It’s Okay to Enjoy ‘The Force Awakens’ Despite Similarities to Other Star Wars Films

Several days ago the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped, and it looks really, really good. But on some corners of the web, talk has already devolved into meaningless ridicule on how this is “clearly” ripping off The Empire Strikes Back, with the AT-ATs and such. Despite the fact that these are not AT-ATs, c’mon! At this point you’re just looking for faults. Everybody thinks they’re a critic, everyone believes they’re informed. On this account, it’s really too early to tell, so no – you’re no more informed than the next person.

But let’s bring it back a step. More and more I find that people who originally loved The Force Awakens are now finding that it’s suddenly too similar to A New Hope, or other films in the series. If that’s a matter of word of mouth criticism, or personal peeves, I don’t know. In the past week alone, I’ve seen more than a handful of backhanded compliments made, all essentially saying, “I like The Force Awakens, but it’s just a rehash of stuff that came before.” Are these individuals opinions wrong? No, there are quite a few similarities to be made between the latest Star Wars outing and those of yesteryear. But that doesn’t make it any less of a good film.

It has been stated (and forgive me, because I don’t recall the source), that calling The Force Awakens a rehash of episodes past is equivalent to calling a song with a chorus repetitive. Think about that for a second. Would one call a song repetitive if the chorus repeats itself? Let’s go a step further.

Star Wars is a family saga, and a generational one. The mistakes of past generations don’t necessarily mean future ones won’t make the same mistakes, or slightly similar ones. Can one honestly say that the lessons learned by predecessors are automatically instilled in ones progeny? No. And to make a believable Star Wars universe, you have to be aware of that generational divide. In real life, history repeats itself. It would be silly to assume that in crafting a generational journey through the Star Wars universe anything contrary to a repeating history would be appropriate.

Starkiller Base, the planet turned superweapon, is similar to the first two Death Stars, but it’s vastly larger and more powerful. Not only can it destroy a whole planet; it can destroy entire systems. Is this bad storytelling? Or is it realistic? Was it bad storytelling when humans chose to build hydrogen bombs in 1952, after seeing the destructive power of the far weaker atomic bomb just a handful of years prior? Starkiller Base is, for all intents and purposes, the superweapon equivalent within the Galaxy far, far away, and to criticize the film for that reason is particularly unwarranted. And yet this is the most common criticism I see.

But this isn’t the only complaint. Many say it takes the same “formula,” or “tropes,” used in A New Hope. Let’s explain why this is okay. Star Wars is a monomyth, a cyclical adventure or quest undertaken by a hero. And as a generational monomyth, it clearly cycles through some of the same themes, character types, and so forth as the generations move forward. In other words, a monomyth is the hero’s journey. First is the call to adventure, which the hero initially refuses. They receive aid from an outside figure, sometimes a supernatural force, which allows them to cross that threshold, and then the world (or Galaxy) opens up for them. The path is full of trials, but eventually the hero(es) receive their boon, or the ultimate goal of their quest. The hero wins their first trials, then loses (oftentimes losing the father figure in the process), which pushes the hero to becoming who they are meant to be. And then they overcome their final trial. That’s the hero’s journey – the monomyth. And in so many words, not always in the same order, both A New Hope and The Force Awakens share that story structure. As do countless other stories.

But despite it all, The Force Awakens reworking of this trope is brilliant. My favorite example of this is that, instead of a supernatural force user like Obi-Wan Kenobi pushing Rey to accept her fate, it’s a defecting Stormtrooper.

But more importantly, even if this was a direct rehash of another film, the characters aren’t. They may fill similar roles, but their goals, the way they react, and their plights are entirely new. The Original Trilogy would have been a vastly different tale had you placed these fresh characters among it. And that’s part of the brilliance of it all. Though history repeats itself, though situations materialize that feel rehashed, it still surprises you because of the different characters involved in this take.

The villain of the story is quintessentially NOT Darth Vader. He is a wannabe. That is not a criticism. That is a fact. One that the film makes explicitly clear. Had they attempted creating another Darth Vader would have been a folly far greater than the perceived fault of creating “yet another Death Star,” because that’s just not as believable, or as emotional as a character warring within himself.

It surprises me even as I write this, for I’m currently watching the film as I type, that I even need to make this counter argument to begin with. What we received with The Force Awakens is a superb Star Wars experience. The ultimate goal of the film was to continue the legend, recapture the magic, and rework the myth with different characters for a new generation. On all accounts it surpassed its objective, and anyone who argues that is hating on the film for the sake of being entitled to hate. Did it rely too heavily on past concepts? I guess? But really, what else is it going to work off of, other than the universe it’s already entrenched in? If that’s the biggest issue with the film, which is truly a non-issue, then wow, we’ve got a great film on our hands guys! This was the first time you’ve truly felt the Star Wars experience on the silver screen in over 30 years. You were capable of suspending your disbelief of the impossible for the alotted 2 hours and 15 minutes, because you were able to place yourself in the hero’s shoes. You believed what was happening, because the struggle was so familiar, and at the same time so new. This is a great film guys. It’s not perfect, I’m not arguing that. But give it the credit it’s due. Just enjoy it guys. 


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33 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Enjoy ‘The Force Awakens’ Despite Similarities to Other Star Wars Films

  1. I personally loved how the movie managed to twist familiar things. Kylo Ren was a clever way of not even attempting to top Darth Vader, and acknowledging the impossibility of it openly and using it as fuel for new drama.

    I enjoyed Maz’s Cantina as well. It felt like it’s own world populated by unique and interesting creatures, yet with an obvious link to the classic scene in the original. The movie was a passing of the torch, so I think it makes sense to keep the theme throughout.

    In the case of Starkiller base, however, it was the THIRD time they rehashed the concept of the Death Star and they didn’t really do anything new with it. Worse, the writers seemed openly dismissive of its overall threat within the film itself. Han doesn’t care that it’s big, standing in for audiences’ potential reactions. The climax of the film could have happened independently of this threat, whereas in the original film the Death Star was central to the story.

    I think it’s also similar to how people felt about Mary Jane’s abduction in Spider-Man 3. Twice seems acceptable, but a third time is pushing it.

    But the filmmakers knew what they were doing, and now that we have such great new characters, going forward this should hopefully cease to be fodder for complaints.

    I am surprised that people are knocking Rogue One for looking redundant. It feels and sounds as fresh as a Star Wars movie could while still looking to fit perfectly within continuity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, it’s perfectly fine to watch this movie. It had a lot of retread, but I think they were playing it safe in order to show that this new trilogy was extremely viable. When I watched this movie, I the impression of “it’s okay guys, we’ve got this” and I believe they do. I don’t see how the next film will be like Empire in anyway, so I think we are good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think people might have forgotten how franchises work: of course there are similarities between the films because that is what sells, but also using similar ideas identifies the film as part of that franchise.
    The Force Awakens is a great film, and while it might have a familiar-ish plot, you’re right the characters are very different and that is what makes it stand out from the other films.
    Oh, and Rogue One looks amazing as a story in its own right: Star Wars has had an extended universe in books for decades, its’ great to see that storyworld Lucas created is being expanded upon in film as well, and Rogue One will be completely different as it won’t be part of the generational tale of the Episodes.
    It will have a few established characters like Mon Mothma, but what it looks like we’re going to see is how normal people (i.e. not Jedi or descendants of Jedi) have reacted to the Empire. It sounds great and I’m really excited about that new direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My thing, A New Hope doesn’t hold up for me. I still like it but I find it to come off very cheesy at parts. Obviously time and countless imitators play a factor but it doesn’t age as well as some thing imo. If The Force Awakens can do it better, which I think it did great. Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree, Geekcritique (especially about the hero’s journey and Death Star things you alluded to). Though having just read the novelisation (so memory is refreshed – saw film in December) I also agree with those above who feel that there could’ve been a lot…*more*….done with what was available. I’m hoping that now they’ve given a big serve of nostalgia-but-tweaked-anew stuff, they’ll feel better able to break away from the mould.
    Basically, I think lots of things worked, including many of the nods to the past films of the franchise. There were also things that didn’t work as well on balance for me, but none of those detract or distract too much.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with you. I went to this with the sole expectation of having fun for a couple of hours. From that standpoint, it was a really good movie. I wouldn’t rate it as a great one in the cinematic universe, nor would I say it dealt with issues of major social importance. And, of course, being a sequel, it wasn’t horribly original. But who cares? Sometimes, I think we take these things more seriously than we should. Good entertainment still makes for a bad religion. Sometimes, you want a gourmet meal, and sometimes you’re in the mood for a greasy burger. I left the theater full and without a stomach ache.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m much happier with something that might be received as too similar than something that is unrecognizable.

    To me TFA was a variation on several themes contained in the original trilogy. Looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’ve only just got around to seeing Force Awakens this week. I think for me I may have let the similarities slide had JJ not just finished doing the same thing with another beloved franchise creating one of the weakest, if not the weakest in the series.
    My other big complaint about the film is that due to these similarities it seems to half squander the gift of time the film has been given. It’s always hard doing a sequel so many years later and for me the one saving grace for something like that is to say that you had to wait for time to pass before doing it otherwise it wouldn’t work. For instance they keep talking about wanting to do a new Conan movie starring Arnold. Of course Arnold is now an old man so how can you do a Conan the Barbarian movie with him like that. Well simple tell the story of old Arnold, tell the story of Conan the King, Conan the old.
    In the new Star Wars movie despite thirty years having passed the Empire is still plodding along, they’re still using Storm Troopers in their nice white armour. Han is still a smuggler, Leia is still just a rebellion leader instead of a ruler of the Senate or a high ranking politician or dare I say it a force user and there is no Jedi.
    Now as I’ve said in the past I didn’t hate the movie. I thought it was better acted, directed, better written and better directed than any of the prequel movies. But it does feel like it’s playing it a little too safe. Now some have argued that due to the reception the prequels have received over the years that Disney and J.J have deliberately decided to evoke the feel and memories of the original trilogy to win fans back around from the prequels. Thus once done they can truely blaze their own trail in episodes 8 and 9. Maybe only time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm. Well. I don’t want to outright tell you you’re wrong, because you’re not. They are still fighting the same fight, but things have changed more than you think, and it’s addressed in the film. The First Order isn’t the Empire, but a splinter of the Empire that grew out of its wake. Leia wasn’t always a rebellion leader, but a politician, until the First Order stepped in and she had to come back to being a Resistance fighter. Han went back to his old devices as being a smuggler, but… that’s Han. And their were Jedi. Kylo Ren was one of them. But he supposedly killed off the rest. So the film is very conscious of the 30+ year divide between episodes 6 and 7. We just don’t know enough yet about all that happens prior to this film to understand where the Galaxy has been. Apparently their have been several wars between the films we don’t know a thing about. But anywho. You’ll notice more of these things on a rewatch. Not to invalidate your opinion, but to correct a misunderstanding. Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But that’s my problem. In the novels eventually the rebellion is forced to work with the empire against the Yuuzhan Vong, in Star Wars: Legacy the Empire is actually a standing force and seen as a benevolent force equal in power and what have you to the Republic. Whereas in this movie after thirty years we are still telling the same story of rebellions and evil empires and planet destroying super weapons. I know all that is non-cannon now but in that case make up a new story, do something new put your characters in new and interesting positions.
        They pay lip service to the time that has passed with mention of the new republic but they don’t play a part in this story (and quite frankly nobody seems to care when they are blown up). In my opinion apart from Ben Solo this movie could be set under five years after ‘Return of the Jedi’ and you wouldn’t be able to tell.
        We grew up watching Luke Skywalker and now we return to him thirty years later to find that he has accomplished nothing. They set up the jedi academy like we were promised at the end of Jedi but it feels like J.J has wiped it off the map because he is afraid of moving the story forward.
        Why can’t we have a new still growing Republic taking on the remnants of the empire instead of another “resistance movement”? Why are we back to flying X-wings instead of the a to z-wings we should be. It feels to me like just like “Into Darkness” they are going down a check list of what we recall from the original movies both in plot and setting and that would be fine if this was a follow up set and or filmed right after.

        Tell me a story of Han having to deal with the responsibility of being a respected Republic commander, tell a story of Leia now having to fight her problems with words and treaties instead of a blaster and a “crack” squad of pilots, tell me a story of Luke trying to figure out what being the first new Jedi means not him still being the last Jedi or Han still being a loose cannon smuggler and Leia still standing in front of displays coordinating attacks.

        Now as I say maybe all of this will play into the sequels. After all surely the Republic has to come into play now they’ve been attacked. Yet right now that is another potentially empty promise and JJ is very good at not following through on story promises.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Kibbin, you’re not wrong at all. TFA may have been entertaining (if you can overlook plot holes and inconsistent character motivations), but it fails as Episode 7 for the many reasons you mentioned.

        If Disney wanted to reboot/restart the franchise they could have done so without fundamentally damaging the characters we all fell in love with from the OT. The repeats of previous plot points (and don’t let anyone tell you the DS3 is creatively legitimate) are not the worst elements of the film, but they do help to support an informed point of view.


  9. I am one of those who thought the similarities between Episode 4 and 7 were an annoyance. Personally I waited until the last minute to watch ‘The Force Awakens’, but more because of irritation about the director rather than what I thought was in the movie. I went in pretty blind, I avoided spoilers and such and had minimal info on characters. I watched it, and enjoyed it, but found the similarities to be off-putting, and wasn’t sure if I wanted to account it to laziness or homage.

    Reading this article, however, got me wondering why it irritated me so much, so I did a little internal research and I may have found an answer, but since I don’t know much about you (Geekritique), this may not apply.

    I am a 40 year old man. Born in 1975 I was not old enough to feel the full brunt of ‘Star Wars fever’, but I was certainly old enough to be swept up in the whirlwind of episodes 5 and 6. I can say that I have literally seen all three movies at least a hundred times, maybe before I even made it out of jr. high school.

    I have three kids, each of them in their teens. They have seen all six previous movies, and are very familiar with them. After reading your article I approached them and asked them what THEY thought about the similarities between episodes 4 and 7, and they all had different answers, but one thing stuck out between the three of them. Each of them had made the remark that they hadn’t seen episode 4 in a long time. As I go over things in my mind I know that I can probably count, on one hand, the number of times I have sat and watched episodes 1-6 with them, and I doubt they have watched them much on their own.

    For someone like me, an old timer who has seen the original trilogy more times than he could possibly remember, seeing similarities between the two films might feel like I am watching the same thing all over again. Kind of like someone taking an old song, using the same music, the same beats, adding a little of their own musically and adding their own lyrics. It’s a different song, sure, but people familiar with the original might say, “Yes, its good, but the original was better. They aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before.”. To a younger person who might not be familiar with the original, it might be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Ill give a great example, even if it really makes me feel old! I remember when Vanilla Ice’s ‘Play that Funky Music” came out. My friends and I loved it! What a great song! Great beat, great music, great lyrics – but when my dad heard it he asked me why the guy remade a perfectly good song. I had no idea what he was talking about until he told me that a band named Wild Cherry had come up with that song fifteen years ago. To him the song was an annoyance because he remember the original and this new stuff just seemed like a ripoff by some dude who couldn’t come up with his own stuff. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why episode 7, to me, was a good movie, but ‘been there, done that’.

    I had other gripes with the movie, but overall I thought it was a fun Star Wars film. Overall I don’t know where the entire franchise is headed, and the original reason I avoided going to see e7 on opening day was to avoid feeing disappointment over a few other issues, mostly with the director.

    Anyhow, just my opinion. I’ll buy e7 because my kids will watch it, but personally I don’t know if I can keep following Star Wars. Seeing as how you ‘liked’ the post on my blog, you know why.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your comment and the thought that went into it. I appreciate the personal attachment and appropriate detachment you have to it. I had never taken this approach to the issue in my mind of, well some people might just be tired of it. It was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers to recapture the feeling you were given in the original trilogy. But from someone who has the ability to know and feel the “been there, done it better,” mentality, that stance makes a lot of sense. Hopefully it doesn’t turn you off of Star Wars forever. I’m positive it won’t always be as similar to previous films as this one was. Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for accepting the comment. A lot of WordPress blogs have something against accepting differing views, so I wasn’t sure how my response would be taken. I like keeping a blog and looking over others, the conversation helps keep the mind sharp.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I am with you. I could not believe the articles and write-ups I started to read about TFA being a copy of ANH. I think there is just so much negativity out there about movies in general. Facebook and blogs have given a voice to everyone, but in a lot of cases it is the knee jerk reactors or the trolls that have the loudest voices.

    This is a great movie that ties in so well with the previous trilogy, and Rogue One looks like it is going to be great too. Of course there are similarities. That is the world it comes from.

    Great article.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Also there are a lot of people who misunderstand the word critique. They think it means they’re supposed to list every thing they disliked about a movie. A critique is meant to be helpful for others to decide whether or not they may want to see a movie, or pointing out something they may have missed, when they viewed it.

      I have a blog and I do reviews, but mostly I try to review only things I like, with the caveat that there may be things in it that other people may not.

      And some are just curmudgeons who like to poop all over things just because others like it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. When my wife and I went with some friends to see Star Trek (2009), we loved it. My wife, who wasn’t really a fan of Sci-fi back then, was sitting there in the theater and asked “When is the next one coming out.” Can’t ask for better praise from a non sci-fi person. As we walked out the friends we went with were talking about how the movie totally failed because the music score was garbage in their minds. We agreed we would never go see movies with those guys ever again. They were killing the euphoria of watching a movie we liked, and all too often we are robbed of that feeling with everyone jumping on the computer the night the movie comes out and starts bashing it.

        I love your comparison between critique and being critical.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. Fans are becoming their own worst enemy. Your AT-ATs argument in the opening graph says it all. Fans are becoming too sensitive and hyper critical for no reason, but personal fandom. The same scenario has presented itself with Batman vs Superman and even the reshooting of Suicide Squad. Instead of enjoying this Era of the Geek, fans are allowing knee-jerk reactions on social media cloud their own opinions. Good read, always enjoy the content on here.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. But isn’t the reason that we’re in such a great time of geek media the reason we cant be critical. I’ve said to my friend several times that had Agents of Shield come out say ten or fifteen years ago I would have eaten that stuff up. I would probably be the shows biggest fan and yet I dropped it after about nine episodes and haven’t looked back because if I want superhero t.v I’ve now got so many good options that I don’t have to settle.
      Don’t like Batman v Superman? Simple go to DC Animated for one set of options or go to Marvel for another and that’s not to mention the indies that are supposed to be coming over the next few years such as Archer and Armstrong.
      Now arguably Star Wars doesn’t have any such direct competition but the point still stands. Due to us living in such a golden age we can now afford to be more picky with what we consume.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Playing devil’s advocate here but… by your same logic it is also okay to dislike The Force Awakens because it is too similar to previous movies. Essentially people just like different things for different reasons or dislike things for different reasons and that is okay. Me personally I didn’t mind the similarities but I can see why others might. My biggest problem with the movie was a fault of JJ Abrams, he has no concept of time and distance in space, for him hyperspace is an instant go wherever you want. He did the same thing in Star Trek and it is kind of frustrating. The thing though is I love the movie despite all of its flaws because the characters are just so darn good.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I see what you’re saying, but I guess I’m referring to those who use that as a criticism of the film. There’s one thing if you don’t like similarities, but that’s not a fault of the direction the film took. That’s an issue with ones taste. But I’m glad someone’s playing devil’s advocate here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it is a fair a criticism though, because it is true — but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t enjoy it. My point is we don’t need to defend films we like from criticism because the criticism isn’t going to change the fact we liked it. If people want to point this out, let them, doesn’t hurt you from enjoying it.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. About the hyperspace thing, from what I remember reading about the matter the laws of hyperspace are kept purposely vague so it doesn’t get in the way of the story. If you think about it, going faster than the speed of light should mean the people you want to visit on the other side of the galaxy would be long dead by the time you get there. Also remember in Empire, the Falcon’s hyperdrive is broken and they fly to the nearest solar system on sublight engines, which makes close to no sense. The would have been in space for 1100 years at least. When questioned about this story-group guy Pablo Hildago said that in the old EU he wrote a detailed explanation to that story point, but in the new universe he’s dropped that explanation, just saying instead that hyperspace exists for the plot. In the prequels we have Darth Maul journeyed from Coruscant to Tatooine in less than a single Tatooine day and Padme running over to Mustafar nearly instantly. Also keep in mind that we’re only shown characters in the midst of hyperspace travel when it’s important to the plot, otherwise the film cuts it out. Rey’s quick hyperjump was a result of that, it’s not stated explicitly how long she’s traveling for.


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