Anyone who has ever tried to cover a kids' eyes when said kid is watching a 3-D movie will understand when I say it's not easy. Full coverage is elusive if not actually impossible. This was a bit of new information I grasped on a recent visit to view The Hobbit with my four kids.
I felt bad after my decision last year to back out of seeing another film that had been made while we were reading the book aloud each evening. I'd read them War Horse. We'd been so excited that the book we'd all been so enthralled with and cried through (well, mostly it had been me doing the crying) was being made into a movie. Here was a chance to have my kids decide for themselves if the book they'd read was better than the movie. Then we learned Steven Spielberg was making it.
"Uh, oh," I thought.
Spielberg doesn't pull any punches when it comes to war re-creation. Then we learned it was to be PG-13. Nope. I had to pull the plug on the plan to see it. I wasn't going to immerse my (then) 7 to 11 year-olds in the realistic horrors of WWI. The story, about the love of a horse and the boy who raises him, was traumatic enough without the grisly realities of a war front. We were all disappointed. I chose not to see it myself to show solidarity with them.
But, The Hobbit? Obviously it wasn't based on real events as it was clearly fantasy fiction. Plus, my kids are a year older now. The book had lagged at times, making it far from an optimal family read-aloud, but we'd stuck with it and persevered, especially after hearing it was being made into a movie. They all sang out in chorus, "You Promise We Can Go See It? Even If It's PG-13??" We were about half way through the book and I quickly did a mental inventory of the scenes I'd read so far… nothing particularly violent. As someone who'd never seen any of the Lord of the Rings films, I replied, "Yes, we can probably go see it."
Fast forward to me trying to cover my eight-year-old's eyes in the movie theater. He was actually glad I was trying to cover his eyes, as he was busy trying to plug his ears since the sound effects are equal to, if not more intense, than the visual effects. It was definitely more grisly than I'd anticipated. The threatening creatures were very scary-looking and there were far more battle scenes than had been in the book. Fortunately it was on the ‘cleaner side' of battle (if there is such a thing) rather than gory, but it was still much more extreme than I'd expected. Mostly I felt like a hypocrite. My husband and I advocate and believe in respect for the earth and all living things and here I was taking my kids to experience media violence, in the name of entertainment. The kids and I talked about it afterwards and all agreed it was far scarier than it needed to be. I made a vow to put more stock in the appraisal of kid-minded film review sites like commonsensemedia.org.
In this case, the book was definitely better than the movie.