Posted on Saturday, April 16th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been criticized for essentially being a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope, just with new characters used to progress the story this time instead of relying only on the familiar heroes from the original trilogy. There’s even a side-by-side comparison video to show how similar the two movies are.
While some have called this narrative decision lazy, others have rationalized this was done as a way to ease us back into the Star Wars universe with something familiar while simultaneously expanding the roster of characters who we would follow for at least the next two films in the new trilogy.
Thankfully, director J.J. Abrams addressed this issue during a special event panel at the Tribeca Film Festival where he sat down for a chat with Chris Rock. The pairing may seem strange, but they’re both filmmakrs, and thus ended up diving into some interesting topics, specifically why The Force Awakens and A New Hope similarities are so abundant. Find out what the director had to say below.
IGN snagged the quotes from Abrams, where he acknowledged some of the criticism out there for sharing a lot of story beats with A New Hope, and here’s how the director explained those creative decisions:
“[‘The Force Awakens’] was a bridge and a kind of reminder; the audience needed to be reminded what ‘Star Wars’ is, but it needed to be established with something familiar, with a sense of where we are going to new lands, which is very much what 8 and 9 do. The weird thing about that movie is that it had been so long since the last one. Obviously the prequels had existed in between and we wanted to, sort of, reclaim the story. So we very consciously — and I know it is derided for this — we very consciously tried to borrow familiar beats so the rest of the movie could hang on something that we knew was ‘Star Wars.'”
Even though it had been a long time since Return of the Jedi, fans obviously haven’t forgotten what a Star Wars movie feels like. That’s exactly why most of them don’t like the prequels. However, I think Abrams was still smart to ease back into the universe with familiar elements blending with the new.
By making a movie that is more in line with A New Hope, the movie that introduced us all to Star Wars, it gave a chance for fans, and perhaps more importantly in the grand scheme of things, general audiences, to grasp onto the expanding universe a bit easier while being introduced to Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Abrams adds:
“All the characters – the Stormtrooper who turns, Finn played by John Boyega, and Rey, the character that Daisy plays, the Scavenger, Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, and Poe the pilot – all these were characters and sort of their roles in the story needed to exist in something that predates them.”
After all, Han Solo and Chewbacca don’t show up until 40 minutes into The Force Awakens, while Leia doesn’t show up until another 40 minutes after that. And we all know when Luke Skywalker shows up. So Abrams wanted fans to feel like they were in a familiar place before those characters came back. That’s why Jakku is basically Tatooine, Rey is very similar Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, and the basic story is about getting a droid with important information to a rebel force.
Honestly, it’s pretty impressive that Abrams was able to craft a movie that was so familiar while still feeling fresh and exciting, making for one of the most entertaining movies of 2015. Even if you didn’t enjoy The Force Awakens as much as most, I think the film sets the stage for a promising future that we’ll see unfold in Star Wars: Episode VIII.
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