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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

is ‘Dark Knight’ suitable for children?

That’s a joke, right?

A friend just emailed me this to ask on behalf of someone she works with, who wants to take his 11-year-old daughter to see The Dark Knight.

The short answer is No: The Dark Knight is probably not suitable for preadolescents, no matter how “mature” they are. Little kids should go see Kit Kittredge or Wall-E instead.

The long answer is this (contains minor spoiler, but hardly a surprising one, about the opening moments of the film):
The Joker fucking shoots people dead at point-blank range for fun in the opening minutes of the movie.

And then it gets worse from there.

Dark Knight really should be rated R.

But if people want their little kids to grow up to be psychopaths — because the tykes do not have the same mental ability to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality that (some) grownups have; their tender brains are not fully wired yet, and you don’t want to mess with that — well, I guess that’s none of my business.

If people want to stay kids forever and only think about themselves and drag their small children along to a movie just because they want to see it, they shouldn’t have had kids of their own, because that’s, at least, the point at which you kinda have to become a grownup and stop being such a selfish bastard. But I guess that’s none of my business either.

Christ, I am so pissed about this. She’s a little kid. Jesus: Why would you want her to see this bitter, bleak nightmare that probably looks like the world she’s going to be living in as an adult herself, if we don’t straighten ourselves up and give ourselves a boot in the ass? This is not, thank the movie gods, anything like that abomination Batman Forever, which was on TNT late last night, with its clownish Joker Riddler and candy-colored Two-Faced Dent. Dark Knight is a long dark night. I am so not kidding.

And I know — I just know it — that when I go see the film again tomorrow, the theater is going to be packed with little kids.

Yes, I am in a vile mood today.

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  • This is exactly why I am going to see the very latest show, 10:50 PM, at my favorite theatre tonight. This should minimize the number of kids in the theatre.

    PS: Not to nitpick, but it was the Riddler in Batman Forever, not the Joker. :-) And Christopher Nolan should be allowed to take Joel Schumacher outside and beat him senseless with a stick… the Schumacher Batman flicks are two of the worst turds ever to hit the theatres.

  • doubleored

    Not to de-rail your much needed rant but…I thought it was the Riddler & Two Face in Batman Forever, not the Joker. Joker was in the first Burtan film.
    Atleast, this is the movie I’m thinking of right? I tried to scoure the Schumaker films from my head but to no avail.

  • Gloria

    I saw Wanted in Chicago, and a woman had brought her 12-year-old son with her. I wasn’t entirely sure this was completely inappropriate behaviour (since I’ve actually heard some twelve-year-olds talk before, and some of them are more foul-mouthed than I am) but all the same, I was disconcerted.

    More specifically, I’m sick of people who make general assumptions about films like Batman. My dad was puzzled when I shook my head and told him very pointedly that Dark Knight was not a film for my 11-year-old brother (who’s already a bit sensitive).

    “But it’s just a comic book,” he said. Of course, he doesn’t actually read any.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, it’s the Riddler, not the Joker. Fixed it.

    (since I’ve actually heard some twelve-year-olds talk before, and some of them are more foul-mouthed than I am)

    I’m not sure if profanity is really so much an issue with little kids’ brains — though that’s no reason to overexpose them to it — but the violence of *Wanted* I would not want a child to see.

  • Kathy A

    I remember seeing LotR:RotK opening weekend, with a packed theater, and saw a family with kids ranging in age from 12 years down to a year old baby-in-arms. Sure enough, the mother spent a good portion of the film riding herd on the younger ones and taking care of the baby, not enjoying the film at all.

    Why bother spending money for a 3 1/4 hour film the kids (and you) are not going to enjoy?

  • Danielle

    I’m taking to see my 14-year-old sister to see this on Sunday. If she was a couple years younger, I don’t think I’d take her based on the reviews I’ve read.

  • jenn

    I hate, absolutely hate it when assholes bring their little kids to adult movies. We were at horror movie (a crappy one at that) and someone guy brought in a kid who was about 5, late to boot, we might have left right off the bat when we saw that. The kid was terrified and talked (asking questions and such) the whole time we were there. Finally about 50 minutes in we left and demanded our money. The theatre gave us a really hard time about leaving even though we said over and over that there was a very small child who was making a lot of noise and making it impossible to watch.
    I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. If birth control is too tricky to figure out, these morons certainly aren’t going to know or even want to learn anything about being a proper parent.

  • MaryAnn

    Yeah, I’ve said this before, too: If people don’t even care about what they’re doing to their kids by bringing them to inappropriate movies, they’re certainly not going to care about disturbing total strangers.

    I’m taking to see my 14-year-old sister to see this on Sunday.

    14 is probably the youngest at which a kid could deal with this. Depending on the kid. Some 14-year-olds will be too young.

  • Anne-Kari

    You know, it’s the cutesy-poo Burger King action figure tie-in that’s really pissing me off. Little action figures of the Joker….

    I mean, just look at the trailers – the film is soooo not for kids. Fuckin’ hell – what’s the little Joker action figure do, anyway? Should I keep the pencils away from it?

  • Michelle

    I think it’s a little problematic that they’ve marketed this movie to children, since so many people say it’s not for kids. I have an 8 year old daughter, and when we watch Nickelodeon the trailer comes on and there commercials promoting little Batman and Joker toys inside of kiddie cereal (not like we eat that shit, but we are subjected to the commercials when she’s watching Spongebob).

    Yes, a parent should independently research a movie before bringing their child to a movie based on what they’ve seen in a commercial, but I think the promoting company should target the properr audiences, as well.

  • JoshDM

    The Burger King Joker promo toy is part of a binary Joker poison. It kills you by Joker toxin, but only if you’ve also recently ingested McDonalds.

  • Since others have mentioned bad examples of taking kids to movies they shouldn’t be seeing, here’s the worst one I’ve witnessed: A couple of grandparent-types with what looked like a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy at Starship Troopers. I’d already seen the movie and decided to catch a matinee of it when these folks walked in and sat behind me… I was so shocked to see this that I actually turned to them and said, “Are you sure you want to have these two kids in this movie?” They stayed.

    To their credit, at least the kids were quiet. But I assume it’s because they were in shock most of the time.

  • Anne-Kari

    JoshDM – Hee!

  • melissa

    I’ve been at midnight showings of horror movies (Halloween H20 comes to mind) and there’ve been people there with kids. Little kids, like under the age of 5. I do not understand these “parents.”

    Now that I think about it, my ex-husband’s mom took him with her to see the Exorcist when he was 5. (she was a teenage mother) It explains a LOT.

  • Anne-Kari

    By the way, folks, if you are a parent or considering taking a kid to a movie and have a question about how appropriate it is for children, IMDB has a section on each movie page called “Parents guide”. It gives a lot of very specific information about the level of sex, violence, etc (hides spoilers via roll-over) and is pretty useful.

    Dang. I think I broke my record for posting ANYWHERE on the internet right here today.

  • MaryAnn

    when we watch Nickelodeon the trailer comes on and there commercials promoting little Batman and Joker toys inside of kiddie cereal

    Christ, that is just wrong.

    Dang. I think I broke my record for posting ANYWHERE on the internet right here today.

    Posting on the Net is nothing to be ashamed of if you’re smart. And you always are, Anne-Kari.

    In fact, I constantly knock on wood that, for the most part, we’ve managed to maintain an intelligent level of conversation at FlickFilosopher.com. I salute you all.

  • Anne-Kari

    Aw, I’m blushing, MAJ! Thank you for the compliment. But worry not, it wasn’t shame that prompted my comment on posting, just surprise – I just don’t really post anywhere that often. Uh, except here, I guess.

    And yes, this site has attracted some of the most intelligent back-and-forth postings anywhere on the internet. And THAT is a tribute to YOU.

  • I saw it this afternoon. And just as the previews finished and the lights went down, I heard a baby crying in the back of the theater.

  • In fact, I constantly knock on wood that, for the most part, we’ve managed to maintain an intelligent level of conversation at FlickFilosopher.com. I salute you all.

    First!

    ;-)

  • Mo

    Interesting… it’s rated a mere PG in Canada.

  • e

    Yea, I saw the midnight first showing, and probably sounded like some moral crusader at work today when I told them I was surprised people had brought their babies with them to a midnight showing, but moreover their what looked to be around 8 year old boys.

    Some parts of the movie made the mainly 16+ aged audience gasp with their brutality, and it just seemed inappropriate for someone that young. Maybe they just didn’t realize it, I don’t know.

  • I do think many parents see the toys advertised on the cereal boxes and at McD’s and the ads on Nick and think the movie can’t be that bad, especially if it just has a PG rating… I really don’t think many parents actually research TV or movies beyond the rating they see advertised.

    I must say, if my 11yo saw this, there would have to be a TON of Parental Guidance to go along with it to explain all of the psychological, emotional and physical drama/trauma going on, and I don’t think he’d be able to process it even then. And that decision was made before the toys, the reviews and the rants.

  • Sigh. I’m thinking of going to the matinee show on Sunday, and before I even clicked over here I was trying to guess how many kids will be there. In twenty years, there are going to be people talking about how this movie’s Joker gave them nightmares for years when they were little.

  • MaryAnn

    think the movie can’t be that bad, especially if it just has a PG rating…

    It’s PG-13, actually, and as is always the case with American film ratings, the violence is worse than the rating suggests.

  • Marci

    Ok, so I actually took my 8 year old and my 3 year old only because my whole family went and had no one to watch the 3 year old. About 10 minutes into the movie my aunt and mother decided it’s not for them (they only went because of the hype) and decided to take the 3 year old down the hall to “Space Chimps” that was just starting. My 8 year old decided to use the restroom and I told him where everyone else was and he was excited to join them in “Space Chimps”…they absolutely loved it. However, my uncle, my husband and I stayed for BatMan and we loved it!! I was rolling when the Joker told Batman “You complete me!”

    I said all that to open my experience up to you. The media since day one has promoted and marketed this film towards young children. Go down any local Wal-Mart or ToysRUs aisle and there are tons of “Dark Knight” toys, clothes, folders, lunchboxes…anything you want. Why wouldn’t a parent ignore the title of the movie and think, “It must be for kids.” Every little boy loves superheros and every little sister looks up to brother, whatever he thinks is cool…so will she. My 3 year old thinks clowns are still funny and my 8 year old still think Batman is awesome. It didn’t scar them but I am thankful that they would rather see monkeys!

  • Two-Faced

    People, maybe some kids can actually handle The Dark Knight. Im a kid and i saw it last night at a 6:30 showing and i was fine. Please dont say that even if i saw it i wouldnt understand it because believe it or not i did. I actually enjoy the darker tone. Some kids can actually handle it.

  • It’s not that kids can’t handle it, Two-Faced. They’re pretty resilient. You could probably handle jumping off the garage roof with a beach towel cape tied to your neck, too. But just being able to “handle” something doesn’t make it a good idea.

  • Ok, so I actually took my 8 year old and my 3 year old only because my whole family went and had no one to watch the 3 year old…

    …Go down any local Wal-Mart or ToysRUs aisle and there are tons of “Dark Knight” toys, clothes, folders, lunchboxes…anything you want. Why wouldn’t a parent ignore the title of the movie and think, “It must be for kids.”

    “Hype” is what the media uses to break box office records. And your kid may like superheroes, but here’s a tip: you’re a superhero too. Your power is “Common Sense” and you use it to keep him safe.

    Marci, this is exactly the kind of selfish behavior MaryAnn is talking about in her review. There’s always somebody who can watch your kids: You.

  • Two-Faced

    Good point,Newbs. I guess it just depends on the kid.

  • I went today and was going to take my 11 year old cousin, but luckily her parents checked it out and said it might be too much for her and sure enough in the opening minutes[the bank scene] I turned to my father and said I’m glad we didn’t bring her

  • MaryAnn

    Why wouldn’t a parent ignore the title of the movie and think, “It must be for kids.”

    Why would anyone take the word of advertisers trying to sell you something?!

    Im a kid and i saw it last night at a 6:30 showing and i was fine.

    Two-Faced, you have no basis to say you’re “fine” with respect to how this movie will impact you in the long term. And you certainly don’t have the kind of judgment to determine whether you should have seen this in the first place.

  • Two-Faced

    Mary Ann, no i don’t have that judgement, my parents do. They decide what’s appropiate for me and what’s not. And if i can’t i’ll just live with that.

  • Two-Faced

    Sorry about the typo in appropriate

  • heart_nightranger

    I am a father of 4 (one 11,one 8,and two 5).I took all of them to see “Dark Knight”.What all of you are missing is that if you teach your kids the difference between fantasy and real life they will understand.All of my kids thought if was funny and really enjoyed the movie.

    The story of the Dark Knight is that he was willing to sacrifice himself to protect an honest and good man and the battle between good and evil and that there is not always a light or dark side that there is sometimes a grey side.This is a lesson that can be good.In the movie the joker says that all people are evil and will turn to it if pushed hard enough.The people even the criminals in the movie refuses to give in to the pressure and not do the easy thing to save themselves.This is a good lesson I try to teach my kids not to give in to what is easy,but to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

    The only other thing I have to say is why should all of you use all of the profanity that you are using it is not needed remember kids could be reading this.

  • Karen

    I got to see advanced showing of the LoTR movies. After “Fellowship” a co-worker asked if he could take his grade-school kids. I said no fracking way, the wraiths were terrifying.

    So he took his kids (it’s fantasy, right? How could it be bad for kids?). Nightmare city… *sigh*

    The kids didn’t see the other two in the theater…

  • MaryAnn

    I’m a father of 4 (one 11,one 8,and two 5).I took all of them to see “Dark Knight”.What all of you are missing is that if you teach your kids the difference between fantasy and real life they will understand.All of my kids thought if was funny and really enjoyed the movie.

    They thought it was *funny*?

    The mind boggles. Then again, it boggles at anyone who thinks this movie is appropriate for five-year-olds.

    The only other thing I have to say is why should all of you use all of the profanity that you are using it is not needed remember kids could be reading this.

    Jesus fucking Christ. You don’t mind if your kindergartners watch a psychopath push a pencil through a man’s head, but you worry that they may read a few swear words?!

  • Sarah

    Maryann, stop.

    No, seriously, just stop. I love your site, I love your reviews. I love that your friend asked you for your advice on taking her 11 year old, and having seen the film I don’t think your advice is wrong. But you have no kids. You don’t know the commenters whose parenting you’re criticising. You are not a psychologist. You are a lover of movies, and you definitely snuck a look at some weird stuff at 11. No one is attacking your right to answer a question with your honest opinion, of this film in particular or the movie rating system in general. But this level of apoplexy, if anything, proves that amatuers, no matter how dedicated or passionate, or how strongly they believe themselves to have the best interests of both children and cinema at heart, should not be responsible for deciding what content children should and should not view. You’re making a fool of yourself now. Just stop.

  • MaryAnn, one point I’d like to make: The pencil thing happened so quickly that it was even more “sanitary”, if that’s the right word, than someone being shot: There was no blood, and the guy was simply dead and fell to the floor. It was no worse a death than when someone gets their head twisted and neck broken in a movie.

    Having seen the movie, I can see where there are certain psychological elements that might not be suited for younger kids. But the violence was relatively clean and I think a lot of 10+ kids wouldn’t have any problems with it.

  • Mathias

    I remember i found a VHS copy of Terminator 2: Judgement Day when i was 8 years old. The T-1000 terrified me in a primal way that no movie villian can ever replicate.

    I had a nightmare that night that the doorbell rang and i looked at the peephole to see my mom telling me to open the door. When i did, she smiled, pushed me down, raised her arm, which turned into liquid metal to take the shape of an axe and she swung it at my face. That was the first and only time in my life that i woke up screaming and bolted upright off my bed. I screamed again when she came in my bedroom to check on me.

    But guess what? I rewound that VHS tape and watched it again and again. I must’ve seen that movie over 20 times in the summer of 1994. To this day, it’s still one of my top 10 fave movies of all time and brings back a flood of childhood memories everytime i catch it on TV. Some kids had Jaws, some had Star Wars, but i had Terminator 2.
    It’s a big reason why i love movies and why i’m going to film school this fall.

    I probably shouldn’t have seen that movie at that age but it’s one of my favourite memories and yet, i’ve somehow managed to avoid becoming a deranged serial killer and grew up become a well-adjusted member of society. Know why? Because that night, my mom took the time to explain to me that it was just make-believe, playing pretend, that the T-1000 doesn’t exist, that nothing i see in a movie could ever hurt me and that i should never replicate the violence i see on tv. She never had to worry about me and horror movies after that night.

    If parents just take the time to sit down with their kids and explain to them that the violence in movies and on TV is just a couple of actors playing make-believe, the way my mom did that night, then they’ll be equipped with the tools to handle almost any type of violence a movie can dish out.

    But still, a few years ago, my mom was doing some spring cleaning and she came around the corner carrying an axe. I let out a girly scream and we shared a good laugh.

  • Mark

    WTF? to the last few responses.
    NO, a child of any sort should NOT be seeing this movie. I couldn’t believe the amount of single-digit looking kids were in the theater. You do not have to be a parent to know that no kid belonged in that theater. I don’t care if you are the best parent in the world who explains everything to your child.
    Plus, you still get the clueless idiots who think comic book movie = for kids(same people who think all video games are for kids).
    After the movie ended, my wife and I(our 7 year-old knows the difference between real and make believe, but there’s no way in hell he’s seeing this) we both thought it should have been rated R.
    Common sense, people.

  • For me, the real question is, WHY MUST be seen at all from such an audience ?
    I mean, it´s entertainment for an adult audience, and for me this is clear enough since from the trailer.
    So, why bring a kid to see this?
    Just because he/she ask for this ?
    So why not a porn movie ? If he/she likes to see it, why not?
    I mean, it´s fiction too, right ?
    And it can be a lot of fun, too ….

  • sarah, stop.

    No, seriously, just stop.

    your own level of smug lecturing and nanny-ish tone is pretty damned annoying. and just because a person hasn’t actually given birth to a child, doesn’t mean they don’t have any experience of children. nor does having a child necessarily mean that they always are thinking about their child’s best interests.

    i saw the movie saturday afternoon — and there were a 3 year old and a 4 year old in the seats in front of me… they never shut up. their parents never shut up. it was rude and annoying and the movie was totally, completely and thoroughly inappropriate for that age group and there’s no one can say different.

    you being a psychologist doesn’t give you all the answers and you’re making a fool of yourself now. so just fucking stop.

  • Sarah

    I’m not a parent, I’m not a psychologist, and 3-4 is different than 11. If you dislike my aesthetic enough to comment on it, don’t try to write in it. Especially if you’re going to do such a piss-poor job.

  • “If you dislike my aesthetic enough to comment on it, don’t try to write in it. Especially if you’re going to do such a piss-poor job.”

    i was trying to use your own over-wrought rhetoric to make a point… however, it is obviously a futile attempt and i will desist from it. continue in your own humorless and pedantic vein, by all means.

  • Jan Willem

    In Holland, usually such a liberal country, the film has surprisingly been given a 16+ certificate. I can’t comment on the wisdom of this decision though, as the film will only be released this Wednesday over here. But is does throw a rather harsh light on certain parents bringing along their 3-year old…

  • MaryAnn

    bronxbee, I believe the Sarah you responded to is not the same Sara who has been posting all the psych stuff. That said:

    Sarah wrote:

    But this level of apoplexy, if anything, proves that amatuers, no matter how dedicated or passionate, or how strongly they believe themselves to have the best interests of both children and cinema at heart, should not be responsible for deciding what content children should and should not view.

    I am not responsible for deciding what children should or should not view. Parents are. I wish they would do their job. Whether I am a parent or not, I cannot conceive of a five-year-old with the maturity to handle this film. And I will say so as loudly and as often as I care to.

    Clayj wrote:

    The pencil thing happened so quickly that it was even more “sanitary”, if that’s the right word, than someone being shot: There was no blood, and the guy was simply dead and fell to the floor. It was no worse a death than when someone gets their head twisted and neck broken in a movie.

    We’re talking about small children. This isn’t about how “sanitary” the moment is. It’s about the overall impact, which is considerable. (I don’t think small children should be watching people get their necks snapped, either, no matter how bloodless it is.)

    In Holland, usually such a liberal country, the film has surprisingly been given a 16+ certificate.

    If there’s something we should not be “liberal” about, it’s exposing children to violence, even of the fantasy kind.

  • i apologize for smacking down the wrong “Sara(h)”.

  • We’re talking about small children. This isn’t about how “sanitary” the moment is. It’s about the overall impact, which is considerable. (I don’t think small children should be watching people get their necks snapped, either, no matter how bloodless it is.)

    I am somewhat in agreement about “small children” not being good candidates to watch this… but 10+, I think I’d be OK with many kids that age.

    I mean, I saw Alien in 1979 when I was 11 years old, and it didn’t mess me up… and that was a much bloodier and violent movie than The Dark Knight.

  • Sarah

    Apology accepted, Bronxbee. I apologize for reacting poorly as well.

    And five year olds ARE too young.

  • Jaleesa

    I took my 7 and 8 year old cousins to see the Dark Knight and they enjoyed the entire movie. They weren’t scared at all, it just depends on how mature the kids are.

  • MaryAnn

    The question isn’t whether 7- or 8-year-olds “enjoy” this film, it’s whether the adults responsible for those children should expose them to it. It’s hard to imagine a 7-year-old who could appreciate what this film is about.

  • paul

    I find myself thinking a lot about what I’d let my future kids see or not. I mean, we let them see all this violence but not sex. But sex is basically creative and violence is basically destructive.

    Now, we ban children from seeing sexy (and I use that term loosely) movies because it might push them towards having more sex, so shouldn’t we ban them from seeing violent movies? On the other hand, if children can see violent movies because it’s just fantasy, why not let them see sexy movies, too?

  • Henry

    MaryAnn, you are so one million percent right on this. I am a grown woman and I loved The Dark Knight, but even I had trouble sleeping after it.

    Actually, after reading the posts of the people who found this film “funny,” I may have some trouble sleeping tonight, too. Good God.

  • random

    i am 13 its my fave movie ALL YALL MAKE ME MAD!!!!!!!!! u r talking about all of the phsycopathic emotion or watever kids under 13 arent gunna get it seriously i mean my sister who is 9 saw the encil trick and LAUGHED it happens so fast u dont really notice it goes thru his head cmon the jokers coolness and humor overshadows his scaryness wich is next to none i saw saving private ryan wen i was 11 and it didnt bother me one bit joker is not a ghost thats gunna come and haint u hes a comic book character who is in a fantasy film wich is ok for around 9 and up u parents r starting to get way to strict ur gunna raise ur kids to be a baby to me and it definitely shouldnt be r u cant rate a movie r cuz of scaryness or a dark theme it has to have something shown or talked about and dark knight showed and said neither end of story

  • Ystal

    Wow. I really miss punctuation.

  • MaryAnn

    Should we be sending for psychiatric evaluation any child who thinks this Joker is “cool”?

    Or, at any rate, I do not want to run into this kid…

  • JoshDM

    Two words: Pencil trick.

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