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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope is a classic 1977 sci-fi action blockbuster that may be more frightening than you recall. The central villain, Darth Vader, creates a menacing presence and engages in several acts of violence (threatening, choking). Another central character dies, though he just seems to disappear, and several minor characters die or are injured, though the images are brief or non-graphic. There are also a few instances of mild language, specifically "damn" and "hell," plus plenty of insults. Some families may take issue with the film's spiritual philosophies built around "the Force" as the central tenet of existence in the universe. For kids of the right age, this movie is an unforgettable ride through a vast galaxy of imaginative concepts and characters. Of the films in the Star Wars series, this one offers the best and mildest balance of drama and action for younger viewers.
What's the story?
Set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," STAR WARS was the first movie released in the eventual six-film saga. Episode IV: A New Hope begins the adventures of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a lowly farmboy from the planet Tatooine who finds himself swept into an intergalactic civil war after encountering R2D2 (Kenny Baker) and C3P0 (Anthony Daniels), two droids carrying secret plans for an engine of destruction known as the Death Star. Luke brings the droids to former Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) who unexpectedly leads the motley crew into the hands of the evil Empire via the starship of smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookie sidekick, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The heroes rescue the captured Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and escape the Death Star just in time to lead a rebel assault against the space station and the vile Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones), Dark Lord of the Sith.
Is it any good?
This is one of those films that has become sewn into the very fabric of our popular culture. And yet, every day new kids are born who have never seen it. Watched through the lens of a young child, some of the scarier moments of the film suddenly become more striking. Darth Vader is one of the great film villains for a reason -- he's a frightening figure who engages in some very real moments of violence. With the continued prominence of the Star Wars story through animated series, video games, and toys, it may be tempting to introduce the films to children when they are too young to handle these more intense moments.
But if kids are old enough or mature enough to handle these moments, then it's likely that Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope will blow their little minds. It remains an enduring classic for the same reasons it made such an explosive impression way back in 1977. It's full of pulse-pounding action lifted straight from the classic 1930s film serials, it's got humor and character to spare, and the story guides you effortlessly into a completely original universe full of strange creatures and amazing sights. It's easy to be cynical about Star Wars given the billions of dollars it's earned selling everything from DVDs to toothbrushes, but returning to the original film with fresh eyes will remind you just how remarkable Star Wars was -- and continues to be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the heavy merchandising of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope in the decades since its release. Kids: Did watching the movie make you want to buy toys or games related to the movie? What's the appeal of owning something you've seen in a movie?
Movies have changed so much since the late 1970s, when this film was released. Does it still seem exciting, or did you realize you were watching an older film at times?
What's the impact of the violence in this movie? Does the fact that the special effects look old fashioned change the way the violence comes across?
- In theaters: May 25, 1977
- On DVD or streaming: September 21, 2004
- Cast: Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill
- Director: George Lucas
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Robots, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi violence and brief mild language
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
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