Rating: ESRB Rating – E for Everyone – Mild Fantasy Violence
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, GameBoy/GameBoy Color
From the Cover of Link’s Awakening (2019)by Nintendo
“As Link, you awaken in a strange land away from Hyrule, where animals talk and monsters roam. To uncover the truth behind your whereabouts and rouse the legendary Wind Fish, explore Koholint Island and all its trap-ridden dungeons, reimagined in stunning detail for this new release of one of the most beloved The Legend of Zelda games. Along the way, you’ll meet a hilarious assortment of charming characters to which you’ll never want to say goodbye.
In this new version of the game, the classic soundtrack has been reborn with new arrangements, and now you can equip more items at once, review key conversations, and navigate the map in new ways. Try your hand at the renovated mini-games to earn dolls based on the Super Mario series…or Chamber Stones. These unusual stones can be used to arrange your own Chamber Dungeons; each one is a puzzle in and of itself! Place chambers from dungeons found throughout the game on a series of objective-based grids… Where should the bosses go? How do you get from the entrance to the stairwell? They’re your dungeons, so arrange them however you see fit. To earn more Chamber Stones, you must conquer the main adventure’s dungeons and mini-games or tap any amiibo featuring a The Legend of Zelda character to unlock Chambers exclusive to amiibo.”
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019) is a fun remake of the 1993 GameBoy game also made by Nintendo. The game is a great classic game millennials and gen x-ers may remember with great fondness from its first edition in 1993 and re-release as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (1998) for GameBoy Color to add better coloration and extra player help in gameplay. However, this new remake has much better graphics and easier gameplay suitable for younger and older players alike to follow the mildly-abstract plot.
The target audience appears to be children that are 9 and ul. It also appears this game would be best for any puzzle-loving family. While Link does not have explicit ties to foster or adoptive families he does find himself having to adapt to a new, unfamiliar world and making connections with various people to work through puzzles and dungeons. This game also has a low level of risk for cyber bullying or exploitation due to the game requiring no online or online cooperation elements.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
While this is a theatrically pleasing portrayal that does have ties to a very famous orphan-story this is not a film I’d recommend for casual viewing with most kids… let alone kids with deep wounds like Bruce. While the message is clear on this being how Bruce rises above his past and integrates the pain of the past with his hope for the future it will be easy for more kids and teens to identify more with pre-hope Bruce and continue with self-sabotaging behaviors in interpersonal relationships and future aspirations. If your youth has already viewed this film though it’s not a bad idea to help them process the heavy themes from the movie so that they can work through the more difficult emotions related to their own experiences that may mirror Bruce’s as a child permanently separated from the family of origin and figuring out how they will leave a legacy of their own.
Youth Need Adult Supports One huge parallel in the film is the differing experience between Bruce and Edward/Riddler’s experiences of becoming orphaned. While Bruce did have the advantage of money and resources he did not, Edward failed to point out another important factor that Bruce had in growing up and in the present that helped guide him through pain and loss… And that is his relationship with Alfred. While the relationship appears strained throughout the film Alfred certainly provided a consistent love and care for Bruce that Edward never had. Trauma specialist Dr.Bruce D. Perry, Author of “What Happened to You?” is quoted in saying: “The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” There are many children in foster or adoptive care that are like Bruce and Edward and the difference can be drastic when a child/youth as a caring adult that care deeply for youth and wish to invest in them and speak to them in ways youth can understand with compassion and care as Alfred did prior to the events of the film and even into Bruce’s adulthood.
Defining Family Another huge theme in this movie kids can relate to is Bruce’s struggle to accept that his relationship with Alfred does not have to necessarily replace the relationship he had with his father. Time and time again throughout the movie we see Alfred gently extend support in both tangible and intangible ways and Bruce often takes this support reluctantly after bristling with intense emotion and angst. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s important for caregivers to remember that for a child with trauma adults can appear to be the bad guys even when acting with the most love and care. It is up to the adult to counter the need to respond in kind to a child in crisis and to consistently initiate the giving of help and support. Children that need love and help the most often ask for it in the most unloving ways just as Bruce does throughout the film.
Creating and Leaving a Legacy This will be a theme more important to older viewers, as the idea of the future is often hard for kiddos with developing prefrontal cortexes to grasp. The future is such an intangible thing that it’s hard for youth to look up from the challenges directly in front of them. Much like Bruce, kids with trauma are often more focused on the challenges directly ahead of them rather than thinking about the lasting reputation and legacy their choices may create. For this reason youth need a kind, caring, strong adult in their lives to help them through the tough challenges of now to create healthier decision making for the future.
Intense Violence This film features lots and lots of violence! Many fights leave characters bloodied, disfigured, or dead. Due to the graphic nature of this movie caregivers need to approach this film with extreme caution even with older kids. There are of course futuristic weapons at play but there are still enough knife fights, tasers, guns, fists, bombs, intense/fiery car chases, car wrecks, and other modern weapons used throughout the film that can trigger a youth even after viewing the film. Bruce is shown frequently with intense bruising and lacerations after fights and many dead bodies are shown in various states of harm and injury. There are also on-screen and off-screen strangulations, a character implied having their face eaten by rats, a disembodied thumb used for a Riddle as a “thumb drive”, and other disturbing sequences. It’s important to remember that youth that have endured trauma often have overused stress-activation pathways to the limbic system and this can set off “fight or flight” responses even in response to positive excitement. For this reason caregivers need to keep an eye out for youth that may be triggered by the excitement of fight scenes (because some are pretty cool) in addition to trauma triggering from previous experiences.
Death of Characters Throughout the film several characters are murdered or have their deaths discussed pretty graphically. This includes deaths of the past such as Martha & Thomas Wayne and new losses such as seeing a child find his father’s body in the present and other notable characters being murdered and left for dead. While these characters are all fictional youth can be triggered by watching the death of a character and respond to unresolved grief from previous losses so caregivers should be aware to watch for such a response from their youth.
Gang Activity The movie centers around several rival gangs (including the Marconi family, Falcone family, and Penguin’s old-school racketeering gang) fighting over territory and business deals so there are related behaviors such as vandalism, violence, going to jail, attacking women, stealing, smoking cigarettes, manufacturing/selling/using of drugs called “Drops”, alcohol intake, and implied promiscuity. Though the film does show that there are permanent consequences to such activity in character deaths and injury this may be triggering for youth that have witnessed gang involvement.
Police Brutality/Corruption This film hits some hard themes about dirty cops and force-wide corruption as Batman uncovers decades-old corruption while in search for the Riddler. The corruption goes all the way up the ladder and it’s discovered that even mayors and district attorneys are involved in dirty deals. While this is a fictitious piece this may be triggering for youth that are not trusting of police officers due to systemic corruptions that persist currently in several communities.
Foul Language Throughout the film there is an abundance of foul language including “goddamn”, “shit”, “hell”, “dickbag”, “asshole”, “fuck”, and “bitch/sons of bitches”.
Implied Sexual Content No characters are shown fully unclothed or in the action of having sex while on screen. However, there are sequences of exotic dancers/pole dancers, women implied to be entertaining clients in clubs like escorts, intense makeout scenes, and scenes of characters changing to their undergarments. The Mayor is also involved in a scandal surrounding his implied affair with Annika (who is later victim to intense violence due to her connection with the Mayor). Caregivers of youth that are triggered by such activity or by characters in various levels of undress should proceed with caution.
Intense Flooding When Riddler sets off explosions throughout the city this causes the levees to break around the city and flooding across the entire city. Citizens are shown fleeing for their lives to escape the fast-rising waters that flood Gotham. While this is a very specific trigger there are youth that may have endured such experiences from hurricanes, extreme rain, or even witnessed or endured other near-drowning experiences that could produce a trauma response.
Intense Media Coverage and Footage of Tragedy This varies from gangs hooting in laughter at members attacking civilians all the way through the intense media coverage on the news of the various attacks from Riddler and gangs. Some of these were mentioned already in the violence section, but there are several sequences of news coverage that are so disturbing there is a content warning in-film for characters watching. Caregivers should be cautious about such content as well, especially given that the news and social media are often sources of stress for young people living in unprecedented times and in growing up with exposure to such violence on apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
Flashes of Light and Loud Noise This may not bother many viewers, however, some youth that have been through trauma and are more sensitive to sensory stimuli may be triggered by the intense flashing lights of a club scene shown throughout the film as well as the intense gunfire and explosions in other scenes. There are also sequences of very loud noise in battles that could potentially trigger youth with such sensitivities and caregivers of such youth should proceed with extreme caution, especially with youth with history of epilepsy or other such health considerations.
Intense Depictions of Mental Illness and Depression Throughout the film, as in many films, there are discussions of Arkham Hospital (funded for holding and treating both mental health crisis cases and criminally insane villains Batman faces) and intense depictions of mental health crises. The Riddler throughout the film is shown as unstable and to be somewhat disassociated from reality. He is also shown being held in Arkham’s jail-like facility with a character hinted at being the future Joker. Martha Wayne’s mental health history is also discussed as a part of some intense corruption schemes and Bruce is certainly not the picture of mental health either. While a lot of these pieces make for good Hollywood plot points, such harsh depictions (especially when a mental health crisis is weaponized by other characters) can be harmful for youth that are sorting through their own trauma and mental health challenges.
Who was your favorite character? Why is that? Caregiver Note: While this question will appear to be “fluff”, this is a good way to start discussing hard topics. Just jumping into hard questions is often difficult for most adults, let alone youth that struggle with interpersonal relationships and trusting adults. Allow your youth to discuss characters they appreciate and why to gain insight into where your youth may be emotionally and mentally with associating with such characters. I don’t advise this as clinical advice, but if you talk more about the movie this may help you make other connections later as a caregiver.
Why is Bruce so invested in his life as Batman? Why is he alone so much? Caregiver Note: While Bruce Wayne may have many privileges and advantages Edward and Selina lacked in their rough upbringings this does not negate the impact loss has taken on Bruce’s ability to build healthy interpersonal relationships. He instead becomes focused on vengeance to avoid the need for connection to others as he reveals later he is intensely afraid of losing someone else he cares for. This is very similar to the need to create emotional distance from others seen in children from traumatic backgrounds such as being in foster or adoptive care. While human relationship is the key to healing this can be seen as a precursor to danger and hurt to a child that has suffered intense loss. The need to isolate is further encouraged for youth from hard places because this has often helped them to survive to this point. However, youth will need to learn like Bruce that this will further hinder their ability to thrive later after the crises abate.
Which relationships are ones that can help Bruce heal and move forward? How do they each help him? Caregiver Note: Youth need healthy, positive adult support. This includes even in young adulthood. Humans are social creatures that grow and develop in the context of relationships. Alfred is of course a key player in healing relationships for Bruce. He is older, kinder, and a lot wiser than young Bruce due to having the time and space to work through many of his own traumas. Alfred shows the ability to not take Bruce’s outbursts personally and continually offers unconditional love and support for Bruce while waiting patiently for Bruce to return positive communication and relationship investment. James Gordon also embodies a healthy relationship in some respects as well. Gordon frequently represents the leadership Gotham needs to rise out of the corruption and scandal of the past and is often depicted as a positive moral influence for Batman as he works through his own personal demons throughout this film and other Batman media. Youth may bring up Bruce’s peer and love-interest Selena Kyle at this point. While Selena could also be potentially a healthy relationship as well the romantic tension between the two could cloud good judgment in terms of a peer relationship at this phase of them both working through trauma. Selena and Bruce are good for one another in that they provide different perspectives for one another and challenge each other. However, since both are young and working through hard traumas without having other buffering relationships this could potentially become toxic for both parties.
Who are the Alfreds and Gordons in your life? How are they good mentors and supporters for you? Caregiver Note: While it is great to identify a couple of safe supports for Bruce we need to also help your youth learn how to apply these supports in real life. This is an important skill that youth miss out on while enduring trauma and surviving hard places. Help your youth connect the healthier aspects of these characters in identifying positive supports in teachers, coaches, and other supportive adults in their lives.
Why is Bruce so intense about reminding Alfred he is not his father? Caregiver Note: Bruce is not only still grieving the loss of his father and mother but he is also intensely afraid of losing someone else he cares for. Much like Bruce, many youth from the child welfare system are so accustomed to loss following connection that they will avoid it at all costs. This can be taxing on well-meaning caregivers that just want to share their love and support for the youth in their home and community. However, it is important for caregivers to remember to be like Alfred in setting appropriate boundaries but also not taking the distance personally. In time youth can be like Bruce and begin to return affection and care after lots of consistency and care.
How does Alfred affect Bruce throughout the movie? Caregiver Note: No matter how bristly, broody, or irresponsible Bruce may act throughout the film Alfred is always home waiting with kindness and care. Alfred even does his best to help keep up with Bruce’s duties while empowering him to take back up the identity of Bruce once he is ready. Alfred seems to understand that Bruce is working through trauma in a unique way and while he cannot control adult Bruce like a parent does a child, he does do his best to be the safe haven Bruce can return to when he is ready for that relationship. Over time Bruce shows how Alfred’s care and wisdom affects the choices he makes and how he chooses to transform his trauma into becoming a beacon of hope rather than falling into isolation and harming others more as Riddler eventually does.
How can I help be an Alfred to you when things are overwhelming? Caregiver Note: Allow your youth to lead this conversation. This may be uncomfortable and that’s okay. This is a conversation that isn’t a one-and-done parenting moment anyway. This needs to be an area a caregiver checks in with a child on regularly as a youth grows and learns about themselves. This will in turn affect how and when you can best support your youth.
What kind of legacy does Bruce Wayne carry as Batman at the start of the film? Caregiver Note: At the beginning of the film Batman is shown as almost a real-life boogeyman of Gotham. Sure, he technically is fighting crime but he uses fear as a tool to invoke a sense of control of an out-of-control situation. He does this so effectively that the very people he protects view him with fear and distrust. This attempt to control situations and others is much like how youth with trauma may attempt to control their surroundings in a sort of self-preservation intent and youth may identify with such survival tactics.
By the end of the film Bruce is discussing moving to a legacy of hope. We can see this literally with him guiding survivors out of the flood with the flare light, but how is this shown in his legacy as both Bruce and Batman after the flood? Caregiver Note: Bruce starts his legacy changing by shifting from that of an isolated trust fund baby to that of a more visible public figure. This is consistent to that of the depiction shown in other Batman media sources. As Batman, Bruce becomes more involved with the rescue side of missions in the community and being shown as less monster and more human. While it will take a lot of time and consistency to rebuild his image the legacy is able to overcome the one Riddler hoped Batman would carry such as his own aspirations and borderline hallucinations of power.
What kind of a legacy do you want to build? How do you want others to see you and remember you? Caregiver Note: Allow your youth to guide this side of the conversation. Again, this is not a conversation that can be one-and-done but should be explored often as a way to measure success and growth for your youth. Like Bruce, at first your youth may be more focused on the here and now and may need help to periodically look to the future and plan steps to take them to the future they wish for themselves and others.
About the Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.