It’s no secret to anyone who saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens that J.J. Abrams leaned heavily on A New Hope (and to a lesser extent The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) for the new movie. But the extent of Abrams’ *ahem* inspiration has now been cataloged by filmmaker Zachary Antell in a video entitled “A New Awakening”.
While some of the visual comparisons are stronger than others, it’s still impressive that you can make a video that’s over four minutes of nothing but similarities between the original Star Wars and the birth of the new saga. While I understand that Abrams wanted to draw heavily on nostalgia, here’s hoping that it will be much harder to make a similar video with future Star Wars movies.
Star Wars: Episode VII – A New Awakening or The Force of Hoping?
There’s no denying that The Force Awakens is strikingly similar to A New Hope. This is by design; Disney wanted to bring back the old fans who felt distanced from Star Wars following the disappointment of the prequels. But what may be more surprising is just how closely The Force Awakens mirrors Episode IV, shot by shot.
In order to make the two films this similar, great pains must have been taken during the writing of the script. Shooting the film and editing it would have taken a tremendous attention to detail in order to capture the right camera angles, colors, etc. There’s a purposefulness here that goes beyond pleasing the crowd. It goes back to George Lucas’s meticulous treatment of Episodes I-VI, and the precedent he set for connecting each Episode together with particular themes, plot points, even cinematic shots.
Lucas once described the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy as being like stanzas in a poem. Each film corresponds to another; The Phantom Menace to A New Hope, Attack of the Clones to The Empire Strikes Back, and so on. This is evident in certain major plot threads, such as the death of a mentor and the destruction of a super structure in the first installments of both trilogies, romance in the second, and a cataclysmic spiritual shift for one of the main characters in the third (Anakin Skywalker falling to the dark side, Darth Vader turning back to the light).
Specific shots, like Anakin and Luke in their cockpits in Episodes I and IV, provide even more “rhyming” connections. Alternatively, Mike Klimo’s Star Wars Ring Theory suggests each shot of The Phantom Menace matches sequences from Return of the Jedi, and so on moving inward to Episode II matching Episode V, and Episode IV matching Episode III.
The point is, the Star Wars films are connected by more than just a common story line, characters, and a setting in a galaxy far, far away. There’s a cinematic artistry threading them all into one cohesive epic. The Force Awakens, it appears, is continuing that glorious tradition. There are nods to both A New Hope, as the video above showed, and The Phantom Menace scattered throughout the film (one small nod to The Phantom Menace I take pleasure in is Poe Dameron telling Red Group and Blue Group to follow his lead; Captain Panaka says something similar to the Naboo guards in Episode I).
To what extent this will continue in Episode VIII and IX is uncertain. However, Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, has expressed a fondness for the prequels that is hard to find in filmmakers these days, and he’s likely to have seen the connections between the two trilogies. And while neither he nor J.J. Abrams may agree with all of the creative choices Lucas made, they surely have respect for his vision as a filmmaker. Through them and Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow, Star Wars will hopefully continue on into another stanza.