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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': What parents should know

Unless you’ve been living alone in a cave on Tatooine for the past few months, you know “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has finally blasted its way into theaters.

I want to start this by saying I’ll do my best not to include any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet seen the movie. That said, I’m pretty sure you will either love this movie or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much reaction in between, based on the comments I overheard after my screening last night.

“The Force Awakens” picks up decades after the plot of “Return of the Jedi,” where the evil Empire has been replaced by the evil First Order, which is basically the same even though it isn’t. The First Order’s military is led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a man whose black costume, red lightsaber and filtered speech essentially make him the new Darth Vader, even though he isn’t. The First Order is looking for a certain Jedi who has gone missing, the whereabouts of which are hidden in a new, charming droid named BB-8, who is like the new R2D2, even though he isn’t.

Basically, there are a lot of similarities between “The Force Awakens” and “Star Wars Episode Four: A New Hope.” What’s different is the cast of new heroes, led by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a self-sufficient scavenger and loner who is smart and seems to have a good heart from the get-go.  There’s also Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who defects to the Resistance and becomes a reluctant hero alongside Rey for much of the story.

Personally, I think kids will love the new “The Force Awakens.” In telling a new story with fresh characters, Disney and director J.J. Abrams smartly rely heavily on nostalgia from the original “Star Wars” trilogy — that’s episodes 4-6 starring Mark Hamill, Carries Fisher and Harrison Ford for the unclear. Personally, I was no fan of episodes 1-3, the prequels that resurrected the franchise in the late 90s. I was raised on the original movies, and I’d like to jettison the three prequels to the outer reaches of the galaxy.

One of my earliest movie-going experiences is of being dragged to Camelot Cinemas by my brothers to see “The Empire Strikes Back” at some point during its release. I would have been 6 years old, and I loved it.

There are times during “The Force Awakens” that I experienced seconds of that whoa feeling I had as a little girl back in the 80s. There are also moments when I cringed and a big moment where I actually teared up (but no spoilers), and even though “The Force Awakens” never quite manages to capture the magic of the original trilogy for me, it more than makes up for Episodes 1-3 in my opinion. Rey finally gives young girls a heroine in the franchise to look up to (sorry, Leia), and there’s plenty of laser-blast and lightsaber battles to thrill young boys.

What do parents need to know before taking the kids to see “The Force Awakens”?

Simply put, if your kids have seen any of the other six films and you were OK with it, you’ll be OK with letting them see “The Force Awakens.”

There is little-to-no profanity and no sex scenes, but lots of war battle scenes and fighting and a few scary-looking aliens hanging about. I can’t recall any scantily clad characters in this one either. Spoiler alert: Sensitive kids might be upset by a certain character’s death, and in particular, the context of that death, but that’s the biggest warning I’ll give.

Overall, families looking to take in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” likely won’t be disappointed by this one.

“Star Wars The Force Awakens” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. It’s now playing in theaters nationwide.