Everyone can agree that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably one of the best Star Wars films that has been released so far. Well, better than the Prequels at least. There are those who believe that The Force Awakens did not measure up to their expectations. But that hasn’t stopped the film from continually breaking box office records left and right — it has even taken the title of the highest domestic grossing film in the U.S., and is currently on its way to being the number one film globally.
While that is great, there are those who are hung up on the idea that The Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope, and left many questions unanswered. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Lawrence Kasdan – who was the screenwriter behind Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the upcoming Han Solo spinoff film.
Despite these criticisms, this was all a part of Abrams and Kasdan’s gameplan. Abrams reveals that the similarities were a “wildly intentional thing.” More on the story below.
Spoilers for The Force Awakens coming….
As far as similarities go, there’s the lonely protagonist dreaming of adventures becoming the hero. The droid who holds the key to stopping the villain. The father figure dying while his allies watch in the distance. The trench that the X-Wing fighters have to fly into in order to critically disable a massive space station. It’s all there.
In an interview with THR, Abrams says that for this new story to work, sometimes going forwards means that you have to go backwards:
â€œIt was obviously a wildly intentional thing that we go backwards, in some ways, to go forwards in the important ways, given that this is a genre â€” that Star Wars is a kind of specific gorgeous concoction of George [Lucas]â€™s â€” that combines all sorts of things. Ultimately the structure of Star Wars itself is as classic and tried and true as you can get. It was itself derivative of all of these things that George loved so much, from the most obvious, Flash Gordon and Joseph Campbell, to the [Akira] Kurosawa references, to Westerns â€” I mean, all of these elements were part of what made Star Wars.â€
I can understand that someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!’ We inherited Star Wars. The story of history repeating itself was, I believe, an obvious and intentional thing, and the structure of meeting a character who comes from a nowhere desert and discovers that she has a power within her, where the bad guys have a weapon that is destructive but that ends up being destroyed â€” those simple tenets are by far the least important aspects of this movie, and they provide bones that were well-proven long before they were used in Star Wars.”
While it is understandable why there were a few questions left unanswered, we have to remember that The Force Awakens is the beginning of a new trilogy, and emphasized the importance of making the new characters is main focus:
“What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new â€” to go backwards to go forwards. So I understand that this movie, I would argue much more than the ones that follow, needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain, and using a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies â€” which is, again, I would argue, not a brand new concept, admittedly â€” but use that to do, I think, a far more important thing, which is introduce this young woman, who’s a character we’ve not seen before and who has a story we have not seen before, meeting the first Storm Trooper we’ve ever seen who we get to know as a human being; to see the two of them have an adventure in a way that no one has had yet, with Han Solo; to see those characters go to find someone who is a brand new character who, yes, may be diminutive, but is as far from Yoda as I think a description of a character can get, who gets to enlighten almost the way a wonderful older teacher or grandparent or great-aunt might, you know, something that is confirming a kind of belief system that is rejected by the main character; and to tell a story of being a parent and being a child and the struggles that that entails â€” clearly Star Wars has always been a familial story, but never in the way that we’ve told here.”
Though Abrams may understand some of those criticisms, he explains that the audience knows what will happen to the Starkiller Base, and that their attention may be focused on something else:
“yes, they destroy a weapon at the end of this movie, but then something else happens which is, I think, far more critical and far more important â€” and I think even in that moment, when that is happening, the thing I think the audience is focused on and cares more about is not, ‘Is that big planet gonna blow up?’ â€” ’cause we all know it’s gonna blow up. What you really care about is what’s gonna happen in the forest between these two characters who are now alone.”
There is some truth to that. Having our attentions divided – even though we knew that the Resistence was going to destroy Starkiller base – lead up to a very big reveal.
While I also share the criticism that The Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope, I don’t believe that it detracts from the film. For one thing, Abrams returned us to a galaxy far away, had us throughly engaged with great characters and equally great action sequences, and left many answers unquestioned which would have audiences hooked and wanting more. And I can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson has in store for us in Star Wars: Episode VIII.