Be like Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back

To me, this is the defining image of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. Continue reading Be like Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back

Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids? Does the age rating matter?

**NB: Revised from original version, post-screening **

Another year, same issue. Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids? The actual rating of the film – PG-13 from the MPAA in the US and 12A from the BBFC in the UK – is the least of it.

Why am I so keen for my not even 5-year-old daughter to see this movie? Same reasons, I wanted her to see The Force Awakens last year at nearly 4-years-old – to reinforce in her that Star Wars isn’t just for boys. As this movie again features another female lead (Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso), it’s even more important to me that she sees it. And my daughter’s an even bigger Star Wars fan than a year ago.

What do parents need to know? IMHO, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is less violent in tone than The Force Awakens. Yes, there are likely more onscreen deaths – but they are far more in keeping with the less visceral nature of conflict in the original trilogy. Ultimately, this is a story of selflessness and hope.

I have no issue with my (nearly) 5-year-old Star Wars fan daughter watching it, though she may get a bit bored – it is pretty talky. But for any fan of the original trilogy, there is so much that is familiar in the era of this story – Stormtroopers, Yavin-4, spaceships, and other stuff I don’t want to spoil – that they will find plenty to love.

But it still feels ludicrous that movies such as these new Star Wars instalments or the superpowered adventures of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and even Ant-Man, should be deemed unsuitable for kids under 12 or 13 (depending on what country you’re in).

Now I know these age ratings are only advisory, and that we as parents know our kids best, but this shouldn’t even be an issue when we are talking about movies of this type. They should first – and foremost – be suitable for kids. If they’re not, what’s the point of having tie-in toys (like this Rogue One LEGO U-Wing)?

But, a film’s certificate only tells part of the story. A film can be rated PG and be utterly terrifying (Jaws). A film can be U and give your kid childhood nightmares (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Watership Down).

And, I think the real reason these movies are rated 12A/PG-13 is simple – money. They are seen as more commercial – U & PG look like kids films and may put off adults, 15 & 18 are age restrictive. In the US, while kids can see R rated movies with an adult (it’s a very weird thing to see if you’re not from the US – family trips to see a super- inappropriate movie), it will still put enough people off.

But many of these films are 12A/PG-13 in name only, adding in a little violence or innuendo to get the rating up. In my experience, the majority of these 12A’s are perfectly fine for my daughter. The violence is fantasy, the sexual content is innocent, and while the language can be a bit fruity, this is language she will increasingly hear, and she has yet to repeat (no doubt the first time will within earshot – or to – a teacher).

Where does Rogue One: A Star Wars Story fit into this? To me it is definitely at the lighter end of the 12A/PG-13 scale, where the likes of The Bourne Identity and The Dark Knight lurk at the other end. There was one scene where (yet again) there was a bit of an intense interrogation, but it was brief and fantastical in nature. While there are many deaths on screen, this is all done very much in the vein of the original trilogy. In the past, this could well have been classified PG (or even U if the 1970’s BBFC had been the ones classifying it!)

So is Star Wars: Rogue One suitable for your kids? I think you already know the answer to that one…

We're off to the movies 😀 #starwarsrogueone #reycosplay #forceawakenscosplay

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FWIW, here is the BBFC advice on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

There are frequent gunfights, use of hand-held weapons, explosions and aerial dogfights between spaceships. Blood and injury detail is limited and brief.

Occasional scenes of mild threat include an interrogation and gun threat.

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What do you think? Is Star Wars Rogue One suitable for kids?

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Image of Felicity Jones from ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, © 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


LEGO Star Wars: Rogue One – Rebel U-Wing Fighter Set (75155)

While anticipation builds for the latest Star Wars movie, a glimpse of the new ships and characters we can look forward have been revealed with the latest LEGO Star Wars sets.

Star Wars: Rogue One is set immediately prior to the original 1977 Star Wars. The rebel forces have a history of alphabetising their star fighters. There are the famed X-Wings, also Y-Wings, B-Wings, and A-Wings. What does Rogue One have to offer? It appears the rebels have added U to their lettered fleet.

This LEGO U-Wing has 650+ pieces, in 5 numbered bags. It comes with 5 minifigures, and is the only one of the first wave of Star Wars: Rogue One sets to feature a Jyn Erso minifigure (who’s the female lead).

lego-star-wars-rogue-one-rebel-u-wing-fighter-set-75155-packshot

The stated age is 8-14, but making this was a great joint activity with my 4-year-old daughter. We have always tried to encourage her to be ambitious on what she is capable of, and she always takes great satisfaction in making a LEGO model intended for much older children.

lego-star-wars-rogue-one-rebel-u-wing-fighter-set-75155-in-action

The completed ship has various interactive features to give it a shelf life beyond construction – two retractable wings (turning the U into a variation on Y), 2 spring-loaded missile launchers, 2 stud shooters, 2 pullout slide doors, an opening cockpit, and a rear storage locker.

As well as Jyn Erso, the minifigures are her fellow Rebels Cassian Andor, alien Bistan, plus a Rebel trooper and a U-Wing pilot.

As we have yet to see the U-Wing in action in the movie, this is a different prospect to most of our previous LEGO Star Wars sets. We are normally recreating iconic scenes and vehicles, but this one’s place in the Star Wars saga is yet to be seen. As such, it currently lacks the recognisable appeal of other sets. Even the Imperial Rogue One sets at least evoke the other more familiar vehicles.

But for us, just having a Jyn Erso figure – another addition to the canon of female Star Wars characters – was a good enough reason to choose this over the others.

Jyn Erso is in the house (along with Cassian Andor) #starwarsrogueone #jynerso #75155

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Star Wars is set to dominate christmas once again this year, and this LEGO set is sure to be under many a tree.

The LEGO Star Wars: Rogue One – Rebel U-Wing Fighter Set has an RRP of £69.99. We were sent this set for the purposes of this review.

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Review – Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

How did The First Order rise from the ashes of the Empire? How did Princess Leia become a General? Why did her accent waver from English to American in Star Wars (1977). All these questions and more are answered in Star Wars: Bloodline, the terrific new Princess Leia novel by Claudia Gray.

The politics of the Star Wars movies have never stood up to much scrutiny. They were scarcely mentioned in the original trilogy, and superficially explored in the prequels. The politics of The Force Awakens are very much down the list of important plot elements.

But in longer form, such as The Clone Wars cartoon, the intrigue of the Senate, the Jedi Council, and the galactic infrastructure have proven to be a rich seam of drama.

Books are another format where this aspect gets a chance to be explored, and in Star Wars: Bloodline author Claudia Gray has crafted a terrific political thriller.

Despite being a childhood Star Wars fan, I never ventured into the world of the extended universe (EU) books. Growing up, I became frustrated that Marvel’s Star Wars comics had no relationship with the larger saga, and I felt the same about the flood of EU novels post-1990’s.

There is now a different approach to tie in books, comics, and TV shows – new stories are now part of Star Wars canon. If it happens in a book, it happened to the characters you see onscreen. So any secrets, background, or relationships revealed in these spin-offs are part of the larger Star Wars saga.

In short, this means is that these stories matter again. So whatever we learn about Leia in this novel – set a couple of decades after Return of the Jedi – happened to the character in The Force Awakens, and beyond.

In Bloodline, Leia is yet to be a General, but is an elected representative (not many princesses you can say that about) – a Galactic Senator. She is tiring of the divisions that have engulfed her time on Hosnian Prime, the new administrative center of the galaxy.

But Senator Leia is a highly revered figure – war hero, princess, and daughter of renowned enemy of the Empire, Bail Organa. But little is spoken about her other father – Darth Vader.

Two main plotlines emerge. Firstly, Leia – seeking a little more adventure – begins to uncover a plot occurring in the outer rim of the galaxy. It may be just local crime lords filling their coffers – but could be something more. There is also the intrigue of the new Galactic Senate, and how Leia emerges as perhaps the only person who can unite the divided house – who are split into opposing Populist and Centrist factions. Think Left vs Right, or small government vs big.

Of the main cast of Star Wars characters, Leia is the really only one to make much of an appearance. Han cameos – but is off-world (we learn he runs a very successful racing team). The book does offer glimpses of Han & Leia as a couple, the kind of pairing I had hoped to see in The Force Awakens. In Bloodline, we find a couple very much in love after many decades together – seemingly longing for an extended retirement together

Of the other main characters, Ben is away training at Uncle Luke’s School for Gifted Jedi (or whatever it’s called), but Threepio is a constant presence by Leia’s side. She is also supported by various new characters such as Leia’s assistant Greer, Joph an enthusiastic young X-Wing flier, Korry a 16-year-old intern, and most prominently ambitious rival senator Ransolm Casterfo – from the opposite side of the senate and a collector of Imperial memorabilia. His clipped tones and flamboyant wardrobe a bring to mind Tom Hiddleston (‘Loki’) – the author has admitted as much herself.

This is Leia as we have never seen her before in the movies – the protagonist: a leader of great intelligence, experience, and authority. That’s nothing against Carrie Fisher, but how her character has been written previously for the screen. Here she is at the heart of a story that no other character could have driven.

I don’t know what fans of previous Star Wars Legends/EU books will make of this, but for me this was a terrific Leia story. There was a recent Princess Leia Marvel comic, that despite being written by Mark Waid, was ultimately disappointing.

This book is a much more satisfying tale, allowing us to experience her keen political mind as well as the many other aspects of her character such as her charm, compassion, and temper.

There are many revelations that inform our understanding of The Force Awakens, and there are plenty of easter eggs that the keen eyed reader will spot. Even more tantalisingly, Lucasfilm have stated that “some of the story ideas and elements in this novel came straight from Rian Johnson (writer/director of Star Wars: Episode 8)”. After reading the book, I am excited to discover which of the many fascinating threads of this story will play out in Episode VIII.

Star Wars: Bloodline contains parallels with both modern and historical political upheaval. If that sounds a bit serious, let’s not forget, that one of George Lucas’s inspirations for Star Wars was the Vietnam War – where an economically and technologically superior power (America) was unable to overcome the Vietcong.

The pace and content of this book will not be for everyone. There are no lightsaber duels, very few dogfights, and only a couple of out and out action scenes. This is a mature, character driven, political thriller – and I hope for many more Star Wars books like it.

And the reason why Princess Leia’s accent wavered between posh Brit and Californian American? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray is published by Century (UK) and Del Rey (US). It has a UK RRP of £19.99.

A Review copy of the book was provided free of charge.

Does My Daughter Love Star Wars Because of Me?

People often wonder why I’m so enthusiastic about sharing my love of Star Wars with my daughter. For the most part, they’re questioning it. Familiar comments are “Why not just let kids be kids?”, “Why not just let her choose herself?”, “Why am I imposing my interests on my daughter?”, or worst of all “Why am I trying to make her into a boy?” (I’m not).

Although I feel it’s no different than a sports fan passing on their love of a favourite team, for me it goes beyond mere parenting nostalgia.

We live in a world where cultural life is formed increasingly by the market, yet only certain brands are actively marketed to girls. If I was to simply “let kids be kids” and merely encourage what my daughter responds to in the pop cultural landscape around her, all I am doing as is relinquishing my parenting influence to that of the marketeers, and beyond that letting them define to her what is and isn’t for girls.

There is nothing inherently male about Star Wars. As a child, I don’t believe I liked it because I was a boy, but because I was a child and it was insanely cool. I don’t remember it being overtly marketed to males, something that changed as I grew older. When I was a kid, the other biggest Star Wars fan I knew was a girl who lived around the corner.

As a giddily excited new dad, I enjoyed buying Star Wars onesies and baby toys, but as she grew up I was happily surprised she continued to enjoy engaging with it. As a toddler, she loved us to read Darth Vader and Son. When I brought home my old Star Wars toys from my parents attic, I assumed I would store them away until she was 6 or 7, and give them a go then. She spotted them, wanted to play with them straight away, and they never made it past our lounge.

So am I imposing what I love on my daughter? You may have read this and other posts and think I am. I disagree. In a way, I am marketing to my daughter. I am trying to give Star Wars, seen widely as a ‘boy’ interest, the same chance of taking hold as the dozens of other ‘girl’ brands being presented to her. I do the same with superheroes. I’m just trying to level the gendered marketing playing field. She’s already accepted that Star Wars is for both boys and girls (and will often tell her friends this). Whether it will stick, I have no idea.

While I admit I will find it slightly sad if she decides that Star Wars isn’t for her when she is older, I will completely respect that choice (and not try to change her mind!)

But in the meantime, Star Wars is something we enjoy together as father and daughter, and today we have a day of Star Wars toys, dress ups, and watching The Empire Strikes Back ahead of us. Fun times that I shall always remember with joy.
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Star Wars: Episodes I-VI, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels are all available to watch on NOW TV

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Disclosure: I receive free access to NOW TV in exchange for blogging about the service.