A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this nicely designed site plays homage to the stellar movies of the same name. Like the films, there's plenty of sci-fi violence shown through video clips, games, action figures armed with weapons for sale, and in some of the info about the making of the art and special effects of the movies. Wars between characters, guns, lightsabers, grenades, and tons of battling can all be found. However, the amount of advertising -- animated banner ads, commercials running before video snippets and lots of Target store tie-ins -- was a little surprising. If your kids stumble across the Star Wars online store, hide your wallet as there are many movie-related goodies to be purchased. There's also a link to join the official Star Wars fan club ($14.95 a year). Like the films, the site is also very creative: Kids can practice drawing, learn to make videos, and figure out how characters are related.
What's it about?
May the force be with you...and your kids. Fans of the films can find character descriptions, data about the movies and its makers, downloadable goodies, and of course, merchandise for sale. Registering with the site (with name, email and password, birthday, and zip code) is free and allows access to MashUp (a video making tool), the newsletter, message boards, and blogs.
Is it any good?
The Star Wars films are popular for a reason and STARWARS.COM seems like a good vehicle to further the franchises' reputation. Fans will get lost in the more than 10,000 pages filled with spectacular graphics and fun things to see and do. But, like the movies, there's no escaping the force of sci-fi violence -- in the movie clips of combating foes, descriptive drawings of battleships, heroes holding weapons, and games that involve intense violence. And for a site aimed at tweens, the few games that involve players shooting enemies (one in particular has the player looking down the barrel of a gun shooting at moving, though not "live," targets) shouldn't be an option.
Violence aside, it's nice to see product-related site actually teaching kids something: The educational making of the animated Clone Wars, tutorials on how to draw comic strips or popular characters, and crew and artists discussions on how animated or other films are made and what types of people are involved in the creation of a film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how online advertising can have an impact on buying habits. Are there new products introduced on the site that your kids may have not heard about before, but may then think they suddenly need to have? What feeling and/or affect does the Target sign appearing over the red army in The Clone Wars video clip have? Will seeing the logo make a difference of where kids want to shop?