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Friday, December 18 2015 08:03

Fandango Family Review - STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

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As a member of the Fandango Family Digital Network, I've been asked to do something a little bit different than my norm in my review of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - to do a spoiler-free review written in breakdown form with families in-mind - specifically parents that might be considering taking the little ones to see it in the days and weeks ahead. For our first viewing of THE FORCE AWAKENS, my wife and I went sans children, but we're planning to take the girls at some point during Holiday break.

Rating: PG-13
Running time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Moviegoers: James, 39; Jen, 38; Eventually The Rock Daughters™ – Adalyn (6) & Finley (3)
Spoiler-Free Review of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

What’s the story: We return to “a galaxy far, far away” thirty years after the events of 1983's RETURN OF THE JEDI. The exploits of our heroes have become little more than the stuff of myth and legend, and we soon come to realize that the happiness and jubilant celebration that closed-out the Original Star Wars Trilogy was only temporary, as what was left of The Galactic Empire regrouped and rose once more as The First Order. Meanwhile, The Galactic Republic continued, with former members of The Rebellion serving as The Resistance to The First Order and its leaders, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Following the lineage of George Lucas' 1977 STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, a new generation of heroes will assemble from some unlikely places, finding themselves thrust into a whole new world of adventure.

What parents may like about this movie: A masterful blend of old and new, THE FORCE AWAKENS is truly what actress Lupita Nyong'o called “a seamless continuation of the STAR WARS Saga.” The organic feel of the film (actually shot on genuine, Kodak film) is enhanced by a wealth of real sets and locations, practical effects, and some of the best performances from a cast in any film this year, all under the careful direction of filmmaker J.J. Abrams. Newcomers Daisy Ridley (the young scavenger, Rey) and John Boyega (defecting Stormtrooper, Finn) shine alongside Oscar Isaac as Resistance Pilot Poe Dameron, Nyong'o as the CGI Maz Kanata, and the returning Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). The nostalgia is there, but this is something new and exciting!

What kids will like: Young heroes embarking on a great adventure have been staples of storytelling for centuries, capturing the imagination of young minds. THE FORCE AWAKENS carries on that tradition, but it does so in a manner that should be even more relatable to this generation of STAR WARS fans, than any that came before it. With its diverse cast, kids of many backgrounds will see themselves in these stories, filled with terrific battles, fascinating locales, and positive messaging. What's on-screen will no-doubt fuel countless hours of play at home. Plus, expect to have some form of BB-8 in your house at some point - kids love the droids!

Concerns: My wife and I have some differing views on what is acceptable for certain ages. While she and I both absolutely loved the film, she says “It's PG-13 rating is well-earned,” and left the theater unsure of whether our daughters should see the film at this time. Having already shown the previous six STAR WARS films to our daughters, I plan to enjoy THE FORCE AWAKENS with them very soon, though even I will concede that there are some very intense moments both visual and thematic.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

This is exactly the STAR WARS movie that my wife and I wanted to see – a perfect sequel for fans that were there the first time around, and the perfect entry point for viewers who have never before seen a STAR WARS film.

Positive themes:“Doing what is right” is something literally stated very early on in the film. That coupled with themes of trust, loyalty and family are further reinforced by showing that no matter where you come from – you can always rise above and do great things in life. And, even if you get off-track, redemption is possible. (5/5)

Kylo Ren

Violence/scare factor: Unlike the running gag that Stormtroopers in the Original Trilogy were poor shots, The First Order employs troops that are well-trained, and absolutely ruthless. They do hit their targets, and that means that they do, indeed kill. Kylo Ren will no doubt become just as iconic a figure as Darth Vader, and in many ways he's more terrifying – a tortured soul filled with anger. While much of what we saw of Vader was more intimidation than action, Ren has no shortage of screentime here, and we see exactly what he's capable of. (4/5)

Sex/Romance: Minor flirtation between Rey and Finn. (1/5)

Bad language: Just as Han famously shouted, “Then I'll see you in Hell!” in 1980's THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, here it's Finn's turn to give the “H” word a go – but we've already seen that in some of the TV spots. (1/5)

For more information about this movie or to buy tickets, visit Fandango. To get another parent’s take on this film, check out this Fandango Family review.

Check out more Exclusive Coverage of the STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Launch:

For the latest on THE FORCE AWAKENS, ROGUE ONE, EPISODE VIII and more, keep your browser pointed at TheRockFather.com/StarWars

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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