Story

The Force Awakens is the latest movie in the Star Wars saga and is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. After the new Jedi order is betrayed, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last surviving Jedi, goes into hiding. This allows the remaining Empire forces to grow into a new Empire called the First Order. The First Order is led by the sinister Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his first lieutenant, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren is determined to find and kill Luke Skywalker.

The old Resistance is desperate to locate Skywalker. They have sent their best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), to the desert planet of Kakku to find a map that identifies the planet where Skywalker is hiding. But just as Poe finds the map, Kylo Ren and the First Order attack. Poe hides the map inside a BB-8 droid, which escapes into the desert and ends up under the protection of a daring and talented scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Through a comedy of errors, Rey and BB-8 team up with Finn (John Boyega), FN-2187, who is a First Order deserter. The three steal the infamous Millennium Falcon to escape First Order storm troopers.

While making their way to the Resistance, Rey, Finn and BB-8 encounter Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who have been searching for the Millennium Falcon. With Solo and Chewbacca’s help Rey, Finn and BB-8 get to the Resistance where they meet General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Rey and Finn learn that the First Order has built a weapon of mass destruction so powerful that it can destroy an entire planet system. Rey, Finn, Poe and the rebels must now fight for their existence by attacking the First Order and destroying the weapon before it destroys them.

Themes

Space; aliens; good versus evil; weapons of mass destruction 

Violence

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has frequent science fiction action violence and peril throughout, battle scenes, scenes showing mass murder, implied torture and multiple violent deaths (one of which is emotionally intense). For example:

  • Many spacecraft descend from the sky and fire laser guns at a civilian village. Dwellings explode while others are set on fire, and people are knocked off their feet and blown throw the air.
  • A resistance fighter fires his laser gun at stormtroopers, and several stormtroopers are shot in the chest. There are brief glimpses of dead stormtroopers and civilians scattered across the ground. A dying stormtrooper drags his hand across another stormtrooper’s helmet leaving a bloody handprint.
  • A man wearing a black robe, mask and helmet uses a flaming lightsabre to strike an elderly man across the back, killing him. Armed stormtroopers execute dozens of defenceless villagers who are huddled together. There is the sound of laser fire and people screaming. 
  • One scene shows a man strapped to an interrogation table. His face is bruised and bloody and it looks like he has been tortured. A black-robed man enters the room and uses supernatural powers to read the other man’s mind. The man’s face distorts and he screams in pain. In a later scene a young girl is strapped to the same table and is being interrogated.     
  • The movie has many scenes that show battles between spacecraft, including exchanges of laser and cannon fire and ships exploding in flames. 
  • In a couple of scenes a cloaked man wielding a light sabre loses control when he has a temper tantrum, shouting out in anger and violently slashing walls, panels and instruments with his light sabre. In one of these scenes the cloaked man uses supernatural powers to throw a man through the air. The cloaked man seizes the other man by throat and strangles him.  
  • A large slug-like monster with multiple tentacles and a mouth full of large pointy teeth chases several men through a ship. The creature catches and eats several men (we hear the sounds of bones being crunched). It entangles one man in its tentacles and carries him off. The man screams until an automatic door closes, chopping off the creature’s tentacles. The man falls to the ground uninjured.
  • Characters are impaled through the chest and back with light sabres. A young woman experiences a flashback in which we see a man impaled through the back. In one emotional scene a lead character is impaled through the chest, falls and disappears into an abyss.
  • A weapon of mass destruction is charged by syphoning off a sun’s energy, causing the sun to shrink to nothing. The weapon is fired and several planets explode and disintegrate. There are images of terrified people on the surface of a planet, watching walls of fire sweeping across their planet and destroying everything.  
  • A cloaked man uses supernatural powers to hurl a young woman through the air. She slams into a tree and falls unconscious to the ground. In another scene the same man hold a flaming light sabre to the woman’s throat, which makes her fall unconscious.
  • In a light sabre fight between a man and a young woman, both are struck several times. The man has a bloody cut to his face while the young woman’s shoulder is burned. During the fight several large trees are cut off at the base. The ground they’re fighting on starts to break up, creating a wide chasm that stops them from fighting.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8
In addition to the scary and violent scenes mentioned above, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • There are lots of scary alien creatures, some of which have humanoid bodies with animal-like heads and faces. For example, one has a large humanoid body with a warthog-like head and large tusks sticking out of his mouth. Some alien creatures look like dinosaurs and others look like giant insects. One creature is a grey-skinned, gigantic humanoid with a jagged scar running across the top of its head. It has an ancient mummified appearance with yellow eyes.
  • Three giant creatures have large slug-like bodies with many tentacles and mouths full of large sharp point teeth. The creatures eat several men whole. 
  • On a couple of occasions we hear threatening animal growls.
  • Some scenes show pools of blood on the ground.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Some younger viewers in this age group might be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above scenes.

Sexual references

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has some sexual references. For example:

  • Two of the movie’s main characters had a child together and later separated.
  • A couple of scenes show two of the movie’s main characters flirting mildly.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens shows some use of substances. For example, characters drink alcohol in a bar.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

There is no product placement of concern in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but plenty of associated merchandise is being marketed to children.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language and name-calling in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a science fiction action adventure targeting teenagers and adult fans of the Star Wars series. 

This entertaining seventh instalment in the series features several new characters as well as reintroducing favourites like Han Solo, Skywalker, Princess Leia and Chewbacca. This movie has a very similar feel to Episodes IV, V and VI with action violence throughout, although it shows minimal blood and gore. The new characters are likely to appeal to adolescent children, and the movie also features a proactive young female lead character. 

You should be aware that, although the movie’s merchandise and other marketing are likely to attract young children, the movie has an M rating. It’s likely to disturb young children because it has scary characters and scenes, many violent deaths, including the upsetting death of a main character, and implied torture. It isn’t suitable for children under 12 years, and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 12-14 years.

The main message from this movie is that good and evil are opposing forces, but we aren’t destined to follow either one or the other. It’s up to each of us to choose a path, and it’s possible to change paths.

You could talk with your children about the movie’s lack of realistic blood and gore and real-life consequences. Does this lessen the impact of the violence on younger viewers and give them a false view of the effects of violence?