Is there any doubt Kurt Russel could still play Snake Plissken in a movie?
Escape from New York, the 1981 thriller, directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russel. The movie is set in a semi dystopian 1997 where the island of Manhattan has been walled off and turned into a prison. This might sound far-fetched now, but at the time this movie was made it wasn’t much of a stretch to think about walling off New York. Go look at some of the pictures of the city during this time and it will give you an idea of how far New York has been cleaned up in thirty years. Russel’s iconic character Snake Plissken is being put into the New York prison, but the night he is put in the President’s plane crashes. He can receive a full pardon if he is able to get the president out alive. Simple plot with interesting characters. When should kids today be introduced to the 80’s classic?
Escape from New York is Rated R, but I have a feeling if the PG-13 rating had existed in 1981 they would have tried to make it fit into this. The language in the movie isn’t excessive for an R movie, just compare this to Beverly Hills Cop. Plissken does use the f-bomb a few times, but they could have easily cut it down to the allowed one. The film also has its one required bit of nudity all 80’s films seem to have, but this also could have been cut out. The violence isn’t excessive or intense. There are a few graphic images, but I think they would have been allowed as PG-13 for today’s standards. This movie isn’t a hard R. Pre-teens and teens could be introduced and enjoy the movie if you don’t mind the one small bit of nudity and the few cuss words.
The one worry I would have about introducing kids to this film would be how dated it looks. For the time it was made, and the budget it was made for the movie looks great. However, it doesn’t hold up to today’s special effects. You can tell miniatures are used, along with some matte paintings. The action is also not as thrilling as today’s standards. I still think the movie can be enjoyed because the characters are interesting and the story idea intriguing. If they can get by some of the older special effects most can still enjoy the film.
The plot of the movie is easy to understand. Plissken must rescue the president in order to be pardoned for his crimes. The warden also makes sure he doesn’t just take the plane he is given and fly off, by injecting some capsules into his blood that will explode within twenty four hours. If Plissken wants to survive along with becoming free he has to do the job. What I like most about the character of Snake is that he has a backstory, but it is left up to the audience’s imagination. He is famous among everyone in the prison, but you don’t know why. All the prisoners think he has been killed and are surprised he is alive. He is almost mythical in the prison, and you never find out why, which I think adds to the character by letting you imagine what he has done. The plot has some logical inconstancies, but you can suspend your disbelief since the story is engaging. I think most any child above seven, maybe even younger, can understand the plot of movie. The question becomes when do you want them to see the violence the film portrays?
Escape from New York, while it is a fun action film, does have some deeper themes. It is a product of its time, and of the issues people were worried about. Crime was running rampant, and New York was a dangerous place. In 1981, the year the film was released, there were a documented 2,166 murders in the city compared to only 328 in 2014. The president in the film is played off as a coward and a buffoon. Jimmy Carter wasn’t looked upon as the greatest president when leaving office, and I can’t help but think the character in the movie was inspired slightly by him. Right or wrong, that is just the feeling I get. An older teenager might be interested in some of the history to go behind the film, and look at it as a time capsule for when it was made. Yes it is set in the future from its release, but it’s what people thought the future could bring from what they were currently viewing in the country. This could also just be me being interested in History, but there has to be some other people out there who find it intriguing.
The movie is fun and interesting and I think can still hold up to a modern audience. I would introduce kids to the film anywhere from 9-12 years old depending on the child. The action, language, and violence isn’t over the top and I think younger kids could handle the film. When would you let your kids watch Escape from New York? When do you remember watching it for the first time? Comment and let me know.