So, given that context, how could I not take them to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Unfortunately, there was one hitch. The movie was rated PG-13. My wife and I (my wife especially) raised concerns that it might not be appropriate for small children. I poured over early reviews and IMDB's parent's guide, hoping that the rating wasn't justified. But I saw what I wanted to see and given that my boys did fine with other "adventure movies with cartoon violence" on our own TV, I thought it would be ok. After all, I remember when my father took me to see Star Wars when I was only six years old. It was one of the formative experiences in my life. I wanted the boys to have something similar.
Alas, the movie earns its PG-13 rating and my five year-old spent a good portion of the movie under a blanket. My seven-year-old did much better, but there are certain scenes that we had to shield him from.
And here's where I may need to get into SPOILER territory. Whereas Tolkien's books was definitely aimed at children, the movie is most decidedly *not*. Funny thing is, the problematic scenes all involve additions to the original text. By that, I mean:
- Everything relating to Azog the white Orc
- The addition of a rather frightening scene of Radagast investigating Dol Guldur
So yes, my enjoyment of the film was tempered by my need to be vigilant about monitoring things for my kids. Fortunately, the movie did telegraph potential problems pretty well. I think we caught all instances of places where it was about to get inappropriate. If you are a parent and I thinking of taking young kids (my advice: definitely not if they are younger than 7) then watch for the following:
- Bilbo's prologue about Smaug's attack on Dale is a little scary.
- The bloody backstory that introduces Azog occurs when the company first makes camp after leaving the Shire, just before the Troll encounter.
- The Troll encounter itself is pretty safe.
- The Radagast scene only gets scary when he steps foot into Dol Guldur
- Azog and his wargs attack the party after Radagast relates his story. And though this one is mostly from a distance, the initial attack can be startling.
- Azog has a scene before Goblin Town as he berates his minions for failing to get the dwarves.
- Yes, there is Goblin Town proper. In HFR IMAX, it can be a little intense and there are a couple of startling scenes (like right after Bilbo gets separated). Not much gore, though, aside from the Goblin King taking a sword across his belly.
- Gollum clubs an goblin repeatedly in the head. Gollum itself might be frightening to kids, but my boys had scene enough clips of him ahead of time to be ok with it.
- Azog shows up again when the company emerges from the mountains. There isn't any gore here, but I found that Azog himself was the most frightening element.
Ok, so that's a parent's perspective. But did I actually like the movie? And how was the HFR experience?
Short answers: Yes, I did like the movie (though I have reservations). HFR was a little weird, but I found it to be more interesting/curious than anything else. It really added to some scenes and detracted from some others. The biggest problem is that scenes that take place on interior sets really look like they take place on interior sets. Some sets are awesome (Bag End) while other not so much (Dale, Dol Guldur, Rivendell). But actions scenes really do sparkle.
I made a wise choice in pre-adjusting myself to HFR by checking out videos here. My first reaction was BBC drama or HD stage theater. I continued to have that reaction all the way through Bilbo's prologue. But by the time we flashed back to young Bilbo, I was pretty much adjusted.