As the father of a nine-year old daughter and seven-year old son, the first thing I’m going to be asked the morning after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens is whether it was as awesome as I was hoping. The second question will follow hot on the heels of the first: are they allowed to go see it? While I certainly can’t answer whether The Force Awakens is okay for kids in general, I’ll try to explore why it might not be appropriate for some in the most spoiler-free way possible.
First, a little background. We let our children watch PG movies without screening them first, though we tend to watch with them whenever possible. They are fans of The Flash on TV after I’ve seen each episode but aren’t allowed to watch the more violent Arrow. I generally censor scenes with a lot of making out, not because my wife and I think that sexuality is somehow worse than violence, but because it would involve conversations we’ve only begun to have with them. They do watch Doctor Who, and have a good grasp on what’s real and what is fantasy.
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They’re generally not allowed to watch PG-13 movies as a rule, because those films tend to have one or more of the following: bloody or gory violence, more blatant sexuality, disturbing imagery or bad language. One movie in particular that has been our borderline case is The Avengers. It’s more or less okay on all four counts, but there is a bunch of gunplay at the beginning, and the scene where Phil Coulson is killed is fairly bloody. We’re close to allowing them to see it but haven’t so far.
Thus, my kids were somewhat concerned when The Force Awakens was given a PG-13 rating, knowing that they wouldn’t get an automatic green light. I’d have to see it first and decide if they would be allowed to watch it in theaters, something my son, especially, is really anxious to do. No pressure.
With that in mind, I’ll break things down along all four factors I’m considering. And again, I’ll keep this spoiler-free, with no discussion about plot points and no character names.
I mean, zip, zero, nada. Everyone stays fully clothed, and some scenes you suspect might be leading somewhere … don’t. I can only think of one scene with even remotely sexual overtones, and I don’t think either of my children will read that subtext into it.
Objectionable Language: Virtually None
This is Star Wars we’re talking about, so you already know there are no f-bombs being served up. The dialogue definitely feels a bit more real under J.J. Abrams then George Lucas, but there’s no real cursing to speak of. The word “hell” makes an appearance twice that I can think of, and that’s it. You can basically make your decision in this area based completely on that word.
Disturbing Imagery: A Little
If monsters scare your kids, then be forewarned that there are some pretty ugly aliens in one action sequence that could be read by younger children as “monsters.” People are eaten. Monsters do that.
I suppose mass death could fall into this category too. There are a few scenes where there are a fair number of dead bodies strewn around — this series is called Star Wars after all — including one where there is some potentially ugly violence implied but not shown. I was fine with it for my own kids, but if you have younger ones and haven’t talked to them much about death, it’s something to keep in mind.
If we’re really leaving no stone unturned, some of the villains could also be a little scary for kids, but there’s nothing visually gross or disgusting about them.
Gory Violence: Not Really, But …
Thankfully, Star Wars is the domain of the most self-cauterizing weapons out there. Blasters and lightsabers alike tend to be pretty light on gore. That said, there is a scene early in the movie where a character ends up smeared with blood, a rarity for the saga. We’ll come back to that scene in a second.
Do you have an issue with people being run through with lightsabers? Because that happens, more than once, along with some slashing with them. The instances are bloodless, so no Loki on Coulson issues here, but I’m telling you now that people are impaled by lightsabers. I’d imagine it doesn’t end well for them once that happens. In general, though, I think the lightsaber battles from Episode III or even the death of Darth Maul were gorier.
Now about that scene with the blood: it involves some atrocities committed on innocent civilians. Those acts are not shown in detail but not off-camera wither, so they do have some psychological impact. I took it as essential to establish the bad guys as the bad guys, and I think my kids will interpret it that way too. We’ll talk about if they have a problem with it. If you don’t feel your own children are ready for that, I’d point to this as perhaps the most questionable part of the whole movie.
And there you have it. Overall, I’d rate Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a very mild PG-13, one that probably could have been a PG with just a few cuts. Enjoy it with your children should you deem them ready for it, and if you’re dicey on it based on what we’ve discussed, my advice would be to go see it first and then make the final call. If nothing else, it gives you a legitimate reason to go see it in theaters at least twice!