Last weekend, I streamed the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (below left ) and I was delighted!
The new film is set thirty years beyond the events that transpired in the Empire and amongst the main protagonists Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Han solo (Harrison Ford), Star Wars VI The Return of the Jedi (1983).
The new/young characters and actors in Star Wars VII The Force Awakens are a great reboot of the series. And that we are at the start of the first movie in the third trilogy, gives a nod to the enduring themes and characters of the story.
The similarities and differences between the two films are quite striking, in a comforting way—and the posters above illustrate:
1) Each film begins with a seeker, someone trying to find their way, who gets caught up in a universe wide struggle. In Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) (above right), the seeker is Luke—his family killed, he seeks to find a beautiful princess (Leia) shown to him in a hologram. In Star Wars The Force Awakens, it is Rey (Daisy Ridley, right via wiki)—separated from her family at a young age, she wants to find and to be reunited with them. But as with Luke, what he and Rey ultimately seek is to find themselves, their purpose in life, and their place in the universe.
2) Along the way, the seeker finds people who will guide and mentor them. In Star Wars IV, we have the sage warrior Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness)—counterpointed nicely by Max Von Sydow in Star Wars VII. And whereas Luke engages Han Solo—a rag tag pilot privateer—Rey is her own privateer who must scavenge and scrounge to survive. Yet her newly adopted partner in adventure Finn (John Boyega, below left via wiki)—is a reluctant hero who just wants to find a tiny corner of the universe and live his life without the threat of the Empire breathing down his neck. Whereas the brash and swashbuckling Poe Cameron (Oscar Isaac, below right via wiki) seems almost a blending of Luke’s and Han’s character traits.
Oh Han Solo also turns up, but his character—while engaging as always—manages to surprise us in sticking around long enough to exit spectacularly once more—a la Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back (1980) when Han is encased in carbonite. And Leia as feisty princess or flinty general is also somewhat of a seeker with a longing to dispel the evil Empire’s grip on the universe, and also to redirect the chosen life path of two opposing warriors—Han and Kylo Ren.
3) There are antagonists aplenty in the Empire, with internecine familial connections that greatly complicate matters. In Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader (David Prowse with James Earl Jones voice) is a marauding force of evil—and revealed to be Luke’s father. And that is a betrayal so deep that Luke is shattered. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the antagonist Dark Force warrior is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, right via wiki) whose familial connections to two of the lead characters—and to Darth Vader—make his betrayal even worse. And secondary bad guys in the respective Empire generals—Peter Cushing in episodes IV, V, Vi and Domhnall Gleeson in episode VII. In fact the way General Hux (Gleeson) unflinchingingly stands up to the even more menacing Kylo Ren, you would think that he has asteroids for … well, you know.
That so many parallels of characters, motivations, and plot–between Star Wars IV A New Hope and Star Wars VII The Force Awakens–are often similar, does not deter me. If anything, it feels like a master storyteller is at work in its referencing and legacy building. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is great fun and passes the torch to its new characters and actors with finesse and a sense of even greater storytelling to come. May the Force be with them!
And here is the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to whet your appetite:
P.S. I have purposely been a little vague here and there in some descriptions so as not to “spill the beans” for anyone yet to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hope that you enjoy the movie as much as I did!