Now that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been in theaters for about three weeks, some critics have pointed out the film’s strong parallels to 1977’s original “Star Wars” film. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director J.J. Abrams addressed the concern that “The Force Awakens” relied a little too heavily on “A New Hope” and explained not only the universality of those conventions, but also how they benefited the franchise’s newest characters.
“It was obviously a wildly intentional thing that we go backwards, in some ways, to go forwards in the important ways, given that… ‘Star Wars’ is a kind of specific gorgeous concoction of George [Lucas]’s that combines all sorts of things,” Abrams explained. “Ultimately, the structure of ‘Star Wars’ itself is as classic and tried and true as you can get. It was itself derivative of all of these things that George 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.'”
“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,'” he continued.
“What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards,” he shared. “So I understand that this movie, I would argue much more than the ones that follow, needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain, and using a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies — which is, again, I would argue, not a brand new concept, admittedly — but use that to do, I think, a far more important thing, which is introduce this young woman, who’s a character we’ve not seen before and who has a story we have not seen before, meeting the first Storm Trooper we’ve ever seen who we get to know as a human being; to see the two of them have an adventure in a way that no one has had yet, with Han Solo; to see those characters go to find someone who is a brand new character who, yes, may be diminutive, but is as far from Yoda as I think a description of a character can get, who gets to enlighten almost the way a wonderful older teacher or grandparent or great-aunt might, you know, something that is confirming a kind of belief system that is rejected by the main character; and to tell a story of being a parent and being a child and the struggles that that entails — clearly ‘Star Wars’ has always been a familial story, but never in the way that we’ve told here.”
“And yes, they destroy a weapon at the end of this movie, but then something else happens which is, I think, far more critical and far more important — and I think even in that moment, when that is happening, the thing I think the audience is focused on and cares more about is not, ‘Is that big planet gonna blow up?’ — ’cause we all know it’s gonna blow up. What you really care about is what’s gonna happen in the forest between these two characters who are now alone,” he added.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” stars franchise veterans Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, joined by newcomers John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie and Max von Sydow. The film is now playing in theaters.