'Raiders of the Lost Ark': How young is too young to watch?
When I was 9 years old, I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater and nearly hyperventilated — within the first 12 minutes! The opening sequence, which features Indiana Jones being chased by a giant boulder and culminates with him fleeing dart-shooting natives through the jungle, crammed more action into it than any entire movie I had ever seen. Since then, I’ve watched and re-watched Harrison Ford complain about snakes and hitch a ride on a submarine(!) on Betamax and VHS, on cable and broadcast television, and on DVD and now Blu-ray at least 100 times. At least. Thirty years later, Indiana Jones is still my go-to Halloween outfit, and I even have a permanent scar on my chin that I might have been more self-conscious about growing up if Ford didn’t have one in a similar place.
With Raiders poised to expand in theaters — Paramount just announced that its one-week run on IMAX screens will continue this week on more than 300 digital theaters — and a new remastered version due on Blu-ray, I’m thrilled to revisit these movie memories. In fact, I’m so blinded by my personal affection for the adventure that I’m seriously tempted to introduce the movie to my 7-year-old son.
I know, I know — I can hear some of you tsk-tsking that exposing a boy his age to melting Nazis is irresponsible parenting. It’s true that Raiders is violent, though it retains a relatively modest PG rating and is less shocking than some of the outrageous horrors in the sequel Temple of Doom. Maybe I’m just rationalizing my desire to see the film myself through a kid’s eyes for the first time, but here’s the internal debate I’ve been wrestling with this week.
PRO: I know that he will love it. Judging from the way my son has embraced and consumed all-things Star Wars, this seems like the next logical step in his cinematic apprenticeship. He doesn’t get to watch some of the mindless superhero movies that his peers talk about, and this just might give him some second-grade street cred.
CON: Yes, he’ll love it, but he’s not requesting it. Furthermore, is Indiana Jones really the type of hero I want to lionize to a 7-year-old? Raiders Indy is reckless and ruthless, at work and in love. If I push too hard too soon, he might end up… wearing an Indiana Jones Halloween outfit when he’s in his 30s. Or something.
PRO: Raider of the Lost Ark is the Citizen Kane of action films. It influenced everything that came after it, and it’s never too early to teach the classics.
CON: I expect a film like Raiders will elicit approximately 21.3 questions per minute from an inquisitive kid who has no idea what the Lost Ark is, who the Nazis were, and why Han Solo just doesn’t use his blaster. I’m not sure I have that amount of mental endurance.
PRO: The face-melting scene was jaw-dropping at the time, and could still cause a few nightmares. But I wonder if kids today are accustomed to more realistic, more grotesque effects, and thus he might be more amused than scared by the now-primitive stunt.
CON: I would like to stay married. I don’t get the only vote on such matters when it comes to my children, and my wife can be more
responsible cautious with movies. (I had to fight long and hard for The Princess Bride!)
In conclusion, I’m leaning towards watching the first half of Raiders with him, to gauge his interest, with the intention of pulling the plug before the climactic scene. That might sound cruel, but I’d rather he be hungry for more of the story, rather than waking me up at 3 a.m. to tell me there are Nazi snakes under his bed.
I’m curious what you think about my dilemma.