A constant criticism I hear of The Force Awakens is that it is a “rehash” or a remake A New Hope.
This is a tricky one for me. I can see where they are coming from. There are definitely some familiar beats. Desert planet, evil empire, unawakened Force user, dashing pilot, and a major super-weapon (that explodes.) Does that about cover it?
I think the most damning of these accusations are the desert planet from whence our hero and heroine arise and the exploding Death Star/Star Killer base. The bases even have the essentially the same name. And all three of them are destroyed by a valiant band.
But even this is a bit different – the destruction of Star Killer feels more like the destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi than the Death Star in A New Hope. Why? Stick with me.
In A New Hope, there is a space battle exclusively conducted by the Rebellion in which our hero makes the “one in a million” shot to destroy the super-weapon. In Return of the Jedi, you have a small task force to take down shields so that the battle can commence, you have the very real danger of the hero dying on the collapsing weapon, and a last-minute escape. So, what does The Force Awakens do?
There’s a task force to take down the shields so that the space battle can commence. There’s a very real danger that the heroine/hero will not survive the collapse of the superweapon and there’s a last minute escape. The heroine/hero has nothing to do with the actual destruction of the weapon.
That’s not a rehash of A New Hope. That’s Jedi, all day long.
What about the desert planet origin for the hero? Yes, they are both from a desert planet. Yes, they are both Force-sensitive. Yes, they are both pilots. Yes, they are both orphans. But that’s where it ends. And yes, I know that’s quite a lot. But Luke is male, Rey is female. They are both orphans, but they are both very different kinds of orphans. Luke was raised by loving, adoptive parents. Rey raised herself or was raised by Unkar Plutt. Alone maybe have been preferable to his tender care. Luke works on the moisture farm and looks forward to leaving. She’s a scavenger and looks only to stay, to have her family return to her. Luke never has that expectation. When Luke leaves, like his father before him, he never wished to return. Rey spends half of the movie fighting to get back to Jakku. She spends the rest of the movie looking for belonging and cannot understand how Kylo Ren murders his own father. She, who has never known a parent’s love, simply can’t imagine what it is to be so angry at one’s father that one would actually kill him. But that’s another tangent.
And the Skywalker/Legacy lightsaber – how could I have missed that one? Rey Skywalker advocates invariably point to that as a sign she is, in fact, a Skywalker. If this is a rehash, then the saber would have called to Luke as well, right? Right? If memory serves, Ben Kenobi picks it up and hands it to him, no calling involved. And this saber has been in Kenobi hands much longer than it was ever in Skywalker hands. But the voices in the vision are Luke and Anakin, right? Oh wait, no. It’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. In short, I’m not convinced.
I think we think she’s a Skywalker because we have a really hard time accepting Kylo Ren as the Skywalker of his generation.
And speaking of Kylo Ren – we all thought he was going to be Darth Vader part two, right?
Unlike his grandfather, Ben Solo is called to the Light. He’s forcing himself to stay on the Dark side and even kills his father in an attempt become stronger in the Darkness. But he instantly recognizes his failure there. He’s not a creature of the Dark.
He’s not. This is not natural for him.
And if you have to ask if a character is going to have a redemption arc, then that character is will have a redemption arc.
Palpatine, Tarkin, Hux, Snoke, Phasma? That’s a not even a question for them. They don’t want to be redeemed on any level. So they won’t be.
Ben Solo is under that mask, and he desperately wants to be redeemed. Vader wanted redemption, and eventually, he got it. He had to see Palpatine almost kill his son, the child of Padme, the love of his life, but he got there.
Oh – the dashing pilot of ANH is Han Solo, right? Poe Dameron is the obvious parallel, but they have very little in common. And there is no one remotely like Finn in ANH.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Star Wars is operating with ring theory here. We are going to be hitting many of the same beats as previous movies, but I think we’ll see them in reverse. Ring theory doesn’t mean a rehash.
I think, from everything I’ve heard of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson is going to take this trilogy on an interesting journey, and I sincerely doubt JJ will bring us back to Death Stars in episode 9.
Are we still sure TFA is a rehash of ANH?