Star Wars: The Last Jedi is almost here, but is the darker sequel suitable for younger viewers? Star Wars movies have been a rite of passage for multiple generations growing up; whether it was seeing the original trilogy in theaters or watching them years later on VHS or maybe even DVD.
And while there are undoubtedly 'scary' moments in the original trilogy and the prequels, advancements in special effects meant that The Force Awakens was much darker than its predecessors, with a lot of fantasy and sci-fi violence, not to mention the death of a well-loved character. Where does Episode VIII sit? Is it too dark for kids, or is it just a harmless bit of escapism? Early reactions and reviews have suggested that The Last Jedi is the darkest of all the Star Wars movies, although that doesn't necessarily mean it's unsuitable for younger viewers.
Just like The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi is rated PG-13 for scenes of sci-fi action and violence. Like all the previous Star Wars movies, there is very little bad language and no scenes of a sexual nature. The official BBFC guide states that there is moderate violence, involving lightsabers and other hand-held weapons. Fantasy violence is a strange beast; kids are far more able to cope with wounds inflicted by a lightsaber than a gun or a knife, especially when the setting is a galaxy far, far away, and not the streets of Manhattan, for example.
There is very little blood in Star Wars movies. We see the results of wounds; bloodied scratches, or bruises, but the blood shown is not truly reflective of the violence inflicted. That helps kids to disassociate. Then there's the whole good versus evil aspect of Star Wars. Again, it's easier for kids to watch violence being inflicted upon the bad guys; they have to get their comeuppance, after all. Even if a good guy gets struck down, kids kind of already know that this is Star Wars; the good guys emerge triumphant in the end.
The problem comes when this doesn't happen. Star Wars' darkest storylines have all revolved around family betrayal, and that is where younger viewers can struggle. The very notion of patricide is a difficult one to grasp; even more so when - as in The Force Awakens - the son is on the dark side and killing one of the best-loved characters of all time; to see family members willing to inflict violence on one another can be a distressing concept to children.
Without spoilers, The Last Jedi takes characters that we all love and puts them in distressing situations. However, to offset that, director Rian Johnson includes several noticeably comedic moments that lighten the mood and will keep kids engaged through its 150-minute runtime. This means suitability really depends on the child in question and how they connect to the characters on screen. For those under the age of seven, most likely it will be too much for them to sit through in a theater. For older kids, it should be OK.
Ultimately, you know your kids; there's nothing to stop you checking it out on your own first, and then taking them if you feel it's suitable. After all, it's no hardship to sit through a Star Wars movie more than once.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019