J.J. Abrams Addresses Rip-Off Complaints About 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Look...when all is said and done Star Wars: The Force Awakens may be the highest-grossing movie of all-time. It already holds that title here in the U.S., so the fact is that a lot of people saw it, loved it, and are seeing it five or six times with their Rey-loving friends. That said, there are still a few complaints, which is to be expected. And one that is pretty tough to deny is that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan really....uhhh, let's just say they were big fans of the original trilogy. Ok, they practically took the plot of 'A New Hope' and retrofitted it into 'Episode VII'. That's fair. I mean, it had yet another giant Death Star thing ready to be blown up.

Some people are more vocal about this than others, and they're loud enough that Abrams is addressing their concerns in an interview with THR. Abrams begins by admitting that he knew there would be detractors given the approach he was committed to taking. He then rightfully says that George Lucas' films were the product of numerous influences...

 "I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people — and I was just hoping and praying that it would be smaller than not — that would take issue with any number of things. But I knew we weren't making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people's time...."It was obviously a wildly intentional thing that we go backwards, in some ways, to go forwards in the important ways, given that this is a genre — that Star Wars is a kind of specific gorgeous concoction of George [Lucas]'s — that combines all sorts of things. Ultimately the structure of Star Wars itself is as classic and tried and true as you can get. It was itself derivative of all of these things that George loved so much, from the most obvious, Flash Gordon and Joseph Campbell, to the [Akira] Kurosawa references, to Westerns — I mean, all of these elements were part of what made Star Wars."

Abrams goes on to talk about the reason he chose to go in the direction he did, and how it makes sense given Star Wars' history...

“I can understand that someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!’ We inherited Star Wars. The story of history repeating itself was, I believe, an obvious and intentional thing, and the structure of meeting a character who comes from a nowhere desert and discovers that she has a power within her, where the bad guys have a weapon that is destructive but that ends up being destroyed — those simple tenets are by far the least important aspects of this movie, and they provide bones that were well-proven long before they were used in Star Wars.”

Does Abrams see the film as a total rip-off, though? Not really, and cites the new characters and twists on familiar Star Wars ideas as examples...

“What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards. So I understand that this movie, I would argue much more than the ones that follow, needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain, and using a structure of nobodies becoming somebodies defeating the baddies — which is, again, I would argue, not a brand new concept, admittedly — but use that to do, I think, a far more important thing, which is introduce this young woman, who’s a character we’ve not seen before and who has a story we have not seen before, meeting the first Storm Trooper we’ve ever seen who we get to know as a human being; to see the two of them have an adventure in a way that no one has had yet, with Han Solo; to see those characters go to find someone who is a brand new character who, yes, may be diminutive, but is as far from Yoda as I think a description of a character can get, who gets to enlighten almost the way a wonderful older teacher or grandparent or great-aunt might, you know, something that is confirming a kind of belief system that is rejected by the main character; and to tell a story of being a parent and being a child and the struggles that that entails — clearly Star Wars has always been a familial story, but never in the way that we’ve told here.”

He makes a compelling argument, and while Disney ultimately chose to embrace the past with this first film rather than go in the direction favored by Michael Arndt, there's plenty of time to push Star Wars' boundaries further. The goals are long-term, for sure.