force_awakens

The Force Awakens Vs A New Hope: Similarities

Posted ScriptGeek Thoughts, Uncategorized

force_awakensThe chief criticism directed at The Force Awakens is that the movie is ‘beat for beat’ a replica of ‘A New Hope’-otherwise known as Episode IV (otherwise known as Star Wars).

While this argument is based on some obvious similarities between the movies, to say that the movie is ‘beat for beat’ Episode IV is wholly incorrect.

Below, I have attempted to provide all of the main story beats of both Episode IV: A New Hope, and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Afterwards, I will attempt to extract meaning from these lists, and provide a conclusion based on evidence.

Again, provided below are the main story beats (i.e, moments that I believe direct the story). Where I see similarities between the two movies, I will highlight text in bold (note: those similarities don’t always occur in order).

Keep scrolling if you could do without the beat-by-beat breakdown.
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A New Hope                                                                           The Force Awakens

The Empire attack a rebel ship, searching for stolen plans. Princess Leia hides the plans inside R2-D2. Darth Vader captures Leia, and R2-D2 escapes. The First Order attack a village, searching for a map. Poe Dameron hides the data inside BB8. Kylo Ren captures Poe, and BB8 escapes.
 

Vader learns that the plans have been sent in an escape pod to Tatooine. C3P0 and R2-D2 land on Tatooine. Jawas then capture the droids.

 

Finn refuses a direct order from his commander. He returns to base.

Jawas sell the droids to Uncle Owen. We meet Luke Skywalker, a farm boy. Kylo Renn tortures Poe and determines that BB8 is on the planet Jakku.
Luke discovers a secret message from Princess Leia, who seeks the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  

 

We meet Rey who is a lonely scavenger unhappy with her lot in life. She discovers BB8 and decides to bring him to town, so that he can find his master. Given the chance to sell him for a small fortune, she refuses.

 

Luke tells his Uncle of his intentions to join the academy, but his Uncle won’t allow it.

 

Finn helps Poe to escape from the First Order, but they crash land on Jakku.

R2-D2 escapes and Luke gives chase, but is attacked by Sand People.  

Finn arrives in town, and witnesses Rey being attacked by thugs. He helps Rey and BB8 to escape from the First Order. They escape Jakku on the Millenium Falcon.

Ben Kenobi, a mentor figure, saves Luke and reveals himself to be Obi-Wan.  

When the Millenium Falcon breaks down, Han Solo, a mentor figure, and Chewbacca board the ship.

 

Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsabre. He tells Luke that his father was a great Jedi, but that another student named Darth Vader turned to the dark side and killed his father. Obi-Wan has since gone into exile. Obi-Wan explains the force.

 

Han explains that Luke Skywalker has been missing for many years. Luke had a student that turned to the dark side. Luke, seemingly shamed and defeated, exiled himself. Han explains that the force is real.

 

Obi-Wan listens to Leia’s message, and asks Luke to join him in delivering R2 to Leia in Alderaan. Luke will learn about the ways of the force. But Luke refuses.

 

Criminals board Han Solo’s ship, but the heroes are able to defeat them. They escape once again, now as a party of five.

 

On the Death Star, Vader interrogates Leia.

 

Kylo Ren feels tempted by the light side of the force, but fights to suppress it.

 

Luke returns home to find that the Empire have murdered his aunt and uncle. He decides to join Obi-Wan.

 

The heroes travel to Takodana, where Han Solo offers Rey a job. She refuses.

 

 

 

In Mos Eisely cantina, our heroes hire Han Solo and Chewbacca to fly them to Alderaan. When the Empire attack, our heroes escape on the Millenium Falcon.

 

The heroes visit Maz Kanata’s cantina. Finn decides to flee, whereas Rey wants to see BB8 delivered to the resistance. They go their separate ways.

 

 

 

On the Death Star, Governor Tarkin orders Leia’s home planet of Alderaan to be the first victim of the planet destroying firepower. Alderaan is destroyed.

 

Rey finds Luke’s lightsabre, and sees visions of the past and future. She refuses the weapon and flees.

 

Obi-Wan feels the tremor in the force, but continues to instruct Luke in the ways of the force.

 

The First Order test their new weapon and destroy the Republic capital. Supreme Leader Snoke orders Kylo Ren to kill his own father, Han Solo.

 

 

 

The Millenium Falcon arrives at Alderaan but the planet has been destroyed. The Death Star captures the Millenium Falcon.

 

The First Order launch a ground attack on Takodana. Finn uses the lightsabre to defend himself. Poe Dameron returns. Kylo Ren captures Rey.

 

 

 

Our heroes evade stormtroopers and discover that Leia is held captive somewhere aboard the station. They decide to mount a rescue.

 

 

Leia arrives and meets with Han. The resistance return to their base on the planet D’Qar. We discover that R2-D2 has been inactive since Luke Skywalker went missing.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan moves undetected inside enemy territory and disables the tractor beam to enable their escape.

 

 

Kylo Ren interrogates Rey, but is unable to obtain the relevant information from her. She uses force powers to suppress him.

 

 

Our heroes rescue Leia. Luke came to rescue her.  

Leia determines that The First Order will use Starkiller base to fire on D’Qar. Han, Chewbacca and Finn decide to try disable the base’s shield generator so that the resistance can launch an effective attack.

 

 

 

Obi-Wan confronts Darth Vader, and is destroyed. Luke, distraught, fires wildly, while Vader attempts to pursue our heroes.

 Leia asks Han to bring their son home.
 

Our heroes travel to the rebel base on Yavin 4, but soon determine that the Death Star is preparing to fire on the planet.

Rey escapes from her prison, and evades capture inside enemy territory.
The rebels launch a plan to destroy the Death Star. Han refuses Luke’s call for assistance, and leaves.  

Han, Chewbacca and Finn infiltrate the base and lower the shields. They find Rey. Finn came to rescue her.

 

The rebels attack the Death Star. Luke needs one shot to destroy the station, but Darth Vader pursues him. Han Solo returns and takes Vader out off the equation. Luke destroys the Death Star.

Han confronts Kylo Ren, and is destroyed. Rey, distraught, escapes while Ren pursues.
The rebels celebrate.  

Poe Dameron destroys Starkiller base.

 

Rey and Finn are forced to face Kylo Ren. Kylo defeats Finn.

 

Rey defeats Kylo, and escapes.

 

The Resistance celebrate.

 

R2-D2 wakes up and finishes the map, determining the location of Luke Skywalker.

 

Rey finds Luke, and hopes to begin her Jedi training.

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From the above list, we can extract the following similarities between the two movies:

1.The Empire attack a rebel ship, searching for stolen plans. Princess Leia hides the plans inside R2-D2. Darth Vader captures Leia, and R2-D2 escapes.

The First Order attack a village, searching for a map. Poe Dameron hides the data inside BB8. Kylo Ren captures Poe, and BB8 escapes.

2. Vader learns that the plans have been sent in an escape pod to Tatooine.

Kylo Renn tortures Poe and determines that BB8 is on the planet Jakku.

3. Luke gives chase, but is attacked by Sand People.

Finn arrives in town, and witnesses Rey being attacked by thugs.

4. Ben Kenobi, a mentor figure … tells of a student named Darth Vader who turned to the dark side and killed Luke’s father. Obi-Wan has since gone into exile. Obi-Wan explains the force.

Han Solo, a mentor figure … tells how Luke had a student that turned to the dark side. Luke, seemingly shamed and defeated, exiled himself. Han explains that the force is real.

5. Luke refuses the call to adventure in joining Obi-Wan.

Rey refuses the call to adventure in joining Han Solo.

6. Alderaan is destroyed.

The First Order destroy the Republic capital.

7. Obi-Wan moves undetected inside enemy territory.

Rey evades capture inside enemy territory.

8. Luke came to rescue Leia.

Finn came to rescue Rey.

9. Obi-Wan confronts Darth Vader, and is destroyed. Luke, distraught, fires wildly, while Vader attempts to pursue our heroes.

Han confronts Kylo Ren, and is destroyed. Rey, distraught, escapes while Ren pursues.

10. Our heroes travel to the rebel base on Yavin 4 … Death Star is preparing to fire on the planet.

The resistance return to their base on the planet D’Qar … The First Order will use Starkiller base to fire on D’Qar.

11. The rebels launch a plan to destroy the Death Star.

Han, Chewbacca and Finn decide to try disable the base’s shield generator so that the resistance can launch an effective attack.

12. Luke destroys the Death Star.

Poe Dameron destroys Starkiller base.

13. The rebels celebrate.

The Resistance celebrate.

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Some of these similarities are superficial. Whereas Luke has to stay at home, Rey is uprooted and immediately decides to get BB8 to its owner. But she later refuses a life of adventure from Han Solo. But heroes almost always refuse the call to adventure. It’s storytelling 101. So let’s strike that off the list.

In both movies, droids lead the hero into an ambush. Luke is attacked by sand people, and Rey is attacked by thugs. Luke is knocked unconscious, while Rey is able to save herself. Later, Finn attempts to rescue Rey, as Luke once rescued Leia, but that is turned on its head when Rey rescues herself.

I believe that these examples stress the similarities and the differences between both heroes’ journeys. The similarities between Rey and Luke are purposefully designed to reference Episode IV, while twisting them and using them to empower Rey.

A strong call-back sequence to Episode IV is when Rey evades capture on Starkiller base. The dialogue between stormtroopers (seemingly talking about the new speeders on the market) references Obi-Wan’s encounter with troopers. Or later announcements that the heroes ‘may be splitting up’ and may be on different levels, is a fun call back. But these are merely references. They are not story beat similarities. Obi-Wan is trying to disable a tractor beam, and then will face Darth Vader. Whereas Rey is breaking herself out of prison.

Breaking down that list of 13 similarities, eliminating superficial elements, storytelling mainstays, references and callbacks, we are left with these absolute similarities:

1. The enemy pursues a secret that has been hidden in a droid. That droid falls into the hands of our hero.

2. A mentor figure explains what has come before, and asks the hero to join him.

3. The hero refuses the mentor.

4. A planet is destroyed by the enemy weapon.

5. The mentor is killed.

6. Good guys retreat to their base and launch an attack on the enemy fortress by exploiting a weakness.

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I find that Episode VII used Episode IV’s skeleton, but warps it in a multitude of creative ways. While Darth Vader was one note and obsessed with killing his former master, Kylo Ren is deeply conflicted, vulnerable, and proves uncomfortable with killing his own father.

Luke wanted to join the academy, but he also refused Obi-Wan’s request for assistance. Only the destruction of his home and way of life propels him to act. Rey drives action, never shying from the possibility of change, until far later in the movie.

In Act 3, Luke Skywalker seems unable to outmaneuver Vader in the Death Star trench, but Rey soundly defeats Kylo Ren in Act 3 of her movie. Both villains are dismissed to lick their wounds and fight another day. But Ren is the villain who must now change.

Episode VII ends with Rey pursuing a legend. She takes it upon herself to train in the ways of the force, something Luke does not do until the beginning of Act 2 in Episode V. If Episode VII is a ‘beat for beat’ replica of Episode IV … shouldn’t the movie end with Rey celebrating with the resistance?

And while we’re at it …

Shouldn’t Finn’s character (a storm trooper who has the courage to realise he’s working for the wrong side) not even exist? After all, where is his template in Episode IV?

Shouldn’t Kylo Ren be one note?

Shouldn’t Supreme Leader Snoke not make his holographic appearance until Episode VIII?

Shouldn’t we be saving the ‘He’s your father’ reveals for Episode VIII?

No, because Episode VII is a mix of all Star Wars, not just Episode IV. That’s why it works so well. It has captured the identity, themes and spirit of the previous movies. While it shares obvious similarities with Episode IV, it knowingly weaves a fresh narrative around those sturdy pillars, creating an entirely new beast, and not a ‘beat for beat’ replica.

So you can say that Episode VII bears similarities to Episode IV, but try not to get too carried away.

My two cents anyway. Agree or disagree?

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