This post is going to be fairly long, so you may want to find a comfortable chair.
Even from an early age, my daughter has had tastes beyond her years, and films are no exception. She has a particular interest in science fiction films not normally seen in a 12 year old girl. I suppose to some extent this derives from her interest in the Harry Potter novels. When she was about six, her reading ability improved exponentially and she tore through the series in double quick time, which, of course, led to an interest in the films. I’m sure all parents will be familiar with this phenomenon, and anything that encourages kids to read is fine by me. Her interest in more intense material didn’t take long to manifest, however. Not long after this, she was looking through my DVDs and asked in all seriousness: “Dad, can I watch “Alien”?”. Noooooooo! was my instantaneous response, as you would expect. When she and her brother first met my sweetie at the EMP to view the Lego exhibit ( See “We Are Going To Be Friends”), I had to forcibly prevent her from entering the exhibit of horror film props as the notice made clear that it was unsuitable for young children.
Fast forward a few years. In an attempt to find something worth watching, I had asked members of the “Monster Talk” Facebook page for recommendations of horror/monster films that were either well worth watching, or so dreadful they deserved to be seen. I was able to find some of the titles, although some were not worth the effort. A case in point being the truly awful “Super Inframan“. Apparently the first major Chinese movie filmed entirely in Hong Kong, it deserves to be buried forever. It isn’t even good enough for the “So bad it’s good” category, and has production values so low it makes the work of Sid and Marty Kroft look like “Lord of the Rings”. I mention this cowpat of a film because my daughter asked me what was the worst film I’d ever seen, and despite explaining the plot to her, she insisted on watching it, and nothing I said could dissuade her. She lasted all of 20 minutes, before agreeing with my assessment and suggesting we turn off the DVD player.
This led to a discussion about Sci Fi in general, and films worth watching in particular. We watched “Rogue” together, a pale imitation of “Jaws” with a giant crocodile instead of a shark, and absolutely no tension and then moved on from monsters to traditional Sci Fi. As you no doubt can guess, I’m a fan of “Star Wars”, and we watched the original trilogy together, which she thoroughly enjoyed, although this meant she wanted to see the truly dreadful prequels, and I have no shame in admitting that I fell asleep during “The Phantom Menace”, although this did mean that she wanted to see the originals again as well as “The Force Awakens” a second time, her mother having bought the disc. Of course, we went to the cinema to see “Rogue One”, and she enjoyed it, although it could have been a much better film.
I ran out of suitable films for her to watch, and had already confirmed that her mother didn’t want her to see “Alien” when I said to her “Do you want to see “Alien”?”. I know, I know, but she’s an eminently sensible kid, and had explained that films don’t scare her, because she is “outside” of the action, unlike a book where she is drawn in by the narrative and experiences the story first hand. To be honest, the film is a lot less gory than I remembered, and she already knew of the “Chestburster” scene, so she wasn’t shocked by it. Naturally, we watched the first two sequels, but didn’t bother with the third as it is nothing more than a patchwork made up of elements of the first three. I was impressed by the way she handled the films, and asked a number of insightful questions throughout. She’s an expert at picking out errors, inconsistencies and plot holes, so watching a film with her is a lot more fun than it would be with most kids her age.
I wasn’t sure how she’d handle “Arrival”, but she really enjoyed it, despite it being devoid of the usual Sci Fi elements. It raised a lot of interesting questions, and the production values and alien design really helped. I then suggested we watch “The Day The Earth Stood Still” in order to compare attitudes in the films to the arrival of aliens. I gave her a hint to keep an eye open to the parallel to a more famous story, but I had to explain it to her at the end: Klaatu’s arrival is heralded as a star in the east, he arrives with a message of peace to all men, he takes the name Carpenter, he has followers, he’s betrayed, he’s killed by soldiers and then rises from the dead and ascends into the heavens. She didn’t exactly give herself a dope slap for missing the comparison, but it all fell into place for her when I pointed it out.
The idea of first contact really appeals to her, so tomorrow we will be watching “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, as yet another take on the subject. I don’t know why she has such a strong fascination for Sci Fi, but I do appreciate the opportunity it gives us to spend time together, and I have enough films to keep our weekend sessions going for quite some time. She’s as sharp as a needle, and I want to do all I can to encourage her interest and curiosity, and films give ample opportunity for that. I do have my limits, though. It will be a cold day in hell before I let her watch John Carpenters’ “The Thing”.