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Mary Poppins Returns Is The Force Awakens Again (But Better)

Mary Poppins Returns follows the same revival formula as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and while it doesn't quite nail it as Episode VII did, it actually ends up being a better movie as a result.

Coming 54-years after the original, Mary Poppins Returns is the latest in a long line of films that's seen Disney revisit a number of its classics. The major focus of this has been its live-action remakes, which have included The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. Next year is going to ramp this up further, with reimaginings of Dumbo, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Lady and the Tramp on the way.

Related: Mary Poppins Returns Review: Still Practically Perfect in Every Way

Outside of these remakes, Disney have also looked to breathe fresh life into older movies and franchises. That's what they'll be aiming for with Indiana Jones 5, and is what they achieved with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Mary Poppins Returns is the latest to go down this not-a-remake path. It follows the same template laid out by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but betters it in the process.

Mary Poppins Returns Follows Force Awakens' Formula

Ever since The Force Awakens was released, one of the most common criticisms has been how closely it sticks to the original Star Wars. J.J. Abrams decided to heavily invoke the original not just in tone, but also by taking its narrative structure. The story he wrote with Lawrence Kasdan hits many of the same beats George Lucas' did in 1977.

So it is we have another would-be hero on a desert planet dreaming of bigger things. A masked, lightsaber-wielding villain. A hive that plays home to all kinds of alien creatures. A conflict between an evil enterprise and a ragtag group who stand up to them. And, of course, another planet-destroying superweapon. In some ways, you can almost feel the boxes being ticked to make it resemble A New Hope. However, it also brings back the characters (and actors) from the original, pushing them in fascinating new directions. Even better, it introduces a bunch of great new characters too, ensuring the future is bright.

Mary Poppins Returns does much the same when it comes to narrative and tone. We once again have the titular nanny arriving to save the Banks children. The father figure is disaffected, the kids bright and optimistic. There's an oddly-accented adult friend of Mary's to help guide the way. Even in the songs you can see the similarities: 'A Spoonful of Sugar' becomes 'Can You Imagine That?', 'I Love To Laugh' is 'Turning Turtle', and the closing number 'Let's Go Fly A Kite' finds its equivalent in 'There's Nowhere To Go But Up'.

Related: Mary Poppins Returns Soundtrack: All The New Songs Ranked

Where Mary Poppins Returns deviates from Star Wars: The Force Awakens is with its cast. It cannot bring Julie Andrews et al back in the roles they played in the original, and so it had to recast. Emily Blunt takes on nanny duties, with Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer stepping into the shoes of Michael and Jane Banks (although there is a cameo for the original Jane Banks, Karen Dotrice). While it can't tap into the nostalgia of these characters in quite the same way - save for Dick Van Dyke's brief return, albeit as a different character - it does give the Banks children (old and young) even bigger roles.

Page 2 of 2: Why Mary Poppins Returns is a Better Movie

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Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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