Star Wars,Return of the Jedi,Rogue One

A parent's guide to Rogue One: Should you take the kids?

December 15, 2016
in Kids

Then I got a question from a reader: “Will my 4-year-old fall out of love with him? She refuses to believe he’s the bad guy.” That made me want to reach for the “wince” emoji. I have a 4-year-old, too, and as much as he loves Star Wars, I’m going to wait a few years before we enjoy Rogue One together. It’s just a bit too intense, a bit too tragic, and bit too complex for him. But that doesn’t mean every young kid should stay away. The trickier question is my 7-year-old daughter, who is so eager to learn more about this new hero Jyn Erso that she would Force-push me out the window if I cancelled our plans to see it together on Friday. I’m still going to take her, but I’m glad I saw Rogue One on my own first. There are some relentlessly terrifying moments in this PG-13-rated movie, and its final act is a true soldier’s story – which (as the MPAA notes) means significantly more sci-fi violence than past films in the series. We’ve usually experienced Rebel losses in the context of starships exploding, and in Return of the Jedi the only battlefield melancholy was a single fallen Ewok mourned by a fellow furball. In Rogue One, there is much greater emphasis on the cost paid by noble people (and aliens) while trying to do what’s right. It’s a bloodless movie, for the most part. (We’re dealing with blasters, not bullets.) But death is death. Younger kids may have a harder time seeing characters risk and (mild spoiler) sometimes lose their lives for a greater good. Last year, I described The Force Awakens as the darkest Star Wars film yet, and I still think that was true at the time. The themes of abandonment, brutality, and death were much more intense in J.J. Abrams’ film than previous installments. But after seeing Rogue One, that title of “darkest Star Wars movie” has been usurped. This is the more “grown-up” movie that longtime Star Wars fans have been wanting – so we shouldn’t be shocked that it may not be ideal for the very youngest fans. Still, every kid is different, as is every parent. One size doesn’t fit all. Some may decide to keep the kids home, others may simply want to know what to expect beforehand so they can manage their children’s reactions. In that spirit, here’s a guide to prepping your younglings for what’s to come, and suggestions for how to talk to them about the emotions may linger after the credits roll. I’m going to try to keep it spoiler free, but … in order to talk about these things, I have to touch on them in a general way. I won’t give away specifics, but I’m going to hit on a few themes – most of them, frankly, have been suggested by the trailers. “And hey, how ‘bout Darth Vader in that black and evil mask! Did he scare you as much as he scared meeeeee?” That was Bill Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer, crooning about Star Wars on Saturday Night Live. But let’s be honest: Vader has always been more ominously cool than straight-up frightening. At the point we met him in 1977’s original Star Wars, striding aboard Princess Leia’s Tantive IV cruiser, Vader was intimidating for sure, but he mostly reserved his cruelty for Force-choking fellow Imperials. We also saw his drift toward redemption in the original trilogy, but in Rogue One he is unburdened by the pull of morality. This time, he’s a killer. There are several scenes featuring the character, again voiced by James Earl Jones, but two in particular stand out as particularly disturbing (and also, I admit, very cool.) I’m not going to specify what they are here, but suffice to say we get a glimpse of what everyday life is like for the Sith Lord, whose ruined body remains functional thanks to his full-body armor and breathing apparatus. His day-to-day existence is anguish. The Empire Strikes Back hinted at that, but Rogue One gives us a long, hard look in a...

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