With J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan‘s Stars Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney, 12.18) just around the corner, it’s time to face reality as far as likely reactions are concerned. One way or another it’s going to get slammed. If it’s seen as markedly similar to the original Star Wars, which is what I heard secondhand this morning, it’s going to be attacked. And if it’s seen as too different from the original trilogy, it’s going to be attacked.
I’m saying this now to clear the air before it starts. A little pipe-cleaning, a little roundabout perspective. Too many millions of people are too invested in the Star Wars legend to be impartial or dispassionate. The Force Awakens is guaranteed to be a box-office smash, but the arguments among the faithful (young and old) are going to be just as engrossing as the film itself.
And the hard fact is that familiarity is unavoidable with such a film, and that complaining about recurring motifs and themes is a bit like complaining about the presence of cowboys and a saloon and six-shooters and Indians and cattle drives and a marshall with a shotgun when you go to see a western.
I spoke this morning to a Force Awakens guy about this. Here’s what he said:
“The similarities to Episode IV, if you will, are unavoidable, but they’re also entirely intentional. This is not a remake because when you do Star Wars you’re doing a kind of western. There are elements that you not only can’t avoid, but which are absolutely necessary.
“Part of what they’re doing is telling a new story that runs with much of what came before. And you might say, hey, that’s a new version of the Cantina scene. Yes, of course, there are intentional call-backs.
“But this is about characters who find themselves in the Star Wars universe. So it’s a generational story of people going through this world, this universe and finding their way. However you slice it, how can it not be familiar? Movies since Star Wars for the last 40 years movies have been using the same tropes.
“I think when you see these new characters…they’re coming from an outsider perspective…and I think that the charm, the sweetness, the emotional longing…and this is not a movie, remember, that unfolds without consequences.”
Nonetheless, as the headline projects, The Force Awakens is going to catch it no matter what. And that, if you want to be fair about it, it probably shouldn’t catch it for what one could describe as “unfair” reasons. Will any kind of criticism be fair? Of course. All’s fair once it’s been seen. I just think everyone should take a breath before they see it and ask themselves what it could possibly be given all the factors, and what it would have to include no matter what.
(l. to r.) Daisy Ridley, J.J. Abrams, John Boyega.