My wife and I went to see Star Wars VII again the other day. (It holds up just as well on the second viewing. In fact, it’s maybe even more enjoyable, because you start to pick up on things you missed on the first go-round; like the training droid Luke used in Episode IV that Finn tosses aside while hunting for parts in the Millenium Falcon.) We went specifically to give the film a close viewing to see if we could discern any more about what’s going on with Rey, what’s going on with Kylo Ren, and — well, honestly, it was just so good we both wanted to see it again.
We noticed on first viewing that the new film is very much an homage to the first film, sharing not just similar themes and plot arcs, but often very specific details in common. So we came home and watched episode IV again, just to contrast and compare. And because we’re both that guy when it comes to movies and stories and nerd stuff, we took notes.
Seriously, a lot of notes.
Here, then, are 71 ways that Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens are basically the same movie.
There are spoilers below. These things are not necessarily in order (but a surprising number of them are).
- Opening shot of a ridiculously big starship flying over an alien planet.
- A robot that talks only in bleeps is prominent, especially in the opening scenes.
- The robot is given a super-secret map by its owner.
- The bad guys invade. They wear masks and believe in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy.
- The bad guys pretty much rout the rebels they’re attacking.
- The Big Bad Guy (henceforth BBG) shows up, intimidates a ton of people, but doesn’t actually do any fighting himself.
- BBG straight-up murders a defenseless man because he doesn’t like what the guy has to say.
- The robot narrowly escapes capture by the faceless bad guys.
- The robot is separated from its owner.
- The robot becomes stranded alone on a desert planet
- This desert planet should, by all accounts, cripple the robot’s wheel-based propulsion, but doesn’t, because movies.
- The bad guys begin a hunt for the robot on the desert planet. You’d think they’d be able to use scanners or scopes to find it, but movies.
- The robot’s first encounter is with a scavenging alien critter who wants to sell the robot (maybe for parts).
- A young, somewhat dashing hero-type liberates the robot from its captors.
- This hero is exceptionally dusty, because he/she does dirty, manual labor to scrape out a meager existence.
- The robot follows the hero home like a little lost puppy.
- This hero’s parents are absent.
- The hero discovers that the robot is involved in the rebellion and gets hyped.
- The robot’s secret cargo points the hero toward an ancient, long-lost Jedi Master.
- C3PO slaps R2D2 around, perhaps a little more than is necessary.
- C3PO thanks the Maker, and it feels a little forced and weird.
- The hero drives a red, hovering vehicle.
- The hero gets attacked by local brutes.
- The hero is revealed to have a convenient set of piloting skills.
- The hero is presented with Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber by a mentor figure.
- The BBG is revealed to have once been a good man who was later seduced by evil.
- The BBG is a little more consumed than his cohorts with finding the robot.
- The BBG force-chokes a subordinate officer over losing the robot.
- Extreme and gratuitous violence by the bad guys drives the hero to leave the home planet.
- The BBG personally tortures a captive from the earlier raid for information.
- The hero escapes from danger by Jedi mind-tricking a hapless stormtrooper.
- There is a bar full of weird aliens of dubious persuasion.
- A hero seeks passage off the planet and away from the Empire with a pair of shady guys.
- Han Solo’s debts catch up with him.
- Han straight-up murders a dude to escape capture or death himself.
- The female lead finds herself in the hands of the enemy.
- The interrogated female has “considerable resistance” to the BBG’s mind probe.
- The bad guys reveal that their newest base of operation is also a weapon capable of blowing up entire planets.
- The bad guys blow up entire planets, partly out of revenge, partly as a show of force.
- Shady aliens in the bar rat the hero’s presence out to the bad guys.
- The Millenium Falcon is where the Band of Heroes comes together.
- The Millenium Falcon, on first sight, is described by the hero as, basically, garbage.
- Han Solo bristles at the heroes’ unrecognition of the Millenium Falcon’s awesomeness.
- The hero escapes the desert planet aboard the Millenium Falcon.
- The Millenium Falcon, soon after escaping the desert planet, is caught by hostiles in a tractor beam, and the heroes find themselves in an unfriendly situation.
- The captured prisoner sasses the BBG interrogating him/her, and pays a price for it.
- Chewbacca punches out a bad guy captain to gain access to a restricted area on the enemy base.
- The Band of Heroes goes looking for the captured female on the enemy base.
- The BBG “senses the presence” of the mentor/father figure in the Band of Heroes.
- The captured female turns out to be just as capable of kicking ass as her “rescuers”.
- Han Solo has a bad feeling about this.
- A Stormtrooper, probably named Wilhelm, dies to the sound of a well-known film scream.
- The mentor/father figure separates himself from the Band of Heroes to disable a critical part of the enemy base.
- Heroes shoot the controls to a mechanical door; this causes the door to operate in their favor.
- The mentor/father figure engages in dialog with the BBG about his wicked ways.
- The mentor/father figure deliberately lowers his guard to the BBG.
- The BBG then straight-up murders the mentor/father figure.
- The Millenium Falcon goes to pieces inside (circuitry bursting into flames etc) during an escape attempt.
- A high-ranking bad guy doesn’t entirely trust the BBG.
- The rebel base is disguised in a series of caves and ruins on a forest planet.
- The rebels hold a big-ass strategy meeting to figure out how to destroy the bad guys base/weapon.
- Han Solo offers the hero a job as an alternative to going on the quest.
- A member of the Band of Heroes bails out of the quest to save his own skin.
- The rebels attack the bad guys’ base/weapon in tiny fighter ships as opposed to bringing in heavy artillery.
- The attack is focused on a video game weak point in the base’s construction.
- There is a minute-to-minute countdown all through the final sequences as the big bad enemy weapon prepares to fire.
- The BBG points out to his cohorts (and himself) that the Force is strong with the hero.
- In the final skirmish, the villain is neutralized for this battle — but not killed.
- The ally who left for selfish reasons comes back to aid the hero at the enemy base.
- The enemy base/weapon is struck by a few strategically well-placed shots from an ace pilot.
- The enemy base/weapon explodes in dramatic fashion.
So, this is all good fun. Of course, the films are also very different. The hero is not a whiny teenager but rather an ass-kicking desert girl. The villain is dark and terrifying, but is also incredibly vulnerable. The plot lines are more layered, more intertwined. And, my god, the film and its special effects are absolutely gorgeous.
It’s clear to me that this film is a sort of love letter to fans of the original series who were disillusioned with the prequels. “Look,” Episode VII says, “We see and respect the source material that you love so much, and we’re going to treat it lovingly and with respect.”
Only a year and a half until the next one.
See something we missed? Something we got wrong? Let me know below.
*Runs away making lightsaber noises*