(Spoiler Free) Tastefully dressed in Star Wars attire, six of us went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night. The group had four adults (three old enough to remember the original trilogy in theaters, and one who grew up on the prequels), we also had 10-year-old, plus a 6-year-old in tow.
As usual, I am not going to give a detailed review on the movie itself, instead I will spend most of this post on how appropriate (or not) the movie is for kids.
But I want to at least give you a general idea of what we thought. Everyone in our group, except the 6 year-old, give it two enthusiastic thumbs up. It is fun, has loving references to the original trilogy, showcases several spectacular lightsaber duels, and to my surprise is very much in the spirit of the TV show Star Wars: Rebels. But… It feels meandering in parts, one major story line doesn’t add up to much, and it lacks the pure joy and heart of The Force Awakens. This is a darker movie, and it mirrors The Empire Strikes Back in more than a few ways. Lastly, while the movie kept us on our toes, the biggest complaint we had as a group was that there are too many “gotcha” moments.
If you are a Star Wars newbie and have not done so already, it is a really good idea to see The Force Awakens before you go. I also recommend watching A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, if you have the time. The Last Jedi is not really a stand-alone movie: It builds on the relationships, and emotions we have invested in the characters of previous movies.
Also, I need to mention that it is a LONG movie. A whopping 2.5 hours! (+20 min of previews AFTER the stated movie starting time.) That’s an eternity for most little padawans. There is a long slow section in the middle of the movie, so bring a small toy and/or have a snack handy, since they might lose interest for a bit (our son did). Also at that length, make sure y’all take a potty break beforehand.
The Awesome Parts:
When the movie ended and credits started, I looked over at my 10-year-old daughter. She was transfixed, staring at the names scrolling up the screen. She didn’t move. She didn’t talk. When the credits ended, she turned to me, and with a huge smile on her face said “I don’t think I blinked through the entire movie.” I asked if it was too scary, she said “It WAS scary, but a GOOD scary!” The characters she loves (and a few new ones) are tested, learn new skills, are in mortal peril, and often fight each other. She was emotionally challenged, but not so much that she was really, truly scared. She was so enthralled that she could not take here eyes of the screen for the whole 153 minutes.
Although not nearly consistently as funny as TFA, there are very amusing parts and a bunch of sight gags. The porgs are really cute, and absolutely a kid favorite. BB-8 has some wonderfully heroic scenes that made the kids cheer. (Though, I have to say, I thought the humor felt more forced than in TFA)
There are many nostalgic scenes and visuals throughout the movie. The adults loved those, but I think the kids just don’t have the distance (in time) to the original trilogy, or the visual sophistication to recognize them.
Rey really comes into her own in this movie. Even though this is more an ensemble piece than TFA, it really is her and Luke’s story. Rey is strong, and her character is maturing. She is also allowed to be every bit the hero she SHOULD be. There are several instances that had me cheering out loud! But I will stay mum… I don’t want to give anything away here. I should add that I don’t think the kids understand the significance of Rey. But as an avid (female) movie watcher, I truly appreciate that Rey handles her own problems, and does not end up being saved be the male “hero” of the movie. (For the record, I cried of happiness when I watched Wonder Woman!) (more on Rey and the importance of gender in action movies here)
Lastly, as a parent in a mixed Asian/Caucasian household, I really appreciate that Disney introduced the new character Rose. Asians have been largely absent in the Star Wars universe (Rogue One being the one exception), and we were thrilled to see a strong Asian character added to the list of heroes. I know there are lots of comments about Star Wars turning too “PC”, or catering to the Chinese market. But I absolutely applaud all these changes to the franchise. Representation matters! (You can read more about my thoughts on diversity in Star Wars here and here)
The Scary Parts:
It is overall quite a bit darker and scarier than The Force Awakens. The violence is more personal, you sense the doom, danger, and desperation, there is just so much more at stake. There is death and self-sacrifice – like what we saw in Rogue One (though not as much) – and the lives at stake in The Last Jedi are characters we have known as long as we (or at least the kids) can remember.
The movie opens up with a fair amount of light-hearted humor, but those moments become fewer and further in between as the movie become darker.
The battle scenes feel more intense, the explosion are not necessarily bigger, but they look more real.
The lightsaber scenes are all scarier. Just about all your favorite characters have a fight scene with another favorite character – and after what happened in TFA (with Han Solo) it feels like no one is safe.
Our son was almost 4 when we took him to see The Force Awakens. That was on the young side, but worked out OK. We would not however, have taken him to The Last Jedi at that age. Now, at 6, he is used to watching Star Wars, the Avenger movies, and lots of other action fair, yet this was scary for him. Nothing made him cry, or want to leave, but he self-censored a fair number of times (and my hand covered his eyes a few more). Most importantly, he said he did not like the movie because it was too scary.
I mentioned that our daughter was challenged (in a good way) by the scary parts. Well, our son did NOT like the movie because of them. And it wasn’t the fighting or battles in or of themselves that scared him. Here is what I think upset him: There are several times when our heroes fight for their life against other characters we thought were good guys/gals. It was too hard for him to understand the complexities of the characters, and I think he felt confused. I also mentioned earlier that the biggest complaint I have about the movie, are the many plot twists. At 6, those moments are just too complicated to understand, and you end up feeling tricked, not knowing who to trust. So If I can put words into my son’s mouth, it wasn’t scary as much as very upsetting and really confusing for him.
So the short of it, I would not take a child younger than 6 to this. He or she might be “fine” like my son was, but he sure didn’t enjoy much of it. And if your child is sensitive to scary movies (like our daughter was when younger) I would wait until 8 or so.
Read the list below for specific scary parts:
As always it is hard to tell you about scary scenes without giving away spoilers. I will do my best not to give too much away, but do read on at your own risk.
- The opening space battle scene is pretty intense, and you see people get killed – not only “fast, action violence,” but also close up.
- Snoke is scary! He looks villainous and really gets in your face (especially if you are watching in 3D)
- In the next big space battle there is a potentially traumatizing scene with Princess Leia.
- At Luke’s hide-away, my son screamed when Rey falls into the water – but the following scene wasn’t as scary as he expected.
- There is a lightsaber battle and a flashback on the rocks at Luke’s hide-away, which are quite intense, and very confusing for my son.
- Back to Snoke! This is one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie! Some amazing battle scenes – but quite violent, and confusing for the little ones!
- The space battle towards the end is not very intense visually, so my son was not scared by it. However, a slightly older child who understand the implications of what is happening, might get really upset by it.
- My son also was terrified when the Rebels and First Order start to battle on the Red Salt planet, but as far as battles go, this one doesn’t turn out that violent.
- The end duel is also intense. Of course!
- And, just like the other Star Wars movies, there is death depicted in a several scenes, and you should expect to talk to you child about it.
The short of it is, this is not a movie for young or sensitive kids. If you are unsure of how your child might react, you should watch the movie first.
If there are additional scenes that concern you or troubled your child, please share them with us, so people can read them in the comment section.
- Misha brought up an excellent point on Facebook: Please don’t let the kids talk throughout the movie. Sitting quiet might be hard for the little ones on a looooong movie like this – especially one that will raise a bunch of questions like this one probably will. I also recommend taking them to an afternoon showing which are typically more family friendly!