Like hapless Storm Troopers under the spell of a Jedi mind trick, nostalgic parents that grew up with Star Wars can’t resist the thought of taking their little ones to see Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
But as the latest installment breaks box office records abroad and anticipation reaches a zenith this week ahead of its January 9 China release (tickets are already on sale), parents may ask themselves: how young is too young for a film like this?
After all, what if a deep breathing Vader-ish villain graces the screen, and leaves your youngster traumatized? Or what if a ghoulish alien gives them nightmares for ages?
Thankfully, there are resources for parents hoping to determine if this new flick (and any other movie, for that matter) is age appropriate.
Kids In Mind may be the most detailed (perhaps even overly so). The beginning of its Force Awakens review features a chart with three categories: sex and nudity, violence and gore, and profanity. Beneath is a thorough examination of virtually every scene that could possibly cause offense in those categories, ranging from the useful ("A dark cloaked person draws a flaming saber and slashes up the wall of a room in anger" in the violence and gore category) to the overprotective ("A young woman kisses a young man on the forehead" in the "sex and nudity" category).
Of course these descriptions are chock full of spoilers, and short of reading through it all, it’s hard to get a quick snapshot of a "yea" or "nay" on age-appropriateness.
Is This Movie Suitable takes a less conservative stance than Kids In Mind, though its reviews are equally rambling, following a narrative format that may not be useful for time-pressed parents accustomed to the bite-sized listicles that are flavor du jour.
Common Sense Media may be more helpful. Its rundown is not overwhelmingly long, and better still, its tone is also far less moralistic than Kids In Mind. It features warnings about sex, violence and language, but also has far more upbeat categories like positive role models and positive messages.
It even has a category about consumerism, which will delight progressive parents. And film buffs will be very appreciative of its spoiler alerts.
The film has a PG-13 rating, mainly due to fighting and the inevitable waves of violent death that occur in action movies, but each of these sites has a slightly different take on how old a child should be before seeing this film. On the young end some mention 6 years old, and on the high end 13.
Our take? Maybe 6 is a little on the young side, but we’d say those age 8 and over should be able to enjoy it without too much permanent emotional damage. Provided your child is not disturbed by fighting and their dreams are not regularly populated by freaky aliens and weirdo space creatures, the film should be enjoyable with parental guidance.
Parents of tweens and above need not worry.
However, some moms and dads are not concerned by the content of such films, but rather the format. Such fears are addressed at 3Deyehealth.org, which has an exhaustive (or exhausting, depending on your degree of cynicism) list of every possible 3D related worry. It debunks some primary concerns, saying: "No detrimental effects of viewing 3D have been reported at any age," while also doling out a few cautious warnings like: "As with most actives moderation is important." Some of its categories are, in our humble estimation, downright paranoid, especially the first, which asks: "Should I as a 3D moviegoer be concerned about the disinfection process used on 3D glasses dispensed at the 3D movie theater?" BabyCenter.com, meanwhile, has a short post written by a pediatric ophthalmologist who insists there’s no evidence that those trendy cinema goggles are harmful, before adding: "In fact, watching 3D media is pretty much the same as watching something in real life." A more detailed, and densely jargony, take on that same argument can be found at Newscientist.com.
Advanced tickets are already on sale, so if you want to go this weekend, best try to buy online now as some showings are already booked out.