STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS

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Theatrical poster for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Image from Wikipedia. Fair use.

Now that I’ve got your attention by name-dropping the biggest and most record-breaking film on the market right now, I’m going to be talking a bit about the film Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. There’s a lot I could say on the film, both good and bad, and since much of it has already been said throughout the many circles of the blogosphere, I’m certainly not going to try to give an exhaustive, in-depth analysis here.

Actually, I’m going to take it back a bit and try to get a broader look at some things, such as general storytelling principles and the concept of an ongoing franchise that has a lot of continuity to deal with. About a year ago, when advertising for the film first began in full force, I wrote a post about it on my personal blog. I was a tad skeptical, but cautiously optimistic, because I’ve been a fan of all things Star Wars for so long–not merely the movies, but also the numerous books, comics, and other media that had been created subsequently by various authors to flesh out the story more and further expand this universe. My post argued that, even though the new movies weren’t drawing from the existing source material and were straying from the wealth of books and other stories that I loved, I would still enjoy the films as long as they told good and creative stories of their own. (The original post I’m speaking of can be read at this link–and, since it was written a year before the movie came out, it is 100% spoiler free.)

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One fan’s collection of the very best Star Wars books (which are pretty much any written by Timothy Zahn). Image taken from user Sarah Thrawn on Flickr Creative Commons.

Well, like many fans, I saw the film on opening weekend (and again after that). And, true to what I said above, I did enjoy it. But that’s about all. I liked it well enough to see it a couple of times as a fun event with friends, but I didn’t really love it quite as much as I may have anticipated. And there may be a few reasons for that, including the fact that I had some pretty major parts spoiled for me (thanks, internet jerks). But now that the initial hype has begun to settle down and my opinion has solidified more, I think it’s because–as many people have claimed before me–The Force Awakens was not a very original film on the whole.

If you’re a fan of Star Wars and have talked to anyone about the new film, then you may have heard some people claim that it’s not a very original film, reusing many plot and character elements from the first Star Wars film back in 1977 (not to mention many concepts that appeared in the books but were somewhat changed or mixed around for the onscreen version). Some harsher critics have even used terms like “rehash” or “rip-off” to describe the film. And, while I did enjoy the film on the surface and for the few hours of exciting escapism it gave me, I find myself agreeing at least somewhat with those critics who say that the film was lacking in originality and thus somewhat lacking in depth. (For a fuller and mostly-accurate explanation of how The Force Awakens recycles things from A New Hope, click here–but this link DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS, so beware!)

This common complaint about the film’s lack of originality raises some interesting questions for us, both as audiences and as writers. Questions such as: does a work of fiction have to be completely original in order to be good? Wasn’t it good that J.J. Abrams tried to recreate the feel of the original trilogy, since that’s what a lot of fans wanted? Or would it have been better for him to take a new creative direction with the franchise? Is it even possible to be completely original anymore? Aren’t most stories just new combinations of old elements in different ways anyway? Where do you draw the line between appropriately borrowing from the ideas of previous works and completely ripping them off? How much true originality and creativity is it really possible for us to muster and channel into our writing?

These are questions that I hope to explore further in my upcoming posts for the rest of the week, as they relate to both Star Wars and other massively popular fictional franchises. I hope you’ll join me then. In the meantime, if you need some food for thought, chew on the questions above and feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.

 

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