This Star Wars: The Force Awakens post contains many, many spoilers.
If the plot of The Force Awakens seems familiar, there’s an explanation for that. J.J. Abrams’ continuation of the Star Wars saga borrows a lot from George Lucas’ 1977 original in ways both subtle and overt. Yes, there’s another planet-destroying weapon, but the film is quick to point out that Starkiller Base is not just another Death Star. (It’s bigger.) And Kylo Ren’s resemblence to a certain dark lord of the Sith isn’t a coincidence. The bad guy with major Skywalker connections is desperate to live up to his grandfather’s legacy — and his wardrobe.
Abrams’ affection for A New Hope is apparent in nearly every frame, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. EW film critic Chris Nashawaty points out in his review that The Force Awakens’ mimicry of A New Hope is a major reason that the movie ultimately succeeds in recapturing the franchise’s lost magic. (Although, the parallels do ultimately hold The Force Awakens back a bit.)
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That being said, let’s take a look at the ways that Episodes IV and VII mirror each other.
1. There’s a droid carrying valuable information who finds himself on a desolate desert planet.
2. There’s a Force-sensitive, masked, and darkly clothed antagonist who arrives on the scene shortly after the information is handed off, looking for the droid.
3. There’s a desert settlement that is wiped out by stormtroopers.
4. There’s a hero who’s tortured by the bad guys to retrieve the information.
5. There’s a lonely, Force-strong desert dweller who dreams of more.
6. There’s a worldly old warrior who has to explain the Force to the next generation.
7. There’s a cruel military officer who holds a comparable level of authority to his Force-sensitive, masked, and darkly clothed colleague.
8. There’s a mostly unseen supreme evil that’s pulling the strings from the shadows.
9. There’s a criminal element that’s owed a debt by Han Solo and attempts to kill him after he screws up their arrangement.
10. There’s a cantina filled with various alien creatures.
11. There’s a moment when one of the heroes abandons the fight as a self-preservation measure, but he eventually returns.
12. There’s a massive spherical weapon that’s used to destroy a planet.
13. There’s a base belonging to the rebel forces on a forest-covered world.
14. There’s a surrogate father figure who is cut down by someone previously close to him, who has turned to the dark side.
15. The hero watches helplessly from afar as the surrogate father figure is slayed.
16. There’s a coordinated aerial attack on the massive spherical weapon that’s monitored from a control room by Leia.
17. There’s a trench that X-wings flew through in order to fire on a vulnerability in the weapon and destroy it.
18. There’s a massive explosion that gives the rebels a major victory but likely allows the Force-sensitive, masked, and darkly clothed antagonist to survive to fight another day.