First things first: Rogue One is a Star Wars Story, a new line of Star Wars movies that aren’t a part of the so-called Skywalker Saga (Episodes I through VII). Does this matter? To many, yes. To your kid who hasn’t taken off her Rey lightsaber since last year’s premiere of Star Wars: Episode VII? Probably not if only because Rogue One holds up. It’s exciting. It’s interesting. It’s part of the story.
We start with Jyn, a little girl in hiding with her parents. She’s bright-eyed and freckle-faced; she’s also wary and wise to the fact that the stranger who just landed on the remote planet her family calls home doesn’t bring good tidings. Her father, we soon learn, is wanted by the Empire because he’s Real Smart and the Empire is working on the weapon to end all weapons (three guesses on what that is, Star Wars fans). Ten minutes in and we get our first reminder that this movie, as cool as it may be, isn’t really for kids.
Of course, it helps to have some idea of where Rogue One “fits” in the Star Wars universe. It occurs on the same timeline (or thereabouts) of Episode IV (aka Luke and Leia are adults) and is the story of how the plans for the Death Star end up in the hands of Princess Leia and thus begin the series of events that play out in Episodes IV, V and VI. Rogue One also reminds us why Star Wars is, ultimately, a story of, well, war and as such, not really for kids.
Ten minutes in and we get our first reminder that this movie, as cool as it may be, isn’t really for kids.
To clarify, “kids” here means those 10 and below (depending, of course, on individual maturity). At the showing I went to — an 11:30 a.m. matinee on a Saturday — there were children as young as 6, maybe even 5, in the audience. This seemed young, particularly as Rogue One progressed.
Sex and gore — don’t worry about those here. The movie’s two leads — grown-up Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Rebel Alliance Intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) — have plenty of sexual tension but it’s nothing overt. As for the gore, the good thing about a war in space is they use a lot of lasers and lasers, it seems, don’t cause much bleeding. Instead, this PG-13 movie serves up something else: death, destruction and mayhem. Scene to scence, there may very well be no more of these three than in any other episode but the movie’s fast pace and single-mindedness made it feel like more.
As an adult, the result is an explosive thriller that doesn’t scrimp on the quality acting (Jones and Luna hold their own alongside the likes of Forrest Freakin' Whitaker). But for a child, the speed, noise and overall intensity of Rogue One may be a blur that, at times, turns scary. I’m thinking of one scene in particular — and it comes near the end — that I know would have kept me up at night as a 6- or 8-year-old. I’ll spare you the spoiler but adults, know it’s worth the wait (if not the nightmares you may deal with if you take a young Jedi along).
So the verdict? Call the babysitter. This movie’s worth the hourly rate.
Final tip: If you go to Cinerama, they have the original Darth Vader costume on display in the lobby (from the personal collection of Paul G. Allen nonetheless). It’s definitely worth a look as you load up on snacks.
A note on ratings: Rogue One is rated PG-13 with Common Sense Media recommending the film for ages 10 and older.