Blame the Lego. And the action figures. And the lucrative tie-ins with every child-facing brand under the sun. While it has an age-rating which recommends parents of under-12s to approach with caution, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the cause of great intrigue and excitement among millions of younger children around the world. You'll find our fairly spoiler-free review of the film here, but the big question facing most parents is not whether the film is any good, but if it's suitable for kids or not. Should you give in to pester power, or hold firm with the official age guidance?
While it was fairly easy to review the film in general terms, answering this question does require a few more specifics. So, while I'll still refrain from mentioning any of the film's big plot turns and twists in explicit detail, there may be a few spoilers ahead...
The preceding film in the franchise, 2015's The Force Awakens, had its fair share of frightening moments. The gnashing, octopus-like monsters encountered by Han Solo and co was a particularly nightmare-infecting example. Here there's nothing of that ilk; most of the alien characters are friendly-faced, and there's a lot more cuteness in the shape of the divisive and cuddly porgs. There is one close-to-the-bone joke involving the furby-like critters though, where Chewbacca is seen roasting one to eat in front of the rest of its distressed tribe, so very sensitive children might find that upsetting rather than funny.
If there's an area that might give Christian parents concern (as well as some non-Christians of course), it's the content which revolves around the 'dark side of the force': the Star Wars equivalent of the powers of spiritual darkness. The ultimate evil character in the film, Supreme Leader Snoke, uses psychic powers to manipulate people, to conduct a physical fight with the heroic Rey, and even to create a 'mind bridge' which allows two characters to communicate telepathically across the universe. There's nothing on the scale of Harry Potter and his book of spells, but those who are sensitive to anything remotely dark and spiritual should at least be forewarned.
The clue is of course in the series' title: this is a film about war, and as the central part of a trilogy, about the bad guys striking back. A lot of characters are killed, although more often by virtue of being inside an exploding spacecraft than being visibly vaporised. Many of those who lose their lives are on the Resistance's side (the good guys), although these are not usually characters to whom we've had a chance to become attached. There are a few extended fight scenes, some instances of choking, and one apparent 'execution'. There's barely any blood on show, but some parents may feel that this amount of violent content precludes younger viewers from watching.
Sex and bad language
As you might imagine from a Star Wars film, there's no sexual content whatsoever, and the whole series seems to exist in a universe where bad language was never invented (unless you happen to be offended by 'scruffy-looking nerf-herder'. Nothing to worry about on either count here.
Finally, in terms of an exact age recommendation... I would personally be comfortable taking my mature 10-year-old daughter to see the film, but I definitely wouldn't take my seven-year-old son. It's not a particularly scary film, and of course it's aimed at all viewers including the ones that buy the toys.* But the central theme of darkness bearing down on the last remnant of light, combined with a fairly high body count, means that some parents might want to stick with the guidelines.
*As in children, not men in their 40s who need to get out more.