It’s no secret that Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars share quite a few similarities. But just how many parallels exist between Episode VII and Episode IV?
Quite a few, actually. (And they’re spoilery, so, if you haven’t yet seen the movie, stop right here.)
Now we’re not here to pass judgement on whether or not that’s a good or bad thing (although we can discuss it with you in the comments below, if you’d like). For better or for worse, the parallels that exist between the two films are really interesting. They tie the old trilogy and the new trilogy together nicely.
Not only that, but, as our friend Andre of Black Nerd Comedy fame brings up in his spoiler-free review, the parallels and similarities act as a sort of reassurance from the Force Awakens filmmakers that they know what we, the fans, love and want in a Star Wars movie and that they want the same things. The fact that The Force Awakens borrows so heavily from A New Hope makes us think that the filmmakers really just wanted to give back to the fans and get the property back into its beloved groove.
You can also look at the parallels as a way to set up the new world in that they serve to enforce the idea that if we don’t learn from the past, we’re bound to repeat it. So, because the Imperial forces weren’t completely squashed by the end of Return of the Jedi and because other things happened in the galaxy that we’re not privy to (yet), the same sorts of events are happening again (which means that our beloved characters have to get it right this time).
Alright, that’s enough of the theorizing and defending of the parallels. Here are some of the most prominent ones that we noticed!
The main ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Force Awakens’ parallels
The movies’ secondary titles insinuate new promise
Though the secondary title A New Hope wasn’t added on to Episode IV‘s title until later, there are still parallels to be drawn between the two films’ names. As titles, both A New Hope and The Force Awakens signals the start of something new. A new adventure. The beginning of a surge of positive momentum. In terms of the movies themselves, A New Hope marks a positive turn of events and so does The Force Awakens, in one sense or another. Since we’ve always sympathized with the Rebel Alliance/Resistance, we have a more positive view of the Force, and so its awakening instills a sense of excitement rather than dread.
Luke and Rey: The same person?
Rey shares a lot of traits and characteristics with the hero of the original series (and her potential father), Luke Skywalker. Both are desert planet dwellers who are talented tinkerers and slight loners. They also dream of a better life. For Luke, it’s a life of adventure that takes him away from his boring home planet. For Rey, it’s the return of her family and the end of her living payment to payment, or so to speak.
Oh, and did we mention that they’re both Force sensitive? After seeing a few demonstrations of others using the Force, they’re able to do a few Jedi mind tricks of their own (Luke’s hitting the target on the Death Star and Rey’s convincing of Daniel Craig’s stormtrooper to let her escape). Though both have a lot of training to do at the end of their respective first films, they’re set up to be the slightly conflicted yet confident heroes in their stories.
There’s a VID (Very Important Droid) carrying vital information for the good guys
Both A New Hope and The Force Awakens essentially begin with a main trio character entrusting a droid with very important/top secret information. Then, the droid gets (sadly) separated from its master and ends up befriending the main Force-sensitive character, bringing them into the fold of the conflict. It’s also interesting to note that the new masters (Luke and Rey) both see the top secret files that their droid friends carry before the intended recipients do. Oh, and then there’s the fact that, in both movies after the information has been entrusted to the droids, the droids narrowly escape capture by the murderous, Force-sensitive Dark Side villain.
Did we also mention that the droids are both adorable and total scene-stealers? Because they are. The both of them. And we love them so much.
The unpredictable villain
Both films feature a menacing villain who is not only intimidating and ruthless, but also unpredictable. In A New Hope, Darth Vader frequently chokes people using the force when he doesn’t get his way or when things go awry, making everyone around him scared of him.
Kylo Ren has a similar reputation (albeit a bit less menacing than his grandfather’s); whenever Kylo Ren is displeased or disappointed, he throws a violent tantrum and destroys as much as he possibly can with his tricked-out lightsaber. The very first time we see him lash out, the bearer of bad news stands incredibly still, hoping to just survive the ordeal. Later, Kylo Ren’s outburst in Rey’s open cell is so bad that stormtroopers in the nearby corridor flee from the area. Both Darth Vader and Kylo Ren have clear goals in mind but can be wildly unpredictable.
An important scene in a hoppin’ cantina
Complete with fun characters, funky bands, and catchy tunes, both Episode IV and Episode VII have important sequences in cantina-like settings. It’s no secret that the cantina sequence in the 1977 film is one of the series’ most popular and well-known scenes (not to mention that it introduced the world to one of the catchiest tunes known to mankind). In the original sequence, our heroes visit the tavern in search of a pilot who can transport them to the location of the Rebel Alliance. Hijinks ensue, obviously.
The same sort of situation happens in The Force Awakens. Our heroes enter Maz Kanata’s cantina in search of a way to deliver BB-8 to General Organa. Like the original, things don’t quite go as planned as a fight breaks out before they’re set to leave. Unlike the original film, however, the Resistance ends up coming to find the droid it needs. Nevertheless, the scene in Episode VII is a direct homage to that in the original film (and we love it).
The wildcard character tries to flee but ends up being a crucial player in the final battle
If you think about it, each member of the new main trio shares a lot of similarities to a member of the original trilogy: Rey as Luke, Poe as Leia (in that he’s already a resistance fighter when the movie starts and sends a message in a droid only to get tortured for it later), and Finn as Han Solo.
Finn’s connection to Han Solo’s character is most evident when he too tries to run away and desert the Resistance’s cause but ends up returning. Not only that, but he ends up being an important player in the final battle, just like Han. In the original film, Han and Chewie help Luke destroy the Death Star. In Episode VII, Finn shares crucial information about the structure of the Starkiller Base as well as their operations. Neither Star Wars film ending would be possible without the wildcard character. Which leads us to our next Star Wars parallel…
The good guys have to blow up the bad guys’ main base of operation
Star Wars bad guys really know how to build menacing, spherical bases. They may not be durable, but, in both A New Hope and The Force Awakens, they’re proven to have the ability to destroy whole planets in one fell swoop. In fact, both movies even have scenes early on where the bases destroy at least one planet so the Rebel Alliance/Resistance can witness their destructive ability and fear them.
In addition to demonstrating their power, the Dark Side also aims their deadly weapons to destroy the good guys’ base planets in both movies. This is definitely the reason why both Episode IV and Episode VII‘s climaxes involve an intense mission to blow up the bad guys’ base, complete with and x-wing fighter squad targeting a single location on the base.
The death of the wise mentor figure
The death of the mentor storyline isn’t just a Star Wars thing. If you’re a fan of pretty much any other series or property, you’ve probably seen it three times over. Whenever a character is put into the mentor position for an up-and-coming character, they usually die in order to make room for the mentee character to rise to their potential.
That being said, while it is a common trope, the way in which the mentor dies and the circumstances around the death are very similar in both of these Star Wars films. For one, the mentors in both films are murdered by characters who previously saw them as father figures before turning to the dark side. Not only that, but the mentors go into their final face off with their old mentees (seemingly) knowing full well that they may not survive it, which is heart-breaking to watch.
Another notable parallel between these two death scenes is that the hero character in both films (Luke and Rey) is there to witness the horrible death of their mentor. We can see why The Force Awakens lifted these details from A New Hope. We couldn’t imagine a more emotional death scene for Han Solo, especially given the relationship he was building with Rey. This traumatic event definitely sparks something in her as Ben Kenobi’s death does for Luke.
The bad guys themselves aren’t fully in command and report to a higher (and bluer) power
It’s interesting that, in both of these films, the bad guys that we see on screen that we think are calling the shots (and that we have all over the marketing and merchandising materials) aren’t really in charge. Both Darth Vader and Kylo Ren (and their respective evil organizations) report to an almost ethereal yet totally evil power.
While they may be intimidating and dangerous, the villains that we see as the face of the evil empire are really just apprentices (with Darth Vader being the more experienced and having fewer training wheels, obviously). They’ve both been sucked in by a more powerful (and much, much older) being that just happens to be bathed in blue light a lot of the time. And we use the word “being” because we have no idea what (or exactly how big) Emperor Snoke is (and why he’s decaying so much). That, and Emperor Palpatine seemed, at times, to have become something a little less than human. Because, you know, he’s just so creepy.
The capture of the main female character and the ensuing rescue operation
In A New Hope, it was Leia. In The Force Awakens, it was Rey. In both of these captive situations, the female character is anything but helpless. Leia had come to terms with her dying in order to keep the Rebel Alliance safe and so she wasn’t just waiting around to be rescued. That being said, when Luke and Han do break her out of her cell (which, fun fact, is #2187, the same as Finn’s real name, FN-2187), Leia really holds her own. She demonstrates that she’s more than capable of wielding a blaster and takes an active role in their escape.
Rey’s captivity deviates a little bit from Leia’s in that she saves herself before her rescuers (Finn, Han, and Chewie) come to her aid. But, like Leia, she also becomes an invaluable asset in helping her friends escape the clutches of evil. We have zero qualms about this parallel plot line because we could watch kickass women kick ass all day long.
Other minor/more detail-oriented parallels
- An important escape happens thanks to an ally in a stormtrooper uniform.
- Han Solo is in someone’s debt. Again. (More space mobsters, see?)
- A failed Jedi master becomes a recluse but people set out to find him to help the Rebel/Resistance cause.
- The main force-sensitive character sets out on a mission to find a powerful Jedi master. (Okay, so maybe this happened early on in Empire Strikes Back, butttttttttttt it’s still a pretty valid comparison.)
So what parallels could exist between the rest of the original trilogy and the rest of this new trilogy?
So where do we go from here? Is Episode VIII going to borrow heavily from The Empire Strikes Back? We don’t think so. As we touched on above, we think the parallels served to reacclimate people to the Star Wars universe. Now that we’re moving on from The Force Awakens and have a good sense of what this new trilogy is going to feel like, a ton of plot and scene parallels aren’t all that necessary.
That being said, we do think that a few of these parallels could pop up in Episode VIII.
- Scenes of Rey training with Luke, potentially with Luke riding Yoda-style on Rey’s back (although we’d prefer most of Rey’s training to happen in the gap between the episodes)
- The reveal of Rey’s parentage/family history during a pivotal fight or battle
- A title with a similar feel or meaning as The Empire Strikes Back
- One of the main trio characters being in mortal danger at the end of Episode VIII and in need of rescue right at the beginning of Episode IX.
- While in mortal danger, Rey sends out a plea for help that is heard by another Force-sensitive person, hinting at potential familial ties.