J.J. Abrams talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens and similarities to A New Hope


Whether you liked The Force Awakens or not, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: Episode VII is very similar to A New Hope and The Original Trilogy.

As director J.J. Abrams recently explained, that was by design.

“It 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–that Star Wars is a kind of specific gorgeous concoction of George [Lucas]–that combines all sorts of things,” Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter. “[Star Wars] was itself derivative of all of these things that George [Lucas] loved so much, from the most obvious, Flash Gordon and Joseph Campbell, to the [Akira] Kurosawa references, to Westerns–I mean, all of these elements were part of what made Star Wars.”

Abrams boils it down to “a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies.”

“What was important for me,” he explained, “was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new.”

Abrams also said:

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–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.

George Lucas similarly echoed A New Hope with The Phantom Menace, so I can see where Abrams is getting at in terms of a tradition of using an established structure. (The Force Awakens is, in a lot of ways, a Star Wars movie about Star Wars movies.) But at the same time, it feels like the good stuff about The Force Awakens gets held back by all of the familiar story beats in the second half of the film.

If we are in “the age of the legacyquel” as ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer wrote, there are better models to consider than just slavishly redoing what’s been done (i.e., Creed). If anything, Episode VIII will probably be more interesting so long as director/co-writer Rian Johnson gets to do his own thing.

What do you think of Abrams’ explanation?

[The Hollywood Reporter via Collider]
Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.