This week saw the debut of the final trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Buzz on the internet was overwhelmingly positive and ticket sales were astronomical. Latter-day Saints, in particular, seem to have a soft spot for the franchise, seeing in it numerous gospel parallels for discussion. For many, Star Wars is a family affair that draws them closer together. With that in mind, and with less than two months before the new film hits theaters, here are six ways to get your family ready for Episode VII.
Note: the films, their soundtracks, and TV and book spin-offs, are all available for purchase here.
1) Re-watch all six films. Available on Bluray, DVD, or Instant Video, you can snuggle up and relive the magic. Older generations lean towards the original trilogy while youth often seem to favor the prequels, but there’s plenty to enjoy for everyone here (even with a few creative bumps along the way).
There’s some debate over the optimal viewing order, but for my money the hands-down best way to watch, for newbies or veterans, is the “Prequels as Flashback” order. Start with Episode IV: A New Hope, the first Star Wars film to be made and the best introduction to the universe and mythology. Then watch The Empire Strikes Back (V), with its many mysteries, game-changing finale, and unanswered questions. At this point go back to The Phantom Menace (I), Attack of the Clones (II), and Revenge of the Sith (III) for the backstory, then finish with Return of the Jedi, whose theme of redemption is made more poignant after watching Anakin’s fall. Note that Revenge of the Sith, unlike the PG-rated other films, is rated PG-13 and is considerably darker than the others.
2) Introduce your kids to the original versions. Many of today’s youth only know the Special Editions of the original trilogy, i.e. the versions in which computer-generated effects and other revisions (some of them controversial to fans) were added to complete the vision of creator George Lucas. To some, these films are drastically different from the versions they grew up with. Fortunately, those original theatrical versions were released as bonus discs on the 2006 DVD’s of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Now considered rare collector’s items, they can be yours for a price. To “purists,” however, that price is worth it.
3) Use Star Wars to teach your family the Gospel. As mentioned before, there are many parallels in the Star Wars films to the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. My book 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families contains scripture references and family discussion guides for all six movies in the saga. Grab my film guide, grab your scriptures, and let your family’s interest in The Force segue into conversation about eternal doctrines and moral principles.
4) Read to and with your kids. There are a host of comic books and novels based in the Star Wars Marvel released this past year a series of comics about Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and the other key players. Lost Stars, a Romeo-and-Juliet-style young adult love story, has been getting rave reviews. If you read one thing with your kids, read the scriptures. If you read two things, let the second be educational. But if you read three things, Star Wars is a marvelous option.
5) Game on! Keeping “all things in moderation” in mind, there’s something to be said for video games as a bonding tool. Star Wars: Battlefront is getting a lot of hype right now, but Lego Star Wars, Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars Edition, and even Angry Birds Star Wars exist for family play time. My favorite is Star Wars: Kinect (for the Xbox Kinect) requires players to get on their feet and get moving in order to play the game. It’s good for exercise and great fun for familial interaction, especially the Star Wars dance-off (just skip the level at Jabba’s palace; they play up Leia’s provocative apparel).
6) Dive into the excellent animated series. There are two animated series which are considered official Star Wars canon; both are worthwhile for adults and children alike. The Clone Wars takes place in between Episodes II and III. I like the prequel films, but this Emmy-winning series takes that universe and improves upon it with much better writing, storytelling, and characterizations. It even takes the time to explicitly teach a moral value at the beginning of each episode. It is available on Bluray, DVD, and Netflix streaming. The second series, Star Wars: Rebels, takes place five years before A New Hope (AKA the original Star Wars) and finds a group of freedom fighters battling the injustice of the Empire. Both series explore good vs. evil, and both are comparable in tone and content to the films. For smaller kids, both Lego and Phineas and Ferb have safe, light-hearted Star Wars animated offerings.
I’ve already started to dive into this material with my kids. We’ve been having great conversations and memorable playtime as a result. I hope you’ll do the same!
For more ideas on how to use media to teach your kids moral values, visit Jonathan’s website www.yourfamilyexpert.com and purchase his book 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, now available in paperback and Kindle. Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist available for in-person or online sessions.