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MOVIE REVIEW: Is ‘Rogue One’ OK for small kids? (And are there any scary parts?)

December 16th, 2016 / By: Michael Foust / comments

MOVIE REVIEW: Is ‘Rogue One’ OK for small kids? (And are there any scary parts?)

Jyn Erso is like a lot of young people in the Star Wars universe—separated from her parents at a young age, she has grown up with a streak of defiance and a dogged determination that either is going to make her the hero or the goat.

In other words, she is just the type of person the Rebel Alliance needs in its quest to halt the Empire’s march of death through the galaxy.

She’s also at the center of the newest Star Wars movie, a stand-alone film called Rogue One (PG-13) that opens this weekend. Unlike last year’s The Force Awakens, which handed us surprise after surprise, the plot of Rogue One is well known. It is set just prior to A New Hope (1977) and follows Jyn and her band of Rebels as they embark on a secret mission to try and steal the plans for the Death Star (which has the power to blow up planets—but hopefully you already knew that). With those plans in hand, the Rebels will be able to attack the Death Star and destroy it before it does any further damage.

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Of course, the fun for Star Wars fans and other moviegoers is in finding out how Jyn and her friends accomplish their mission. Here’s the good news: Disney and director Gareth Edwards have given us plenty to enjoy along the way. Here’s even more good news: This one is mostly family-friendly—even more so than The Force Awakens—although it still has its typical worldview problems that are worth discussing.

But is Rogue One appropriate for small children? And what should parents expect to see? Let’s take a look. (Warning: a few spoilers ahead!)

The Good

Rogue One has no language—not even a “heck”—and no sexuality. That’s rare for movies nowadays.

Self-sacrifice and selflessness are upheld, as Jyn and her friends Cassian (Diego Luna), Baze (Jiang Wen) and Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) put their lives on the line in order to defeat evil and save the galaxy. They could have hidden and been safe, but they chose to stay and fight. “Rebellions are built on hope,” Jyn says.

The loving bond between Jyn and her parents is a nice touch. Although her mom is killed early in the film, her father survives and works to keep Jyn safe. Separated from her father, she strives to be reunited. There’s even a positive adoption theme: A Rebel named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) takes her in and raises her.

Finally, it’s worth crediting Disney with giving us another positive, non-sexualized female character. Even though Hollywood may be giving us an overabundance of female heroes—at least, in such a short time span—it’s nice to know you can watch a movie with your daughter and not worry about how the heroine is portrayed.

The Bad

Rogue One is rated PG-13 for “extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action,” and deservedly so. All of it is bloodless, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen in any previous Star Wars film, but there is a lot of it. Think: war in a Middle Eastern city, but with lasers and Stormtroopers. There’s some martial arts-type violence with a new character, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen). Darth Vader uses the Force to choke someone.

Chirrut, who is blind, delivers the film’s biggest worldview problems, saying and chanting repeatedly, “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me.” That sounds a lot like pantheism, which holds that God is everyone and everything, and everyone and everything are God—a major departure from Christianity. Hinduism and some strands of Buddhism are pantheistic. This worldview is not new to the Star Wars series, but it is still worth discussing with the family on the ride home. 

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

This is the eighth Star Wars movie. It’s not as good as The Force Awakens, but it’s still better than any of the three movies that made up the prequel. That’s because the story is good (not great) and because the special effects aren’t the centerpiece. It is fun to see lots of old characters, including Darth Vader, and the movie’s final minutes are simply spectacular. Disney did make one big blunder by not giving us the traditional intro music and scroll. Instead, the movie simply starts … like any other movie. I missed the music. (It’s also worth noting that there are scenes in the trailer that are not in the movie, which is weird.) Still, Rogue One gets thumbs up from me.

OK For Kids?

My 8-year-old son watched Rogue One with me, and I’m glad I took him. Although The Force Awakens was borderline for his age last year, Rogue One has fewer content problems. It is no scarier than the first Star Wars (1977), although its extended gun battle sequences might give some parents a reason to think twice about younger ages. I have 4-year-old twins, and I’m not sure I would take them to this one. But I’m sure other parents will reach a different conclusion.

Discussion Questions

How did Jyn growing up without her parents affect her? Did you agree with the decision her father made related to the Death Star’s construction? Why is our culture so crazy about Darth Vader, even though he is bad? What are the differences between pantheism and Christianity? Why is pantheism a false worldview?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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