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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is part of the billion-dollar Star Wars saga, continuing the segment of the story that began in The Force Awakens. It takes place right after the events of that movie and is just as violent, with several battles, explosions, space chases, and close-up duels. There's one rather explicit death (though it's not bloody), and several people die in battle, in some cases sacrificing themselves for their mission. A few times it seems like characters are near death, but they recover. Romance-wise, expect to see one quick, chaste kiss, and some slightly uncomfortable tension between two other characters. Adam Driver's Kylo Ren appears shirtless in one scene for no apparent reason other than to fluster a female character, and there's an odd shot of a character milking a lactating creature and then drinking the milk. Characters also drink cocktails in a luxury casino. Language is tame, with a few uses of words including "damn," "what the hell," "shut up," and the like. Directed by Rian Johnson, the movie boasts several strong female characters, including both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Leia (Carrie Fisher), as well as diversity within the Resistance and strong messages of courage, teamwork, hope, and loyalty.
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What's the story?
STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI takes place right after the events of The Force Awakens, with Commander Poe (Oscar Isaac) and the rest of the Resistance fighters facing a First Order dreadnought, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) tracks down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hopes of convincing him to join the Republic's mission. As General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) follows what remains of the Resistance's fleet, a revived Finn (John Boyega) teams up with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a grieving technician, and Poe in a risky scheme to shut down the First Order's tracking system. Luke senses Rey's powerful potential, but it scares him -- reminding him of his failure to keep Ben/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) away from the dark side. Speaking of which, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) berates a conflicted Kylo Ren to stop whining and take his rightful place as Darth Vader's heir apparent.
Is it any good?
Director Rian Johnson delivers a funny, emotional, suspenseful middle-of-the-trilogy installment that will delight fans as it elevates beloved heroes and moves the story forward. The Last Jedi's female characters, from Rey and Leia (Carrie Fisher) to new additions Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), are decisive, courageous, and fierce. War hero Holdo puts Poe in his place, commanding the Resistance with assurance and hope. Rose is a sweet addition, going from deferential to confident during her time with Finn. And of course, there's Rey, who learns more in this movie about her connection to the Force and puts everything on the line to give Kylo Ren an opportunity to become Ben again. The men are great, too, particularly Hamill, who portrays Luke with the nuance necessary for a deeply conflicted but wise man who's seen far more death and destruction than anyone should. There's even a cameo from one of his long-gone mentors that's likely to make viewers gasp -- and cheer.
Johnson ups the humor while keeping the action operatic in style. Gleeson's pompous General Hux is hilariously cowardly when dealing with Poe and Kylo Ren. Finn and Rose's adventure to find a master coder at a luxury casino has several buddy-comedy road trip elements, and Chewbacca's interaction with the adorable puffin-like porgs is awww-inducing. The fight scenes range from explosive to up close and personal. Among several standout lightsaber fights, one epic duel is more profound than expected. Despite a few minor missteps (like an odd scene in which Luke milks a large creature with four teats and immediately drinks its milk, or an unnecessary and unexpected quick kiss between two characters who've exhibited zero romantic tension), The Last Jedi beautifully sets up what needs to happen for the forces of good to win.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Do scenes of explosions and space battles affect you differently than those of close-up, one-on-one lightsaber duels and killings? Why do you think that is? What makes more of an impact: violence or loss? Why? How does this movie handle both topics?
How is diversity -- and a lack thereof -- used to indicate the values of the opposing sides of the conflict in the Star Wars series? Why is it notable that the First Order has very little diversity, while the Republic has a lot of it?
Did you notice the strong female characters in the movie? How has the world of Star Wars changed in this respect since the original trilogy (or even the prequels)?
Talk about the themes from the previous movies that repeat themselves here. Why are issues of good vs. evil, mentorship, and so on so important to this series? How do they play out on-screen?
- In theaters: December 15, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2018
- Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill
- Director: Rian Johnson
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 152 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi action and violence
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: December 18, 2019
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