One thing that keeps getting brought up in a lot of reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that the plot is basically the same as A New Hope, but with characters we don’t really know and aren’t as invested in as the older characters. We’re at this point in media where we understand that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to ideas for movies and TV shows. The stories that drive the Star Wars films are centered around Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces and “The Hero’s Journey.” So I understand what people mean when they point out how this film feels like a retread of A New Hope. However, there are new elements to The Force Awakens that take the familiar “Hero’s Journey” plot and give the movie a fresher feel.
For one thing, I like that there’s the initial misdirect of Poe being the protagonist. If you take away all the marketing and hype, someone who has never seen anything related to Star Wars might see Poe as the main character. Instead, he acts more like Leia, who stays on the outskirts of the story.
The real heroes of the story are Finn and Rey, with the adorable BB-8 rolling along as their companion. What makes Finn and Rey different from, say, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are this: Finn is someone who is defecting from the First Order. We never saw anyone in Star Wars from the Empire decide on joining the rebels. There are also implications that Finn may be suffering from PTSD but it’s never fully explored in the film. Rey, on the other hand, isn’t an ordinary farmboy like Luke was. Instead, she’s a scavenger, a survivor on the desert planet with major abandonment issues. She’s waiting for her family to come back for her, but it’s shown that she’s been waiting for a very long time.
There’s an issue of Rey coming off as too powerful too soon given how she got out of being captured and how she’s “powerful with the Force.” However, I don’t think she’s a Mary Sue because she has flaws that are an actual detriment on her character.
Kylo Ren is set up to be a Darth Vader Clone. He’s intimidating and a powerful leader, but if any of you have been seeing the memes where Kylo Ren is really an emo Disney Princess, you can see where things start deviating from the formula. I like that Kylo Ren is actually a teenager with major issues. He’s seen lashing out like a whiny brat when things don’t go as planned.
I also wonder why he chooses to try and stay in the dark side even when he feels that pull to be good. There are a lot of theories going around about it, but I personally think that Snoke influence Ren into believing that whatever his parents taught him about the war against the empire wasn’t true and that Luke killed his own father. This personal belief is what leads him to killing his own father later on.
One other thing I liked about the film is how Leia and Han act as the mentors in this story. In a lot of ways, this whole film feels like the first “generation” of characters from the Star Wars films are passing the baton (or the lightsaber) on to the next generation, to Finn, to Rey, and to Poe. I care enough about the new characters to hope for the best for them.
So yeah, I think that Star Wars: The Force Awakens deserves all the money it’s been getting. It deserves all the hype because it reintroduces Star Wars to a new audience while at the same time gives new material for the fans who’ve been following the films since the beginning. I hope that it tops Avatar as the highest grossing movie of recent years because unlike Avatar, there’s more to the movie than just the space setting and the cool CGI. The characters are ones that feel new and the plot feels fresh.
If you haven’t seen it yet, go do so! Take the kids! It’s worth the price of admission and more so.