Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review and Discussion Guide
Let me be upfront. I love Star Wars. The original Star Wars was released when I was a young teen and I think I saw it 5 or 6 times the first month. It was a grand story of nobility and sacrifice, knights and princesses, tyranny and resistance, epic battles and spaceships. Spaceships! It was hard not to love it.
The Force Awakens delivers what we all were craving – revisiting the good old days of the early Star Wars franchise. Our favorite characters are all there again, older and with more miles on them – and the audience in the theater burst into cheers and applause as each one appeared in the story. You can hear bits of the original score in the soundtrack. Memorable moments from the first movie (the real first movie, number “IV”) are reprised so many different ways it almost seems like a fan film; there is a new character on a desert planet, a droid with secret information, a prisoner on the Death Star, an escape on the Millennium Falcon. Altogether, though, it was fun and mostly satisfying.
The rub is what it always is with Star Wars movies. They are essentially religious movies and the religion isn’t Christianity or even theism.
The Jedi Knights and presumably the Ren and the Sith are all orders of warrior monks in a taoistic faith. Taoism is a form of dualism that sees good and evil as outworkings of the same animistic force that balance one another. This concept has been extremely influential in Buddhism, as well as other Eastern religions.
Maz Kanata advises Rae, “The Force moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes and feel it. The light has always been there.” Looking into ourselves to find the source of wisdom and power is antithetical to Christianity, which teaches that God made us, His Word instructs us, and we find salvation in trusting Him. The religion of Star Wars is pagan.
That’s the main issue, though it is pretty central to the whole series. There’s no sexuality or language (that I noticed). The violence, while extreme (whole planets are destroyed and people are tortured and slaughtered) is remarkably lacking in blood.
One disappointment to me is that this movie loses some of the delight of the first heroine, Princess Leia. In A New Hope (the original Star Wars movie – I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to calling it that!), Leia is intensely feminine, a princess in flowing white dresses, who is also brave, smart, and a leader. Let’s just say there’s not much of anything feminine in The Force Awakens despite female leads.
I would not take a younger child to see any of the Star Wars movies. The dualistic religion is such a part of the story that it is sure to become a part of their play. They just aren’t old enough to be trusted not to be influenced. Also there were a number of disturbing trailers before the feature film that are too much for a child, including an ad for Maltesers candy that showed a woman flashing a man (from the back, thankfully) and previews of X-Men:The Apocalypse with weird Biblical references, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Fifth Wave, and Gods of Egypt, with the idols of Egypt as real beings.
If you take your teens, go with them and talk about it. This can be a great opportunity to discuss important ideas with them, but only if you’ve seen it, too.
Here are some discussion starters (and hints):
As you watch, keep in mind the distinction between technical skill and the theme or content that’s communicated (” art v. message”) – CLICK HERE for an explanation! – and watch for examples of each.
[ SPOILERS BELOW THE GRAPHIC – CLICK HERE TO SKIP ‘EM! ]
Let’s talk about the religion in Star Wars. The Force has a dark side and a light side, an evil side and a good side. In reality, does God have an evil side? [ Answer: No. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 says,]
How does the religion of Star Wars differ from Christianity? [The religion of Star Wars does not include a personal God, only an impersonal Force. In this religion, there is no Creator outside of the created world, no need for repentance, and no need for a sacrifice for sin.]
What regrets do General Leia and Han Solo have? [Sending their son away, his turn to darkness, their separation.]
What changes Finn from a runaway who wants nothing more than to keep running, to the brave man that insists on invading the Starkiller Base? [His friendship, possibly love for Rey]
One of the most powerful moments in the film occurs when Han Solo reaches out lovingly to his son on his deathbed. How is it possible for him to do that? [The unconditional love of a parent. Note, this is a great time to express your own!]
How is the confrontation between Kylo Ren and Han Solo foreshadowed? [Foreshadowing is giving you hints about upcoming plot points to increase suspense. One key episode of foreshadowing is Kylo Ren’s prayer to Darth Vader, his grandfather, to help him resist the call to the light. Why do you think he asked forgiveness? Is there something Kylo Ren doesn’t know about Vader?]
Tell me what you noticed about the influence of family heritage in this movie. How does family impact the movie? [The relationship of Han Solo and Leia, the longing of Rey for her family’s return, the struggle between following the light side of the force and the dark side for Kylo Ren is related to his father and mother versus his grandfather’s opposing heritage, Finn mentions being torn from his family.]
What is the theme, or message, of this movie? Why do you say that? [There are several possible answers, including “laying down your life for your friends,” “love casts out fear,” and “there comes a time you have to choose to do right or allow yourself to do wrong.” Others may be justifiable, too.]
How do you think that theme is carried out in the movie? [For example for the first theme above, Finn runs toward danger to rescue Rey, Solo says, “We’re not leaving without her,” and Rey refuses to sell BB-8 even though she really needs food.]
What didn’t really work in the movie? [There were several things: How quickly Rey learned to use the Force; yet another Death Star; Rey couldn’t pilot well enough to keep her ship off the sand, then suddenly she is able to pilot safely through another ship; first Finn then Rey manage to use a completely unfamiliar weapon skillfully enough to fend off a master.]
What was your favorite part? [For me, it was Han Solo and Chewbacca. Glad to see them again and in fine form – “Escape now, hug later!” ]
Discussing movies with your children is one of the easiest ways to teach them to be discerning about media and to see things from a Christian worldview. It’s a lot of fun, too – we still enjoy seeing movies with our adult kids!
If you want to keep practical help like this coming your way, please consider shopping with us. We’re taking orders through midnight Sunday night with $10 flat rate Priority Mail for delivery by Christmas! We have GREAT character-building gifts that your kids will love, everything from training swords to chain mail kits and more – shop now.
Melanie Young for
The Raising Real Men Review Team