Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
A PG-13-rated roller-coaster ride of visual stimulation, Avatar is appropriate for some kids, but certainly not all. Yet it's being marketed with an age-blind blitz of ads, TV specials, fast food tie-ins, and very cool "augmented reality" products from Mattel. To expect kids under 13 to peacefully pass on Avatar is like asking Mylie Cyrus' TV fan base not to attend her concerts. How is a parent supposed to make a good judgment call?
Official movie ratings have become somewhat useless in that regard (especially when toymakers act as if the ratings don’t even exist). Try to extract specific guidance from this line about violence from the Motion Picture Association’s official description of a PG-13 film:
"There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence."
Sounds like an SAT question: Is the answer 1, 1 and 2 only, or none of the above?
An online guide like Kids-in-Mind audits movies for potentially inappropriate content, boiling the film down to specific scenes so coldly and clinically described it nearly ruins the film for you: "a male and a female alien kiss tenderly and then passionately and embrace tightly; we see them waking up after a while..." Frankly, I use the site to see if a movie I'm about to drop 10 bucks on is violent enough.
Fewer than ten questions can actually help you make a good decision about Avatar-appropriateness based on your kid's specific sensitivities:
* Was your child very scared by any of the Star Wars or Harry Potter movies?
* Would your child be very scared to see an arrow pierce someone’s chest, killing him?
* Would your child be very scared by the death of a major character?
* Would your child be very scared by very intense conflict with fatal risks?
* Would you be freaked out if your child saw nude alien and human bodies with their private parts barely covered?
* Would your child be very scared by the merciful killing by knife of a wounded animal?
* Would your child be very scared to see a major character bleeding from a gunshot wound?
* Is your child unable to sit through a two hour and 40 minute movie without being a major distraction to others or having to go to the bathroom?
If the answer to any of the above is YES, then I suggest waiting a year or two before taking the trip to Pandora... unless the prospect of an extremely persistent or persistently violent tantrum from your child is more frightening to you than counseling him or her through post-movie nightmares.
In that case, by all means follow your gut.