UNFAIR COMPARE: A New Hope vs. The Force Awakens
Because I’m a nerd on the internet, it’s time to talk about the new Star Wars. It’s required, you know.
(Don’t worry, I’m going to avoid spoiling anything you haven’t seen in the trailers).
I originally wasn’t planning to see the new Star Wars for a couple of days, but a friend of mine had an extra ticket for a showing last night, and here we are!
My original plan was to do an UNFAIR COMPARE feature of The Phantom Menace vs. The Force Awakens, seeing as of how both movies are different approaches to kickstarting a new phase of the Star Wars franchise. However, I didn’t actually have a copy of The Phantom Menace, and I soon realized there was a reason for this.
I threw in a DVD of A New Hope instead.
It’s kind of awkward comparing A New Hope to The Force Awakens, because they’re kind of the same movie. JJ Abrams goes out of his way to hit the same story beats that Lucas did in A New Hope. So you have a sassy droid, a wide-eyed space peasant and a cynic who’s in over his head hot-rodding around Not-Tatooine, Not-Hoth, a space-bar full of weirdo aliens, and so on. There are X-wings, and the Millenium Falcon, and stormtroopers, and a bunch of old characters you probably have action figures of in the back of your closet. (Or maybe in a display case. I’m not gonna judge).
Side note, here are the best cameos in The Force Awakens
- Admiral Ackbar
- Nien Numb
- The guy from Big Ass Spider
So yeah. As you’ve probably heard, The Force Awakens is like A New Hope, remixed. It’s not a bad thing, but it still comes off as a bit … imitative, I guess. See, the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy was the blender-full of design and thematic elements Lucas drew inspiration from: samurai movies, westerns, WWII movies, Flash Gordon. In comparison, Abrams draws from … Star Wars. There’s a shot, early on, of a crashed Star Destroyer in the middle of a desert. What we once knew is now the ‘lore’ of Episodes 7 – 9, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.
Really, it’s easier to list the differences between A New Hope and The Force Awakens. Most notably, The Force Awakens has a lot of action scenes, often thrown in just to pad things out. I couldn’t help but contrast this to A New Hope, which is certainly a swashbuckling adventure … just in the third act. A New Hope takes a slower, more deliberate pace, which makes the ensuing laser battles all the more suspenseful. I get the feeling Abrams just had too many cool ideas for ways to explode things, and so he wanted to cram as many of them in as possible. There are also a couple of definite Abrams-isms throughout the movie. Nothing too distracting, but some of the quick cuts and blinky lighting definitely seemed a little too ‘modern’ for a Star Wars flick.
The Force Awakens’ plot is a ramshackle thing that relies entirely too much on coincidence and doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny the morning later (so, y’know, now). This said, the cast is rock solid. Abrams does a great job of setting up the heroes and villains that are going to dominate the box office and the toy aisle for the next decade or so. Rey, Finn, and even BB-8 are a just as relocatable as Han, Luke, and Leia- and far more entertaining than the humorless Anakin and Obi-Wan from the prequels. After however many years, we finally get new Star Wars characters to say ‘wait, just what the hell is going on here?’ like Han once did.
Really, I’m writing this review for myself, rather than for you guys. I know you’re all going to go see the movie anyway, out of some weird sense of pop-culture obligation. It’s like the Super Bowl with laser swords. Bigger than that, even. I think some of that hype machine has soured me on the movie- or maybe I’m getting old and cynical. I mean, if I watched this movie when I was, say, 10, I’d be absolutely blown away. And that’s really what it’s for, right? I guess we’re just lucky this time around that the kids will run around wanting to be Rey and Finn instead of Anakin and Obi-Wan.
The Force Awakens is better than the prequel trilogy, and better than JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movies … but that’s kind of a low bar to set. Complain as I may, I did enjoy The Force Awakens for what it was. It’s just that it didn’t make me need to change my pants after viewing it, either. If nothing else, this new movie got me vaguely interested in that enormous Lego Millennium Falcon, so … mission accomplished?