Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Book of Henry (and Star Wars)
The Book of Henry director Colin Trevorrow has offered a more detailed explanation for a comment he made about the movie being a "carbon copy" of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope - and it actually kind of makes sense.
On the face of it, the two movies don't seem that similar. The Book of Henry was Trevorrow's follow-up to Jurassic World, and starred Naomi Watts as a single mother raising two boys, one of whom is a child prodigy called Henry (played by Jaeden Lieberher). When Henry discovers that the girl who lives next door is being abused by her stepfather he tries to help her - but to no avail. Then, rather abruptly, Henry dies of a brain tumor. He leaves behind a notebook with step-by-step instructions for his mother to murder the abusive stepfather and get away with it, and she decides to carry out the plan.
Back in April, Thor screenwriter Zack Stentz tweeted to Trevorrow that he was "ride or die" for Book of Henry, which was a box office flop and was torn apart by critics. Trevorrow responded, "Someday we’ll get drunk and I’ll lay out how that movie is a carbon copy of A New Hope. My favorite bar trick for fellow story nerds." In a recent interview, SlashFilm asked Trevorrow if he could explain the "carbon copy" comment for the story nerds of the internet, and Trevorrow obliged:
"[Star Wars] is a foundational myth. It’s a noble ghost story. Where a character lives on after death in order to guide a hero to find their strength and defeat ultimate evil. And structurally... The way that I look at movies, I do see Avatar and Titanic and Jurassic World [as] very similar movies. Henry was Obi-Wan Kenobi. And he died in the middle. And he left a set of instructions on how to take out the Death Star where Darth Vader was holding a Princess captive. And at the very end, when he had the target in his sights, he had to remember his training. Guided by this ghostly voice. And then Han Solo comes in with the Rube Goldberg machine and gives him the moment. And ultimately the Princess saves herself."
While it's easy to scoff at his claim of Book of Henry being a 'carbon copy' of A New Hope, it's not actually that far-fetched. Most Hollywood movies are structurally very similar - so much so that screenwriting books can tell you the exact point in the movie when the protagonist will be spurred into an adventure, and the point when they should experience a devastating defeat followed by a triumphant recovery, and so on. Perhaps the most famous breakdown of classic storytelling structure is Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, and Trevorrow argues that Star Wars (which itself is a classic example of the Hero's Journey) is a monomyth in its own right: "I think that in the same way that we use Joseph Campbell as a foundational myth for so long, we’re now gonna start using Star Wars as a foundational myth to tell other stories."
Trevorrow was at one point set to direct the closing chapter of the current Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars: Episode IX. However, in September 2017 Trevorrow was let go from the project, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams was brought in to replace him. Still, at least Trevorrow (sort of) got to make his very own version of Star Wars.
More: The Book of Henry Review
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019