The Force, like anything, needs to rest once in a while. And then, suddenly, it’s been 30 plus years, with nothing more to show for the time than fond memories of love and adventure and six dozen voicemails from some guy named Jar Jar. The Force needs its coffee.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an alarm clock, and a pot of espresso.
WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE LIKE (this is where we relate to each other)
We’re a Star Wars family. We are also an all the superheroes, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter family. Plus books. We love books. Oh, and games. But mostly Star Wars. And The Beatles! And did I mention Star Wars. We love it.
The boys are 9 and 12, respectively, and they enjoy fantasy and sci-fi with the best of them. I’m 44, my wife is a couple of years younger, and we grew up with the fairy tale space western that is Star Wars, just like the boys will, thanks to The Force Awakens. The Millennials got Episodes I-III, which actually explains a lot.
My wife and I have fairly diverse likes in our respective movie feeds. She prefers the offerings of the Hallmark Channel whereas I prefer your Oscar contenders and films you never heard of. I’m kind of a snob about it. However, we tend to find common ground in the world of adventure, stuff like Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Kingsman, incredible documentaries of the human spirit like The Starfish Throwers, and the aforementioned world(s) of fantasy and sci-fi—or should I say galaxy?
Read about my experience at the Star Wars press junket: “A Dad Goes Behind the Curtain of The Force Awakens.”
We did some family prep work to get ready for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, just to make sure everyone knew which droids they were looking for and how not to act like a nerfherder. It turns out that the only backstory one really needs an understanding of are Episodes IV-VI, although the LEGO show Droid Tales is pretty helpful, too.
THOUGHTS ON THE MOVIE
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has aged the franchise in real time, meaning characters like Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are played by the same actors that portrayed them originally, and as such they have aged like we have aged. It makes it easy, while watching the film, to imagine that their lives have gone on just as ours have gone on, with love and heartache, triumphs and laughter, and the wrinkles they create. It is one of the reasons that the film successfully carries its sense of nostalgia, not with ironic nods to pop culture glory days, but with heart and grace and an anchor in the now.
And the now is pretty fabulous.
The new characters are complex and entertaining, well-crafted and well-acted. They are relatable to the audience and wonderfully believable within the context of the Star Wars story. It would be easy to say that the kids will love the newest droid BB-8, because they will, but so will adults. In addition, Finn (John Boyega) is (mostly) brave and charming, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is strong and resilient, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is emo and complicated, Poe (Oscar Isaac) is the best damn pilot in the resistance, and so forth and so on. They are the future of the Star Wars franchise and you’ll want to buy their t-shirts.
NOTES FOR PARENTS
There has been a lot made (in some circles) about the PG-13 rating and Internet wonderings as to whether or not the film is suitable for children. Here’s the rundown: There is violence of the “pew, pew” variety and lots of it, but no gore to speak of—that said, the stormtroopers now have MUCH better aim than their predecessors. Also, there is one super intense scene that may require a conversation on the ride home, but to even try to hint at it here WOULD RUIN THE FILM FOR EVERYONE. And that’s not cool, so if you’re really worried go see it first without the kids—chances are you’ll want to see it more than once anyway.
THE BOTTOM LINE (in which I rank each category with a five star scale, just like a real website)
Positive themes: The themes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are very much like the themes in the original trilogy. Good vs. Evil and the battles between. There is (new) hope, heroics and kindness. Also, The Force Awakens goes a long way in righting some of the wrongs of previous Star Wars films—here the heroes have color and the damsels don’t distress. Positive themes? You bet: ★★★★★
Violence/scare factor: As I mentioned above, there is a lot of violence, whether it be fisticuffs, blasters, spaceships or lightsabers. Despite that (or because of it?) it isn’t very scary. And then there’s that intense part that I won’t tell you about, and that alters the curve for everyone. Three stars: ★★★
Sex/Romance: There’s a bit of one-sided flirtation and some longing looks of romance denied, but if there was anything beyond that I must have blinked. That said, I’m not sure how to grade this. Is romance supposed to acceptable for kids or bad for them? I give this category one yin-yang: ☯
Bad language: I’m fairly certain “damn” was used. There weren’t any f-bombs or anything like that. For the most part the kids will hear worse language walking through the parking lot (far worse if they’re walking behind me). Let’s go with one damn star: ★
I don’t really know what the stars mean.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with all apologies to Public Enemy, does the impossible, it makes you believe the hype. You won’t be disappointed.
Eventually Fandango is going to make me put some “Mom’s Movie Minute” thing here, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this video of Mark Hamill visiting the kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, because light side:
This post was written in partnership with Fandango Family Digital Network. All views are my own.
Photos courtesy of Disney/Lucasfilm