Emily Suzanne Jones, a 19-year-old retail employee in New Orleans who suffers from epilepsy, said strobing from the film was so bad it forced her to leave the movie in the first 30 minutes and she suffered a seizure in the hallway just outside the showing at AMC Elmwood Palace 20. She went through the seizure with the help of a friend who worked at the theatre.
“It lasted from 30 seconds to a minute,” Jones told The New York Post, adding that EMS were called but she didn’t end up requiring any additional treatment. Jones said she likely averted a much worse situation by taking a quick dose of her anti-seizure medication at the right time.
“I recently watched the original trilogy and it didn’t remotely bother me, but this last one is particularly flashy,” she said. “I wish they had been a little smarter about it. There is so much special-effects technology to have that effect you wanted but being a little more conscious and safe about it.”
Another viewer, Megan Wharry, a 23-year-old office assistant in Stockton, who also has epilepsy, said she managed to sit through the movie even though it triggered both a migraine and a pre-seizure episode medically termed an “aura.”
“I thought about [leaving the theatre] but then I toughed it out. … I did get up and go to the bathroom to feel better,” she told The Post. Wharry, who had a seizure shortly before the film, knew it might be a bad idea going in, but did so because she was a superfan. “Do I wish I listened to my body? Yes, but I liked the movie.”
Several Twitter users also said they had seizures or witnessed people having seizures in the theatre they were in as a result of the film. One user said that his son “couldn’t watch the parts he was most excited for because of the effects” so he had to whisper what was happening to him throughout the movie. Several netizens asked both Disney and director J.J. Abrams whether the DVD could be edited in a way people susceptible to seizures can watch.
Disney sent a letter to theatre and movie chains worldwide urging them to warn customers. “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities.”
This is not the first time people with epilepsy have run into trouble with a Disney movie. In 2018 Disney’s “Incredibles 2” also contained seizure-inducing strobing, which led to warnings posted at some theatres.