Should I see Avengers: Infinity War with kids? Is it okay for middle-schoolers? Will my third-grader freak out? Is there a ton of violence? Am I the best mommy in the world because I refuse to allow my children to be exposed to unnecessary violence, profanity, and superhero shenanigans?
These are the kinds of questions I’ve seen around the digital parentosphere (is that a thing?) this past week, and hi! I’m here to help.
Because even though a week after a premiere is like eons in geek years, for parents who are still making a decision about seeing the film with kids, you’ve got time. No rush.
First, a little about me: I’m a lifelong entertainment junkie, as our readers may already know. International animation, dark TV series, romantic comedies, historical dramas, classic holiday films, 80’s cult films, dystopian YA novels-turned-movies — I love them all.
I wouldn’t have called myself a superhero movie nerd until recent years — and still can’t even walk in the shadow of the real superhero movie nerds — but now, here I am, correcting people who say Infinity Wars (that’s WAR, people — there is just ONE WAR); convincing “I don’t really like superhero movies” people to see Spider-Man: Homecoming with the fervor of a professional political activist; and seriously reconsidering relationships with anyone who says that Black Panther was anything but extraordinary and important.
I’m also someone who still hasn’t yet seen the Captain America reboots. I keep accidentally calling Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom. (D’oh.) And I tried, but couldn’t get through The Dark Knight (and yes, I know that’s DC) because I thought it was over the top and creepy and kind of ridiculous. (And yes, I also know that saying such a thing get me trolled right off of Twitter.)
So let’s say I’m a superhero movie fan, but not a fanatic.
I’m also a parent with boundaries, though they may be different than yours; While I loved Deadpool with all my heart and saw it twice in theaters, I wanted to go all sanctimommy on the parents behind me who brought their six-year-old with them because…just, no. My own girls (nearly 11 and 13) haven’t seen it either, and won’t for a long time.
I’m a yes on Stranger Things with my kids, no on Walking Dead. Yes on 13 Reasons the book, no on 13 Reasons the series.
So that’s me.
Now let’s talk Avengers: Infinity War and how to figure out whether it’s right for your kids.
No spoilers, promise.
I’ve seen the movie twice already — once, adults-only, then a second time Tuesday night with my seventh grade daughter who insisted that we see it RIGHT AWAY THIS SECOND OMG, since the Monday morning after the premiere, her &*%$! classmates were already dropping spoilers.
She loved it.
She also found it really emotional and cried at parts. But in a good way. As in a, “it’s good to feel something so profound about a movie” kind of way.
However, as we always say here, you know your kids best. I can’t tell you exactly what to do, but I doubt that’s what you are looking for.
Instead, I hope I can provide some good questions you can answer honestly, to help you use your own best judgment as a parent and figure what’s right for you and your family.
Questions to ask yourself before taking kids to see Avengers: Infinity War
Have we seen any of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies over the past 10 years?
You don’t have to have seen all 18 Marvel films, but I’d suggest you should at least have a basic understanding of all the characters.
And there are a lot of characters!
So many characters!
The movies I think you have to have seen — and you can debate me on this — are Avengers: Age of Ultron; Avengers: Civil War; Black Panther; Thor: Ragnarok; Doctor Strange; Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2; and at least one of the Iron Man movies — though Age of Ultron may have you covered there.
Avengers: Civil War is helpful but my daughter hadn’t seen it and was just fine as far as comprehension.
However, I did insist my daughter watch Doctor Strange with me at home the night before seeing Infinity War, and she was really glad we did because he’s a huge part of Infinity War and he’s not exactly a superhero in the traditional way. (Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch! Come on!)
It also helps to have seen Spider-Man: Homecoming, if only because you’ll pick up on more jokes — and because it’s utterly wonderful and charming, and he’s my kids’ favorite Marvel character of all.
Am I okay with the overall premise?
The very general plot: Bad guy wants to destroy the galaxy. It’s referred to as genocide, and we see the results of some of his successes on various planets. While that’s pretty much the plot-line of a lot of superhero films, it’s explicitly described here. Younger kids may have a hard time with this depending on their own experiences, and how their minds work.
If you have a really anxious child, or that type of super-bright child who will be turning over the possibility of interplanetary destruction in their head for weeks, Infinity War is probably not a good bet for your kid just yet.
Then again, because we’re talking aliens and pretend people and space travel and lots of not-real-at-all stuff, those kids who are familiar and comfortable with the genre will likely brush all of this off as typical for sci-fi movies.
Will my kids understand it?
This is an easy one: Overall, yes, kids about 9+ will understand it.
The plot happens to be very linear: Thanos, the villain, is trying to collect 6 infinity stones from around the galaxy to place in a giant golden gauntlet he wears on his left hand, so he can control the universe. The good guys will try to stop him along the way.
Now maybe kids won’t every single detail and get every single joke (which is why we let our kids watch Grease, ha), but the writers do a great job using exposition to very clearly establish the story right up front for anyone who hasn’t seen all the previous Marvel films.
I would suggest though, if you have a kid of any age who asks a lot of questions through movies, you need to make an agreement to save all questions to the end — or wait to stream the movie, so you can pause it whenever you’d like without disturbing the other theater-goers.
Am I okay with a lot of intense fight scenes?
There is plenty of action in this film — fights with weapons, hand-to-hand-combat, science-fiction weaponry, and serious technological awesomeness, as you might have guessed if you’ve seen Iron Man or Black Panther or Doctor Strange.
New York City also takes a good beating.
That said, it’s not a gory movie; the grossest thing to me was a brief but fairly humorous scene involving an alien-type creature (being intentionally vague here) losing an arm.
Even when a couple of characters get crushed or gored, it’s not a bloody realistic kind of a crushing or goring — more like an emotional one. No massive pools of blood, Game of Thrones style here.
Even so, the abundance of hard-core action is why I didn’t take my own fifth-grader. While she loves Stranger Things and recently, The Sixth Sense, and is really into dystopian franchises like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games, she isn’t a fan of heavy action and fighting.
She even found Wonder Woman a lot to process once the big battle started. So this movie is not for her right now.
Just for reference: you may have noticed that in not one of these publicity stills from the movie in this post, is anyone smiling, hugging, or mugging for the camera. Despite a ton of really brilliant humor and witty dialogue, pop culture references and truly fun moments, this movie — and I’m sorry I keep using this word for lack of a better one — is intense.
Note: There really is a lot of humor in this movie. In fact, any time things get too serious, something funny and surprising happens to ease the tension, especially from characters like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Thor, and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy crew. This is not Black Hawk Down, okay?
Will the big screen make Avengers: Infinity War too intense for my kid?
I’ve found that some movies are better seen on the small screen at home, where kids are concerned.
In the theater, remember that everything is HUGE and that includes the explosions, the punches, the attack on Wakanda, and the already very big bad guy Thanos,
The sounds will be huge, too.
I didn’t let my younger daughter see Maze Runner 2: The Scorch Trials in theaters because I knew the jump scares and zombie characters and intense SFX that shake your theater seats would have freaked her out; however when she saw it at home she told me, “I wasn’t even scared once! I could have seen it in a theater!”
(Uh, no, she couldn’t have. But anyway.)
If your kid is like mine but really wants to see it, just wait a few months until you can see it streaming or on DVD, when it’s easier to stop the movie in the middle, take bathroom breaks, turn down the volume, and keep the lights on.
Am I okay with mild PG-13 cursing and some crude humor?
If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you won’t be surprised that Starlord refers to one character as having a “nutsack of a chin.” It’s crude — and hilarious — but that’s about as crude as it gets.
So while Infinity War is not nearly at the vulgarity level of Deadpool (which features an entire scene making double entendre jokes about a bar shot called a BJ) or even the two Guardians films, Starlord’s humor in particular is not exactly cocktail party appropriate.
As far as cursing, expect hear dammit, hell, s**t, and a-hole — about the same level of profanity as Spider-Man: Homecoming.
As I’ve said before, I am not a parent who limits movies for my kids based on salty language; but if you prefer to keep things G-rated, then this is not the film for your family right now.
(But keep in mind that E.T. has plenty of language like this, and that was rated PG in 1982. Our sensitivity to language has definitely changed over the years.)
Are my kids okay with real emotion?
This to me is the biggest question for parents to ask themselves if you’re wondering whether Avengers: Infinity War is right for your kids. It’s also what makes this movie so special — you really feel for the characters.
There’s a little alien girl who loses her mom. There’s are some romantic couples who have to make some painful choices. Some people lose people they love.
Then, there’s the much talked-about ending (again, trying not to spoil it but it’s important to let you know this) which is very, very, very emotional, especially if you’ve grown close to the characters. It’s more of a cliffhanger than an ending, but kids will need to have the skills to process it.
I will say however, that a lot of what we find difficult as parents (loss, separation, death) won’t strike kids as profoundly as it does us, because we have more life experience which imbues those moments with far more meaning. (That’s a point we discussed in our post on whether kids should be watching 13 Reasons Why.)
It doesn’t mean your kids won’t be emotional if a character they love is hurt — or worse — but this is the number one arena in which it really is important to be realistic about what your own kid can handle and what they can’t. Because I imagine that for most kids, there will be tears.
So the question to ask yourself is, will they recover from that quickly?
Note: For me, the most emotional part of the entire movie — but in a good way — was returning to Wakanda. I burst out in tears during both showings; it was like a reunion with people I loved, in a utopian country I want to visit. (Even if I would be called a Colonizer. That’s okay.)
It surprised me how profound it felt to see T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye again.
There is a major, major battle scene in Wakanda (as you might have seen in the trailers) in Infinity War, and if your younger kids in particular have grown close to the Black Panther crew too, be prepared for more complexity than “good guys win” — and therefore a lot of resulting emotion.
Do my kids need a happy ending?
As I mentioned, Infinity War ends with more of a cliffhanger than a resolution. By definition, cliffhangers aren’t generally super upbeat and happy.
(That’s not a spoiler to anyone who has ever watched any episodic TV dramas in your lifetime, and if you’ve ever had to “stay tuned” to find out what happens to Rick Grimes, Walter White, Jon Snow, or reruns of Batman and Robin, circa 1966.)
Let’s just say you will not walk out of the theater pumping your fists, so let that factor into your decision.
Can my kid make it through the credits?
Everything else aside when considering taking your kids, Avengers: Infinity War is long, with a run time of 2:40. And that doesn’t include the 8 zillion trailers and ads beforehand. So if you choose to go, make sure to make bathroom stops first, and have plenty of water and snacks.
Because you have to stay through the credits. ALL OF THEM.
If you don’t know this by now…sheesh.
Is my kid just seeing this to “fit in?”
When I asked my own 12-year-old daughter her advice about taking kids to see Avengers: Infinity War, here’s what she wrote to me. (Or rather, texted. Because, middle schoolers.)
You need to like Marvel to see it. It’s great! but if you’re emotionally attached to certain characters like me, you will probably cry. If you are just going to “fit in” it’s not worth it.
That’s probably good advice for all kids about everything, actually. I’m going to remind my daughter of her own words a lot.
The verdict is…
All kids are different, and all parents have different boundaries. There’s no wrong answer here — only the right answer for you.
My best suggestion though, is that probably best for kids 12 and up, as many kids 11 and under (though not all) will find it too intense and even sad.
While it’s not a good fit for my fifth-grader right now, she has friends in her class who have seen it and really liked it. Admittedly, lots of them have older siblings and are probably used to seeing more mature content or have grown up with superhero films.
As for my own seventh-grader, she loved it (evidently along with the majority of her middle school), and she calls it “my second favorite movie ever” (!!) — but she’s also been very emotional about some of the things that happened to her favorite characters.
For more help, you can also check reviews from parents and kids all over the Internet, including Common Sense Media, where parent reviews include “one of the most horrific movies ever released” (guess they never caught Saw or Schindler’s List?) and “this movie is not for children below 16.”
At the same time, the kid reviews (warning, some spoilers in their reviews) are overall positive, including “This was by far the best marvel movie ever! ” and “Great balance of humor and action. Very emotional especially for Marvel loving fans.” There seems to be a consensus even among the kids that 12+ or so is a good guideline, but even the teens talk about the intensity of the film and the feelings they left with.
However my favorite review there might be from one honest, thoughtful young teen who wrote: “Okay so I’m a 13 year old girl that really loves sci-fi movies. Star Wars, Marvel, D.C. you name it, I’ve watched it. For any Star Wars fans out there, I would definitely compare this movie to Revenge of the Sith…Keep in mind that if your child is coming to a comic book movie, THEY WILL SEE VIOLENCE. If you don’t want that for your kid, seriously, just avoid the science fiction genre as a whole.”
That’s about right.
Do you have any questions about the film? I’m happy to answer them in comments!
All photos © Marvel Studios