Abrams responds to complaints Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a 'rip-off' of A New Hope

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Nov 20, 2019, 6:51 PM EST (Updated)

There’s no denying Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a massive hit, and a pretty good movie to boot. But what about the pieces that seemed a bit familiar? Director J.J. Abrams has finally opened up to address complaints that the long-awaited revival pulls a few too many pages from A New Hope’s playbook.

While reviving Star Wars for a new generation, Abrams obviously looked to what had worked before as a way to launch his story. A droid holding an important piece of data? Yep. A young character on a desert planet? Check. A big ol’ planet-sized weapon? Check. 

But, according to Abrams, many of the spiritual elements that are recognized as being part of Star Wars were inspired by the things George Lucas loved when he put together the first film, from Buck Rogers sci-fi to classic western and samurai movies. If anything, he was just paying his own homage to those original sources that helped jump-start the bones of A New Hope.

Here’s what he told The Hollywood Reporter:

“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]’s — that combines all sorts of things. 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."

Fair points, all around. The Force Awakens obviously featured some familiar elements, but it also remixed those concepts with a ton of new stories that have never been done in the franchise’s history. Well, in the movies, at least (R.I.P. Expanded Universe). Continuing on, that’s the point Abrams tries to make, as he breathlessly touches on the myriad elements that made The Force Awakens fresh.

Here’s that (lengthy) comment from the chat:

“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. 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.”

After the slow mess that was the prequel films, most fans would agree that Star Wars needed a refocusing to get back to the elements that made it a hit in the first place. Abrams definitely accomplished that with The Force Awakens. We have exciting new characters and new stories to dig into for years to come. Now comes the challenge: Start digging.


(Via The Hollywood Reporter)