I have an embarrassing confession to make: this article was inspired by a “Hitler Reacts To…” meme currently doing the rounds on YouTube. In the meme, Bruno Ganz’s infamously aggravated Hitler shares his less than enthusiastic reaction to the new trailer for Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens – and for the first time in my life, I found myself in the awkward position of agreeing with the most reviled man in history (or a very convincing impersonator, at least).
Why? Because buried among the faux-Fuhrer’s absurd ravings is one very strong argument that I couldn’t ignore: everything great about the trailer has been copied almost verbatim from the original Star Wars movies. And that’s left me thinking: will The Force Awakens be more than Star Wars greatest hits?
Star Wars should be about exploring new worlds, not familiar ones
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m incredibly excited to see The Force Awakens. How could I not be? The trailers are promising us everything every long-term fan has ever wanted to see on the big screen again: lightsabers, stormtroopers, Han and Chewie, the Millennium freaking Falcon, and all set to a John Williams score.
But that’s the point: we’ve seen all this stuff before – a new Star Wars movie should deliver something new. Heck, for all their faults, this is something even the much-maligned prequel trilogy got right, with the films (and their respective trailers) bursting at the seams with never before seen characters, worlds and weapons that sparked our imaginations.
So, ironically, what I’m worried about now isn’t that The Force Awakens (and the wider sequel trilogy) will be a let down because it deviates too much from the established Star Wars formula, but rather because it doesn’t deviate enough from it.
New trilogy, exact same story?
And it really does all look a bit too familiar. There’s a striking desert landscape that’s supposedly not Tatooine (but looks virtually identical to Luke Skywalker’s home world), there’re Tie-Fighters and X-Wings zipping around, and even Darth Vader’s burnt out helmet makes an appearance!
All of which might mean nothing… except J.J. Abrams is in the director’s chair.
I’ll be the first to admit that Abrams is a talented storyteller with a gift for giving flagging franchises a shot in the arm. However, he also tends to recreate in his own films what he loves about the films of others, rather than using that inspiration as a jumping off point.
Take a look across his films, and whether it’s his recent Star Trek reboot and its sequel or original features like Super 8, you’ll notice that Abrams prefers to update and rework existing concepts, rather than dreaming up new ideas of his own. And honestly? That’s a big problem.
The Force Awakens needs to fill fans with wonder
See, for the new Star Wars trilogy to truly soar, it’ll need more than just upgraded versions of things we’ve already seen.
From the first frame of Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope, series creator George Lucas astounded viewers with sights they’d never seen before. Each sequel and later prequel outing kept this up, constantly cranking out new spaceships, creatures and worlds, and it’s this feeling – this sense of wonder – that Abrams will have to recapture if he’s truly going to succeed.
So, what I’m really hoping for come opening day of The Force Awakens in December is that we get more than just a slight update of what we liked about the original trilogy. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Abrams will use familiar characters, settings and other iconic elements to reacquaint us all with this world we love so much, before launching off in a new direction filled with inventive new species, planets and set pieces.
Funnily enough, for The Force Awakens to be the gamechanger the franchise and fans desperately need it to be , it has take a leaf out of the book of that other space franchise revived by Abrams, and go boldly where no Star Wars film has gone before!