them. It is implied that one character has a "harem." While there are some good portrayals of women who are powerful and smart, every woman in the film is portrayed as a potential sexual plaything by men.
Iron Man 3 continues to explore Tony Stark's inner conflict between his selfish tendencies, his ego, and his responsibility to do good. We see this struggle play out, and there is an underlying message that we have to think of others, not just ourselves. We see Tony deal with the reaction of loved ones to his constant distraction, and how taking people in our lives for granted can be wrong. The movie also portrays how being mean to someone can have lasting consequences. Ultimately the movie explores major themes of greed leading to evil actions, and how selfishness leads to negative outcomes.
Despite the fact that this movie has some themes of concern, there are also many positive points. A child plays a pivotal role in the film, and both he and Tony Stark teach each other valuable life lessons. There is a positive focus on science, academic pursuits, and inventiveness. Parents of minority children will be pleased to see an African-American superhero with a significant and positive role in this film. We see a loyal friendship between superheroes Iron Man and War Machine. Heroes put their life in danger in an effort to save their country, and the fictional president of the U.S. is shown in a positive light. There were moments of heroism that had the whole theater clapping. There was plenty of comic relief throughout the film and I have no doubt most kids will find it entertaining.
I would recommend this movie for kids ages 12 and up. Parents of children aged 8-12 should exercise caution and consider the maturity level of their children. While my 8-year-old son loved the movie, I did have my hand over his eyes during a few frightening scenes that I thought might provoke nightmares later. The gun violence may be troubling for parents so I would encourage conversations after the movie about the fantasy aspects of the movie and the very real reality of gun use. There are many talking points that could lead to valuable conversations with kids, including the personal flaws of Tony Stark, the way greed can fuel evil, and the important of considering others in everything we do.
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