J.J. Abrams Responds to Claims That Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ripped Off A New Hope
It’s pretty obvious from how many thousands of words I’ve put on this website about it that I enjoyed The Force Awakens, but I also think it’s important to read fair criticism of your favorite media—so I’ve sought out as many articles as I can about the various complaints folks have about the film. Here are the three most common complaints I’ve seen: Kylo Ren isn’t “cool” or “bad-ass” enough (heh); the new characters are great, but we don’t see enough of any of them (trickier problem to solve, what with the movie already being two hours); and lastly, that The Force Awakens rips off Star Wars: A New Hope to an extent that renders it unenjoyable, shameless pandering.
I guess J.J. Abrams has heard that complaint quite a bit, too, because he’s decided to respond to it. In the latest episode of THR’s Awards Chatter show, Abrams had this to say:
I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people—and I was just hoping and praying that it would be smaller than not—that would take issue with any number of things. But I knew we weren’t making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people’s time.
I think that group of critics is definitely small, based on all those box office records that TFA has been cleaning up. Even so, Abrams elaborates further:
I can understand that someone might say, “Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!” 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.
It’s undeniable that the structure of The Force Awakens has elements that remind us all of A New Hope—the Death Star/Starkiller Base comparison more than earns its lampshade moment in the movie. That said, I also think that some of those comparisons have been actively encouraged by fans.
For example, are Poe, Finn, and Rey really all that similar to Leia, Han and Luke? When it comes to their personalities—and their political stations—not at all, I’d say. The only real similarity between those two groups of people is that both groups contain two men and one woman, all three played by conventionally cute actors. Beyond that, the differences abound! Still, I’ve seen people comparing the new trio to the old trio constantly, even though Poe’s barely in the movie and doesn’t even get to meet Rey. Not to mention that the interactions and dynamics between the three new characters bear refreshingly little similarity to the over-the-top love triangle that takes up an irritating amount of space in the original trilogy.
For the record, I do agree that the in-jokey references to the original trilogy (e.g. “We’ve got company”) felt heavy-handed at times. There are certainly things about the movie that I didn’t think worked so well. But a “rip-off”? That seems a bit much. There’s no way to please everyone when it comes to iterating upon a franchise with this much riding on it, which is no doubt why Abrams felt so reluctant to take the gig in the first place. I think it’s pretty impressive that TFA managed to please as many people as it did, by introducing completely new characters and situations, while still including a side dish of nostalgia alongside every scene.
What do you all think about Abrams’ comments? Did you feel like The Force Awakens was too much of a re-hash? Or did the new elements feel fresh enough for you?
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