Capturing what made the first one so great.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has officially premiered in U.S. theaters as of last Thursday, and it has more than lived up to the hype. J.J. Abrams has not only redeemed the franchise, he has revived it.
Maybe the feeling of “revival” comes for a very particular reason, though. A lot of the story of The Force Awakens bears eerie similarity to that of Star Wars: A New Hope.
Major spoilers for The Force Awakens are ahead, so proceed at your own discretion.
7. Protagonist lives in the desert without a family
Episode VII introduced new planets and new worlds for us to discover and journey to. Even the protagonist we follow, Rey, lives on the planet Jakku. However, the planet looks nearly identical to the planet Tatooine, coincidentally where Luke Skywalker began his quest. The similarities were so much so that when I saw the trailer, I thought they were same location. To add to Rey’s uncanny connection to Luke Skywalker, she has no family. Sure, Luke had Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, but it wasn’t long before they bit the dust.
6. Stormtroopers “Storm” their home
It was heartbreaking and shocking when we first saw Luke Skywalker’s home get raided and burned by Stormtroopers. It was at that moment we knew there was no going back for him, and that his life was about to change forever. Moving decades later to Rey, we see the same thing happen. The Stormtroopers discover that there is some vital information at her home, and they send in an aerial assault. However, it’s a little less heartbreaking this time around because everybody who lives on Rey’s planet is a big jerk. I wasn’t sorry at all to see that merchant’s shop go in flames.
5. A Blast from the Past
One of the things that helped move the plot forward in A New Hope was the inclusion of the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, who helped Luke first understand the powers of the Force. He went on to educate Luke about the traumatic events that happened in the past regarding the Sith and the Empire. While in The Force Awakens we don’t get any Jedi to help Rey along her journey, the smuggler Han “I shot first” Solo shows up to aid Rey, Finn, and BB-8. He proceeds to educate Rey on everything that happened to the galaxy in the past, regarding the Sith and the Empire (with more blatant references to films like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi).
4. The mentor is killed by the villain
To establish Darth Vader as a much more terrifying presence and antagonist, we see him kill Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was tragic, and better set up the task that Luke had yet before him. The exact same thing happens in The Force Awakens when Han Solo confronts Kylo Ren. Given the personal connection Rey had forged with Han in their short time together, it carries a very similar weight.
3. Villain isn’t the top dog
It was interesting dynamic in A New Hope when we learned that Darth Vader was not the head of the snake. It made audiences scared to learn that there was somebody more powerful than Vader, and presented an even greater challenge for Luke and his comrades. Coincidentally in Episode VII, Kylo Ren is not the top dog either, he answers to a being named Supreme Leader Snoke, who is much more terrifying than he is in every way imaginable.
2. A planet killing machine
In A New Hope, the Empire has the Death Star, and they use it to blow up Alderaan. Then it’s the focal point of the final showdown as the Rebels frantically try to destroy it before it can blow up their base.
While there is no Death Star in The Force Awakens, the First Order instead creates something much large and deadlier in Starkiller Base and (surprise!) uses it to kill some planets. The First Order then attempts to use it on the base of the Resistance to wipe out their enemies once and for all. The gang then gets their fighters together in a last ditch effort to destroy the Starkiller. Sound familiar? It was much harder for them to destroy the Starkiller than it was the Death Star, but the result was still very much the same.
1. Like father like son
One of the biggest plot twists in cinematic history was when Darth Vader revealed to Luke Skywalker that he was in fact his father. While this happened in The Empire Strikes Back, it was still very much hinted at in A New Hope.
Many fans were excited to know more about Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, and were surprised to learn in the film that he was in fact the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. It wasn’t nearly as shocking as Vader’s reveal was, nor was it handled exactly the same way because the roles were reversed (villain is the son and hero is the father). However you can’t help but deny that you were harking back to the 70s when Han Solo was talking to his son.