Warning: Spoilers Ahead
After watching the newest addition to the Star Wars franchise I have heard many fans compare it to the original Star Wars film. That's understandable, J.J Abrams did use many of the plot points from the original film. However there are people claiming that The Force Awakens is a complete rip-off of A New Hope. That to me sounds absurd! So I decided to write this article to show the differences between the two films. Let's dive right in by comparing our two main leads; Rey and Luke.
1) Rey ≠ Luke
There are many parallels between Rey in The Force Awakens and Luke in A New Hope. Both lived on a desert planet (Jakku/Tatooine) and had their homes destroyed by an evil overlord. However the differences between the two are in their personalities. In the film Rey is offered the chance to leave Jakku, but she declines because she still holds on to the hope that her family will return to her one day. Whereas Luke wants nothing more than to leave his home so he may seek a life of adventure. Luke jumps at the opportunity to save Princess Leia with his neighbor/former Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi because it will be exciting for him. When Rey was presented with the opportunity to be a part of an age-old destiny she ran and wanted nothing to do with it! Ultimately Rey and Luke go through character arcs within their respective films that are drastically different from one another. Luke learns that adventures can be dangerous and can have severe consequences, especially after witnessing the destruction of his home and the death Obi Wan Kenobi. Rey learns to accept that her family will not return for her and to embrace her destiny.
This new character gets his own section because Finn is unlike anyone we have ever seen in a Star Wars film. He was taken from his family and brainwashed into following the First Order’s every command since infancy. However, in his first battle with them he witnesses firsthand the evil behind the First Order and immediately wants to leave. He initially has no intention of joining the Resistance to stop the First Order, and his goal was get as far away from them as possible. Throughout the film we see him grow from this frightened Storm-trooper to a man who will stop at nothing to save his friend. This character reminded audiences that the Storm-troopers are people. Obviously everyone knew there were people underneath those masks, but they all blindly followed the orders of their evil overlords that fans never really had any compassion for them. Finn changed that by revealing that many of the Storm-troopers were like him, and they are not inherently bad people they are just following the orders of a bad individual.
3) Kylo Ren ≠ Darth Vader
Speaking of that bad man, Kylo Ren fills the role of this new trilogy’s antagonist. There have been many comparisons between him and Darth Vader because that is who Kylo Ren is trying to be! He stated in the film:
“I want to finish what you started,”
In the beginning of The Force Awakens Kylo Ren appears to be this menacing villain, but after his first temper tantrum audiences realize what they saw earlier was nothing more than Kylo trying to act tough. As the film goes on Kylo voices how he is at war with himself; he wants to embrace the Dark side but he still feels the Light side within himself. Kylo may not as intimidating as Darth Vader was in A New Hope but this is because Darth Vader has already fully accepted and embraced the Dark side of the Force, whereas Kylo is conflicted. This new take on the villain allows for Kylo to grow and develop alongside the other new members to the Star Wars franchise. In many ways Kylo is like Anakin Skywalker from the prequels, which also explains why fans didn’t particularly like this character. Fans especially didn’t like Kylo after he killed a Star Wars fan favorite!
4) Han’s Death ≠ Obi Wan’s Death
Again there are several parallels between this film and the original Star Wars film; these deaths are a good example. In A New Hope Obi Wan dies at the hand of Darth Vader after having a confrontation with him. In The Force Awakens Han dies at the hand of Kylo Ren after having a confrontation with him. Except Obi Wan willing choose to die by Darth Vader so that he may become one with the force and continue to aide Luke in his path to becoming a Jedi. When Han went to talk to Kylo Ren it was an attempt to convince his son to come back home. Han had no intention of dying on purpose or at all for that matter. Furthermore, when Obi Wan died he remained present throughout the rest of the trilogy. Han however will not be present because he is not force sensitive. Han’s death meant more because he won’t return in any form in the future.
* I am aware that Harrison Ford will be returning for Episode VIII, but it will most likely be as a flashback. Han Solo will not be able to interact with the new characters in the same way that Obi Wan did with Luke. We may see him again, but his role in the future of this story is finished.
5) The Lightsaber Fights
There was only one lightsaber fight in the original Star Wars film and it was between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi. The battle itself was nothing spectacular; it was just two men gently taping each other with lightsabers. However what made that fight intense was the history behind it, because even without the prequels audiences could tell that these characters shared a past with one another. These were two Jedi masters who were trained in the ways of the Force and had years of lightsaber dueling under their belts.
The Force Awakens was the exact opposite with their lightsaber fights. It was obvious that Finn and Rey had never used a lightsaber before and Kylo Ren had never faced off against someone who was Force sensitive like himself. The lightsaber fights between these new characters were fierce and aggressive, but there was no finesse or style in the way they fought because they were untrained. This will allow for their duels to improve in future films as the characters improve on their skills.
6) The Force Awakens Ending ≠ A New Hope Ending
While both films have the good guys defeating the evil Empire/First Order by blowing up their giant balls of death, the films end on two drastically different tones. The first Star Wars gets praised because it not only works as the beginning to a trilogy but it also works as a stand-alone film. There are little to no questions raised by the end of the first Star Wars film. The good guys are victorious and are awarded medals for their bravery (except Chewy) and given a huge celebration. The Force Awakens leaves many questions unanswered and even raises new questions, and on top of that it ends on a more somber tone. They may have destroyed the First Order’s machine but Han died as a result and Finn was seriously injured in his fight with Kylo Ren. If anything the ending to The Force Awakens was more similar to the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. Both films in the same sense had the heroes come out on top but they still suffered greatly against the antagonists.
The Force Awakens took inspiration not only from A New Hope but all of the original Star Wars films. But to call The Force Awakens a rip-off of A New Hope is simply moronic. This was J. J. Abrams re-introducing us to the world of Star Wars; of course he’s going to give us some familiar story lines. However, he did introduce several new elements and characters that will hopefully lead to unique stories that older Star Wars fans have never seen before. We just have to be patient and see where the story goes in Episode VIII.