Monday, December 21, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

As much as I loved The Force Awakens for all the action, emotion, laughs and nerdy stuff, what really fascinated me as I was watching it, was how strikingly similar it was to JJ’s previous directorial effort – Star Trek Into Darkness. At their respective cores, both films are new installments in beloved sci-fi franchises that rely heavily on knowledge of/nostalgia for earlier films in the series. Yet, while the Star Wars film is receiving nearly universal praise, Into Darkness was met with nearly universal derision. Why have these two films been so differently received?

With its basis in Joseph Campbell’s concept of “The Hero's Journey”, the Star Wars universe is predicated on the idea that the same stories happen over and over again throughout history and across civilizations. There's a sense of inevitability there. In this way, each new iteration becomes more fascinating than the last because of the various ways the new incarnation remixes the past ones. It’s like walking down a hall of mirrors or shouting into a cavern. You’ve seen or heard this before, but not necessarily in this order or from this angle. It is familiar, yet different. Star Trek, on the other hand, is a universe predicated on the idea of boldly going, ‘where no man has gone before.”

As everyone accurately pointed out back in 2009, Abrams is genetically more of a Wars guy than a Trek guy. Perhaps he even took this job as an opportunity to show everyone that, in the right universe, the rhyming formula could work successfully. I’ll be interested to see how his next film somehow reflects and echoes this one, and the one before it, and the one before that, and…

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