Warning: Spoiler Content
The most anticipated movie of the year has finally arrived, and is nearly unanimously being praised a wonderful entry in the Star Wars lore. It's broken multiple box office records in just a few days of release, and many viewers have enjoyed it so much they went back for another viewing. Even critics couldn't stay mad at the once controversial idea of expanding upon a now official religious movement. (Force Awakens currently has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, higher than any other Star Wars before it)
It might not be as perfect as it would seem however, as one complaint among viewers, critics, fans, and even myself, who loved it, found in the movie. This is the idea that perhaps Force Awakens may have taken too much from previous installments in the Saga, namely A New Hope. Such rehashed content includes:
- A family member converted to the Dark Side.
-An older, mentor-like figure being killed by a Sith he once had a close relationship with.
-Hiding plot-important information inside of a droid.
-A main protagonist who lost contact with an entire immediate family.
-A climax involving a planet-destroying, globe-shaped Sith headquarters that threatens to destroy a good-guy base of operations and has to be blown up by starfighter pilots and the Millennium Falcon.
After close speculation and wondering whether this is in fact a problem with the movie or not, I've come to the conclusion that such a criticism is arbitrary. It is in fact perfectly okay to repeat plot points of an earlier installment of a franchise on two conditions; the newest one does it better, or the similarities are minor and take the viewer into a different direction. This is where I may receive some hate-mongering comments from devoted fans with nostalgia goggles.
First, in terms of Rey not knowing her family, similar to Luke, I would like to make the argument that the two are only slightly similar. Luke's Aunt and Uncle, as well as Kenobi and Yoda, told him a lie about his family, that Darth Vader killed Anakin Skywalker, and the viewers were told to take it as it was. When Luke was told the truth in 'Empire' it came off as a twist. Rey's story is actually told much differently. Her story is shrouded in mystery. Nobody really knows what happened to them, who they are, why they left, etc. The original trilogy didn't have much of a mystery aspect to it. It's one thing that is driving viewers to see Episode VIII, to find out more.
The next argument involves the first two examples, the family member converted to the dark side, and the older mentor figure who had a close relationship with him getting killed by him, as well as the Death Star example. This is one of the parts I would argue is something this movie does better than A New Hope. First, Kylo Ren being converted to the dark side creates a string of emotional entanglements that A New Hope didn't have. The Darth Vader backstory, don't get me wrong, is uproariously emotional and is the whole basis of the original series, from Obi-Won facing him for the first time in years, to Luke trying to appeal to his good side and suffering for it. However, what makes the Kylo Ren storyline fascinating and different is how instead of trying to fight him, Han Solo tries to appeal to his humanity, as his son. It's as Leia says, "He's a Jedi, you're his father." It shows off a more tender side of Han Solo we rarely ever get to see, and it's poetic to see the hard-edged, sarcastic smuggler dropping his outer shell in his final moments. Not only that, but Ren's conversion drove Luke so full of guilt, he secluded himself on an island on a distant planet. It also ended Han and Leia's seemingly perfect marriage, as Leia was reminded of her son every time she looked at Han's face. Nobody's saying one is bad and the other isn't. They are both quality character developments. Kylo Ren's seems much more involved, affects more characters, and despite all this drama, there's still a lot we don't know about him.
Finally, we come to what many are calling a "Death Star Rip-off". As I said earlier, it is completely okay to do something done before, as long as it's better the second time around (or in this case, third). A trap that a lot of sequel filmmakers fall into is that when they want to repeat a plot point from an earlier movie, they think that making the visual scale bigger is enough (i.e. every Transformers sequel ever) Even though the characters come right out and say that it's a bigger version of the Death Star, with a holographic scale model comparison to boot, the climax is also bigger than A New Hope where it actually matters, in scope. Christopher Nolan knew this all too well going into the Dark Knight. The sequel to Batman begins didn't necessarily have bigger special effects, but it certainly felt bigger. There was more on the line, the main characters had a more personal stake in the conflict, and the audience was gripped by psychological scale, not visual. "Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets." The Joker puts it in perspective. You don't necessarily have to make things look bigger, just feel bigger. That's something that most sequel filmmakers don't get. Certainly, J.J. Abrams, the man whose most critical and financial successes are expansions to a universe (Mission Impossible 3, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness). Don't believe? Take into account the stakes for the climax of A New Hope. The only thing on the line was that the Death Star was going to destroy a rebel base, whose only member we grew emotionally attached to was Princess Leia. Now take into account this one. Finn had to go inside the Death Star to rescue Rey, all while confronting the people who brainwashed his ideologies his whole life and treated him like a number instead of a person. Rey confronted the person who would bring about a lot of pain for her in the future, as her visions suggested when she touched Luke's lightsaber. Perhaps most importantly was Han Solo's desperate mission to bring his son home, possibly fixing his marriage in the process, after not seeing him for years and feeling guilty for being the reason for his son's fall from grace, it's as emotionally stimulating as it is full pumped with adrenaline from arguably the most ambitious and grandiouse fight scenes the series ever had.
So what do you guys think? Is Force Awakens derivative? Is it original? Does it build upon the staples from previous movies? Tell us what you think in the comments below.