Australian Council on Children and the Media

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Short takes

Not recommended under 12: parental guidance recommended 12-14 (Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • a review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 December 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 12 to 14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children 14 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science fiction themes and violence
Length 135 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The latest film in the Star Wars saga is set approximately thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. After the new Jedi order is betrayed, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last surviving Jedi, goes into hiding. This allows the surviving Empire forces to grow into a new Empire horde called the First Order. The First Order is led by the sinister Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his first lieutenant, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).  Ren is bent on finding and killing Luke Skywalker.

The old Resistance, desperate to locate Skywalker, have sent their best pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) to the desert planet of Kakku to retrieve a map which identifies the planet on which Skywalker is hiding. However, just as Poe manages to retrieve the map, the First Order, led by Kylo Ren, attack. Poe hides the map inside a BB-8 droid which escapes into the desert and ends up under the protection of a daring and talented scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Through a comedy of errors Rey and BB-8 team up with Finn (John Boyega), FN-2187 who is a First Order deserter and the trio are forced to steal the infamous Millennium Falcon in order to escape First Order storm troopers.

While making their way to the Resistance Rey, Finn, and BB-8 encounter Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and the Wookiee Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who have been searching high and low for the Millennium Falcon. With Solo and Chewbacca’s help Rey, Finn and BB-8 make their way to the Resistance where they meet General Lia Organa (Carrie Fisher), 3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2D2 (Kenny Baker). Rey and Finn learn that the First Order has built a weapon of mass destruction so powerful that it is capable of destroying an entire system of planets. Rey, Finn, Poe and the rebels must now fight for their existence by attacking the First Order and destroying the planet killer weapon before it destroys them.   

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Space; aliens; good versus evil; weapons of mass destruction

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains frequent science fiction action violence and peril throughout, battle scenes, scenes depicting mass murder of civilians, implied torture and the depiction of multiple violent deaths (one of which is emotionally intense). Examples include:

  • Many spacecraft descend from the sky and fire their laser guns upon a village full of civilians causing dwellings to explode while others are set on fire, and we see people knocked off their feet and blow throw the air.
  • A resistance fighter fires his laser gun at storm troopers and several storm troopers are shot in the chest; we see brief glimpses of dead storm troopers and civilians scattered across the ground. A dying storm trooper drags his hand across another trooper’s helmet leaving a bloody handprint. A man wearing a black robe, mask and helmet uses a flaming lightsabre to ruthlessly strike an elderly man across the back killing him. Armed storm troopers execute dozens of defenceless villagers who are huddled together; we hear the sound of laser fire and people screaming.
  • One scene depicts a man strapped to an interrogation table. His face is bruised and bloody, the inference being that he had been tortured. A black robed enters the room and uses supernatural powers to read the restrained man’s mind; we see the man’s face distorting and hear him scream out in pain. In a later scene we see a young girl strapped to the same table being interrogated.     
  • The film contains multiple scenes depicting battles between space craft including exchanges of laser and cannon fire and multiple ships exploding in flames.
  • In a couple of scenes a cloaked man wielding a light-sabre loses control when he has a temper tantrum, shouting out in anger violently slashing walls, panels and instruments with his light-sabre. In one of these scenes the cloaked man uses supernatural powers to propel a man through the air with the cloaked man seizing the other man by throat and strangling him.  
  • A large slug-like monster with multiple tentacles and a mouth full of large pointy teeth chases several men through a ship. The creature catches and eats a number of men (we hear the sounds of bones being crunched). It entangles one man in its tentacles and carries him off screaming out until an automatic door closes, chopping off the creatures tentacles. The man falls to the ground uninjured.    
  • Characters are impaled through the chest and back with light-sabres. A young woman experiences a flashback in which we see a man impaled through the back and in one emotional scene a lead character is impaled through the chest, falls and disappearing into an abyss.   
  • A weapon of mass destruction is charged by syphoning off a sun’s energy, causing the sun to shrink to nothing. The weapon is fired and a number of planets explode and disintegrate; we see images of terrified people on the surface of a planet watching walls of fire sweep across their planet destroying all in their path. 
  • A cloaked man uses supernatural powers to hurl a young woman through the air. She slams into a tree and falls unconscious to the ground. In another scene the same man hold a flaming light-sabre to the woman’s throat causing her to fall unconscious.
  • In a light-sabre fight between a man and a young woman both are struck several times resulting in the man receiving a bloody cut to his face while the young woman’s shoulder is burnt. During the fight several large tree are severed at the base and the ground the pair are fighting on begins to breakup creating a wide chasm which stops the pair from fighting.   

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • The film contains many scary alien creatures some of which have humanoid bodies with animal-like heads and faces. For example one has a large humanoid body with a warthog-like head and large tusks protruding from his mouth. Some alien creatures resemble dinosaurs while others resemble giant insects.
  • One alien creature is a grey skinned humanoid of gigantic size with a jagged scar running across the top of its head. It has an ancient mummified appearance with yellow eyes
  • Three giant creatures have large slug-like bodies with multiple tentacles emanating from their bodies and mouths full of large sharp point teeth; these creatures eat several men whole.
  • On a couple of occasions during the film we hear threatening animal growls.
  • Some scenes show pools of blood on the ground.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some younger viewers in this age group may be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

Nothing of concern in the film, but plenty of associated merchandise and as a result, the film itself, being marketed to young children.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • We hear that two of the film’s characters had a child together and later separated
  • A couple of scenes depict two of the film’s lead characters engaging in very subtle mild flirting.  

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

Alcohol being consumed in a bar

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, mainly name calling, for example:

  • dammit; hell; little freak; scum; beasts; monster

In a nutshell

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a science fiction action adventure targeting teens and adult fans of the Star Wars series. This entertaining seventh instalment in the series features several new characters as well as reintroducing classic favourites such as Han Solo, like Skywalker, Leia Organa and Chewbacca.  This film has a very similar feel and flavour to episodes IV, V and VI with action violence throughout, although minimal blood and gore is depicted. The new characters depicted in this film are likely to appeal to adolescents, with a particularly proactive young female lead.

Parents should be aware that in spite of merchandise and other marketing which is likely to attract young children, the film has an M rating.  Scary characters and scenes, multiple violent deaths, including the upsetting death of a main character, and the implied torture make it a disturbing film for young children. It is not suitable for children under 12 and parental guidance is recommended for the 12 to 14 age group.

The main message from this movie is:

  • Good and evil are opposing forces but we are not destined to follow either one or the other - it is up to each individual which path they choose and it is possible to change paths.

Parents may also wish to discuss the film’s seemingly deliberate lack of realistic blood and gore and real life consequences. Does this lessen the impact on younger viewers and give them a false view of the effects of violence?

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