After The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, many fans began to immediately compare it to A New Hope. The main complaint was that The Force Awakens is identical to A New Hope. With today being May 4th, I decided to do a comparison and contrast between the two movies to see how much the two movies are alike and different. Since I have seen both movies so many times and I didn’t have time to watch the movies over again before writing this post, many of the points I will bring up are from my memory. So please forgive me if I miss points that you may think need to be included. Thank you.
First, both movies have a special droid who is carrying information that both sides desperately wants. In A New Hope, R2-D2 is carrying the Death Star plans and in The Force Awakens, BB-8 has the missing piece of a map which leads to the missing Luke Skywalker. Second, the droids end up on a desert planet where we met our heroes. R2-D2 and C-3PO end up on Tatooine where they encounter Luke Skywalker and BB-8 is left on Jakku where he is rescued by Rey. Third, both Luke and Rey are skilled pilots when they are first introduced. Fourth, the main villain is a black robed, masked man. Darth Vader, of course, is the iconic villain. He was number 3 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains in 2003 (behind Hannibal and Norman Bates). In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is a blacked robed, masked man who is trying to emulate his grandfather, Darth Vader. Although, honestly, Kylo Ren is only menacing when his mask was on. Once he took it off, he wasn’t scary anymore he was emo.
Another similarity is how the mentor was killed in each movie. In A New Hope, Luke’s mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is killed in a duel with Darth Vader. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo is killed by his son, Kylo Ren. I hesitate to called Han Solo Rey’s mentor because she viewed him more as a hero. She recognized him as the famous smuggler and not as the Rebel general like Finn did. Either way, the deaths propel the heroes on their life changing journeys. However, this plot point isn’t new. It’s a part of the Hero’s Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949). One last similarity is the presence of an ultimate weapon. In A New Hope, the Death Star was the newly operational weapon of the Empire in order to control the many star systems. In The Force Awakens, Starkiller Base is a mobile planet which has been equipped with a superweapon which is capable of destroying star systems from across the galaxy.
The first difference in the movies is in the main characters. After the deaths of his aunt and uncle, Luke leaves Tatooine to join the Rebel Alliance and to become a Jedi like his father. From the very beginning, Luke expresses his desire to leave Tatooine and with the death of the only family he has ever known, there is nothing there to hold him. In The Force Awakens, Rey flees Jakku only to take BB-8 to the Resistance’s hidden base. She fully intends to return to Jakku as she is waiting for her family to return for her. She doesn’t return as she decides to seek out Luke Skywalker now that the map is complete. Second, Luke has no Force vision in A New Hope and Rey has one in The Force Awakens. Luke’s lightsaber calls to her from the depths of Maz Kanata’s castle.
Another difference is in A New Hope, Leia is captured and rescued by Luke, Han and Chewbacca. In The Force Awakens, Rey is captured and is “rescued” by Finn, Han and Chewbacca. I use quotations because Rey is able to escape her restraints, secure a weapon and is trying to find a way off the base when she runs into her rescuers. Lastly, in A New Hope, the Emperor is only mentioned by name and isn’t seen until a hologram in The Empire Strikes Back and physically in Return of the Jedi. However, in The Force Awakens, Supreme Leader Snoke is seen by hologram throughout the movie. A slight difference sure; however, the leader who is pulling the main villain’s strings is more mysterious and menacing when he has influence and power when only his name is enough to strike fear in everyone else.
In conclusion, I do not see The Force Awakens as a copy of A New Hope. I see many of the similarities as homage to the original film which has captured our imaginations and hearts for forty years. I also see the similarities as history repeating itself because the citizens of this galaxy far, far away haven’t learned from the past. Just like humans of Earth do not learn from history and bring up old ideas as new. The Force Awakens is a great addition to the Star Wars universe and I look forward to The Last Jedi when it is released in December 2017. However, there are the hard core fans who love the original trilogy so much that any future Star Wars film will be compared, analyzed and probably found wanting.