As if you already wouldn’t know, there will be spoilers present in this blog post, and lots of them – so if you don’t want anything spoiled for you, then get in your metaphorical A-Wing and fly on outta’ here.
With that said, allow me to introduce myself once again, for context purposes. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. When I was just a wee lad, my Uncle Paul (we all, for some reason, never called him that and called him “Bo” instead) introduced me to all things Star Wars. He owned many different action figures and had a carrying case for them in the shape of Darth Vader’s head and shoulders. I can remember playing with the figures and pretending that the white bed covers were the snowy topography of Hoth. I have one distinct memory of playing with Yoda in a pan of porkchop grease, pretending that the grease and the bits of meat and fat were small oases in an otherwise warm and sweaty swamp on Dagobah somewhere.
Fast forward to who I am now.
I am in my thirties and hold down a job and have graduated from an MFA program. (Yay, me! I’m a writer!) This means that I’ve suffered through the Prequel Trilogy like everyone else, and have not forgotten the stigma attached to those films. Or, how I fell asleep during Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Or how I was bored out of my skull by Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. Or how I thought that Star Wars Episode III was just “ok” and that as a whole, the Star Wars: Clone Wars television show was everything and more that the prequels should have been.
I cosplay as Obi-Wan Kenobi from Episode III in my spare time, going to conventions and other events for fun. During the lead up to The Force Awakens, I was featured in the news or in the paper a few times. (You can see me in my Obi-Wan costume on opening night for The Force Awakens HERE – and you can also see the article where a news photographer took photos of me and several other Star Wars nerds HERE).
I mean, you’re talking to a regular “Area Star Wars Enthusiast” here. I’m not some fly-by-night fan. (Seriously, it says so under my name in this interview still my friend Mike Lavoie captured).
I give you all of this backstory so that you know that I’m not just blowing wind up your arses. I love Star Wars, and I generally will watch anything with the Star Wars name on it at least once. I will be seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the third time in a couple days. Now that that’s out of the way – let me explain to you first how The Force Awakens is almost an exact copy of A New Hope – but then also why that is perfectly fine and actually makes sense (though not a ground-breaking film in and of itself).
So to determine if The Force Awakens is a copy of A New Hope – let us first examine some common elements to see how they measure up.
SETTING: The main setting for The Force Awakens is Jakku, a desert planet. The main setting for A New Hope is Tatooine, a desert planet.
MAIN PLOT: In The Force Awakens, the main plot revolves around a droid carrying valuable information and the imminent threat of a “Death Star” weapon that can destroy planets. The Rebellion must gather their best pilots and strike down the facility with the help of plucky adventurers, some of which use The Force. Sith lords wait on the sidelines to thwart our heroes – but a lone Jedi hermit is called out of retirement to train a new padawan to face them.
In A New Hope, the main plot revolves around a droid carrying a message and the imminent threat of a “Death Star” weapon that can destroy planets. The Rebellion must gather their best pilots and strike down the facility with the help of plucky adventurers, some of which use The Force. Sith lords wait on the sidelines to thwart our heroes – but a lone Jedi hermit is called out of retirement to train a new padawan to face them.
I mean, at its core – The Force Awakens is a pretty straightforward copy and there’s no denying it. The major plot points are the same, but happen sometimes at different points throughout the movie for each different film. The characters are almost all the same. (Rey is basically a female version of Luke at the beginning) It’s basically a reboot under the guise of being a sequel. BUT IT’S OKAY. And I’ll get to why.
INTRODUCING AN OLD CAT TO A NEW KITTEN
I’m a cat lover and so in my mind, it immediately became apparent that J.J. Abrams must be, too. Because to me, he’s using a method of introducing his trilogy that will ensure that us “Old Cats” will accept his films into the Star Wars canon universe and embrace them.
Oh, yeah…we are definitely “old cats”. When the Prequels came out, we were excited and curious at first – but then spat and hissed at any other films coming our way. Even re-mastered re-releases of the original films. We are just SO SET IN OUR WAYS and we don’t want some upstart new kitten waltzing in. We don’t want Star Wars noobs to think that the Prequels are considered on the same level as the original trilogy. We are mistrustful of people handling our childhoods.
According to Animal Planet, from their guide on how to INTRODUCE NEW CATS, here are the proper steps to introduce a new cat to an old, established, protective cat.
How cats respond to newcomers
Bringing a new cat into your home, even with careful preparation, can still be a stressful experience for your cats. Their first and subsequent early encounters may be marked by hissing or growling, which are feline warnings of unhappiness. Never simply place a new cat in your home and hope the cats will work things out for themselves. More likely, without patient human intervention, the two will fight, or the resident cat will express displeasure by marking your floors or walls.
Secure the two cats in separate rooms; mingle both cats’ scents on a sock or washcloth (by rubbing the cloth on their fur) and place the objects next to their feeding areas. Supervise their initial encounters to help the relationship progress smoothly.
Remember the territorial rights
Cats do not like change, and will notice even the addition of a new piece of furniture in their territories. So a cat’s first reaction to a new feline arrival may be anxiety or confusion. Set up one litter box per cat, with one extra, in separate areas, and check to see that the resident cat is not displaying his unhappiness by eliminating outside of his box. The presence of another cat, even if unseen, presents an inconvenience to your existing cat, so to minimize this change in his household routine, offer him quality time and opportunities to play or simply sit on your lap if he wants to.
Bringing both cats together
With both cats sniffing the other’s scent on those cloth items you’ve offered, they’ll be familiar with each other even before they meet face-to-face. Let the resident cat see the new one through the partially opened door of his safe room, and once you’ve repeated this for a few days or a week, allow them to meet, with your supervision, in a neutral room. They’ll sniff at each other, and may posture with tails up or just stare. Offer a toy they can share to encourage them to play. If one or both cats seem stressed, keep the encounter short, and then repeat for a longer period later. Gradually, they will accept each other. Coping with aggression If either cat flattens his ears, growls or spits, you can clap or talk loudly to distract them from getting into a fight, but if their aggression ramps up, separate the cats for a day. Try another meeting after they have calmed down. Their period of introduction and adjustment may take weeks or even months. Cats with aggressive temperaments will instinctively stalk or attack shyer cats that may retreat or hide. You’ll need to offer a lot of reassurance and extra attention to each cat if aggression becomes a factor. If both the resident cat and the new one are aggressive, especially if both are males, your hopes for a happy feline home may decline into all-out war. But when cats do accept the reality of a multi-cat home, they can tolerate each other without fussing, or become devoted friends, sometimes grooming each other and sharing space on your couch. They may realize that your attention and affection is doubled, just for them.
So, in the above instance – we are the original Star Wars fans, and in essence – the original cats in the home Lucas created for us. Abrams is rubbing Lucas’ scent ALL over the new characters. Not just Lucas’ scent, but the scent of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, 3PO and all the others. He’s rubbing the new characters like Rey and Finn and Poe in familiar settings and landscapes, similar situations, and pitting them against evils we’ve seen before. To get us used to them. To make it easier for us to accept them.
We are accepting this new kitten – and the ticket sales have shown that. When Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out, it was not rubbed in the scent of the original trilogy but was haphazardly introduced to the general public. It was spraying, marking its territory on the litter box our childhood had become. Instead of the action-packed situations and dynamic characters we’d gotten used to before, we were treated to FOX News in space – with talk of “trade federations” and Republic politics. Not only that, we were treated to NASCAR in space, which was Pod Racing. Though mildly amusing – the Pod Racing segment went on for far too long. And the CGI – and the polished and unused look of everything. And the non-living army that were the droids. It was all unpalatable, all so boring and lifeless and unlike the OG trilogy.
SAME SITH, DIFFERENT DAY
The reason why I believe that Abrams absolutely HAD to do things this way, is because if he didn’t – if he didn’t play it safe and capture the essence of A New Hope, his movie trilogy would have been off to a very bad start. People are so jaded nowadays by how horrible mainstream Hollywood movies are, (think of all the reboots and sequels we’ve seen compared to original material) that a reboot in the guise of a sequel is the perfect way to go. While recalling the nostalgia and fun of the original films, The Force Awakens is an officially sanctioned plagiaristic property. A shot in the arm of a stale and maligned franchise.
Now that Rey and Finn and Poe have been safely established by Abrams, and now that The Force Awakens has crushed box office records – this is where Abrams can come into his own. With the confidence of the audience, and the studio execs – Abrams can branch out and launch his next two films under his own banner. Episodes VIII and IX. Not to mention the unnamed Han Solo and Boba Fett anthology films coming down the road, or Star Wars: Rogue One.
One of the other reasons Abrams and Disney had to create their own version of A New Hope is because of film and distribution rights. 20th Century Fox permanently owns Episode IV and will only lose the rights to the other films in 2020. It’s interesting that the only film they don’t own the rights to is the only film that The Force Awakens is most like.
20th Century Fox retains the physical distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original 1977 film and holding the rights to Episodes I–III, V and VI until May 2020. The Walt Disney Studios owns digital distribution rights to all the Star Wars films, excluding A New Hope.
So, with a successful beginning to a major blockbuster trilogy on their hands, a trilogy they can market on their own – Disney and Abrams are in a very good position. And if they hadn’t played it safe by making The Force Awakens into what amounts to a reboot/modern copy of A New Hope, and if the fans weren’t backing it – it would have just been another Phantom Menace. Abrams is now free to forge his own path with the next two films in the trilogy, and fans are likely to be much more accepting and enthusiastic about his story.
In order for us to accept what The Force Awakens actually IS (an actual GOOD Star Wars film and heads above the prequels), we must first accept that as an “actual film” (if you take away the fact that it’s Star Wars) it is not breaking any new ground in the least and is solely derivative of what came before. It does add some elements to the Star Wars universe, but this will likely be expanded on in the sequels, thankfully. So, take heart naysayers. The best is yet to come. As one reviewer of the movie said about The Force Awakens – “…The best thing about The Force Awakens is not the film itself, but what will come after.”
One final thing about the movie, and about Star Wars in general – is that Star Wars is a cyclical story. The Jedi and the Sith seem to always make the same mistakes. So, if you find that it is too unbelievable that The Force Awakens is a literal copy, you probably fall into this camp. And that’s okay. Because that’s mostly what Star Wars is all about. The never-ending cycle of the hero’s story, and light against dark. The old generation VS the new generation.