[Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead]
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a lot of things to a lot of people. Over nearly 40 years, the franchise has affected several different generations, who have all experienced the series in their own way. That puts a spin on how the new film’s jump into the future feels. People who grew up in the late '90s and early '00s might have more of a connections to the prequels, but The Force Awakens was definitely more influenced by the original trilogy.
But to those who grew up watching and re-watching the original trilogy, The Force Awakens joyously jumped into the future by celebrating the past with both familiar touchstones and characters that echo older ones.
So here they are, 11 Ways Everything Old Is New Again in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Remember when we first saw Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back (or for some of us, the 1978 holiday special)? How cool was he? He had that slick green armor, that angular, fox-like helmet with the antenna. Oh, and did we forget the jetpack? He had a jetpack! Only the coolest of the cool have jetpacks. And not just a jetpack, but a jetpack with a missile on it! Then there’s Captain Phasma, with her sweet chrome trooper armor. That would be cool enough for most characters, but she added a spiffy black cape to the ensemble.
And then both of them hardly did anything. The films built up these amazingly cool looking characters and then did the bare minimum with them. Where was the scene in Empire where Boba Fett soared through the air and shot that missile at someone? Nowhere. We got a bit of it in Return of the Jedi, but Han accidentally knocked him into the Sarlacc Pit before he could do much. And Phasma? She did little more than yell at Finn and get captured by the good guys, sealing Starkiller Base’s doom. Maybe she’ll get her two minutes of battle time in Episode VIII… before possibly getting eaten by a giant monster in Episode IX.
Upon viewing the first trailers, many, if not most, fans assumed that the desert planet depicted filled with the wrecked ghost ships of a long-ago war was Tatooine. And why wouldn’t they? It was the only desert planet we’d known in the films. It looked exactly the same, with its flowing sand dunes littered with the occasional outpost or tower. It also featured similar architectural features to those found on Tatooine.
A character in the recent novel Aftermath said of Jakku, “You don’t get more nowhere than here.” Similarly, in A New Hope, Luke said of Tatooine, “Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” Both are considered last resorts, places you don’t want to be unless you don’t have a choice, or are trying to get away from something.
BB-8 and R2-D2 are practically the same droid. Sure, BB-8 has the updated style, just a spinning ball below a stationary dome instead of legs. But they’re both astromech droids. They both have a big, round “eye” that helps hit that cute factor and sell toys – after all, kids went crazy for BB-8 toys months before the movie was released, and before anyone knew anything about his personality. Both fit snugly in an X-Wing as a navigator. And they both speak in similar beeps and chirps.
Most significantly, though, they also seem to have similar personalities. R2 always had some kind of smart-alecky remark at the ready and was always prepared to get in on the action. BB-8 is no different, with characters reacting to his funny remarks (he even had comic actors Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz as “vocal consultants”), and he’s dedicated to getting the map to the Resistance at all costs. All this said, it was great to see there was no rivalry between the two cutest droids in the galaxy, when they worked together to reveal the map to Luke Skywalker’s location.
When Rey and Finn find the Millennium Falcon and Rey tries to start her up, she’s in the cockpit repeating to herself, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.” Meanwhile, Finn is down in the gun turret trying to figure out how to keep the seat from swinging back and forth and saying the exact same thing to himself. It felt like a callback to that pessimistic phrase that’s said throughout the first six Star Wars films, “I have a bad feeling about this.” It was like a more optimistic version for a new generation.
Not long after this scene, Han Solo comes along and groans the old, familiar line, which only underscores this theory. It will be interesting to see if the younger generation repeats this phrase in Episodes VIII and IX. For example, imagine Rey training with Luke. Where Luke was filled with pessimism during his training with Yoda, saying things like, “I don’t believe it,” and “I can’t,” it’s not difficult to imagine Rey telling Luke, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.”
There once was a boy, around 19, stuck on a barren, desert planet, forced to live without his parents while doing manual labor. His name, of course, was Luke Skywalker. There also once was a girl, around 19, stuck on a barren, desert planet, forced to live without her parents while doing manual labor. Her name is Rey. And that’s just their backstory. Luke met up with droids, who led him to a mysterious man, who ultimately got him off the desert planet on the Millennium Falcon. Rey also meets a droid, who leads her to a mysterious man, and they leave the desert planet on the same beloved bucket of bolts.
From there, Rey also learns that she is strong with the Force – a fact she’d previously never been aware of – in very much the same way Luke did. She even has a scary vision of a dark-clad figure wielding a red lightsaber, just like Luke did on Dagobah. And the way The Force Awakens ends, with Rey in need of training to harness her skills, and meeting Luke, it could be that Episode VIII will follow Rey’s training, just as the middle film of the original trilogy followed Luke’s training.
Both the original trilogy and The Force Awakens have a fascinating, conflicted father/son relationship. In the original trilogy, of course, it was Luke’s good overcoming Vader’s evil, ultimately bringing the father back to the good side. Things played out much more quickly, though, for Kylo Ren and his father, Han Solo. The Force Awakens doesn’t waste too much time before revealing Ren is the son of Han and Leia, and that he was unsuccessfully trained by his Uncle Luke.
Here, the good/evil dynamic is reversed, with the son taking the bad-guy role. But the son doesn’t have the years of wisdom and regret built up inside, the way Anakin had inside that Darth Vader suit. Sure, Ren is conflicted, he still has ties to the light that pull him, but he’s still young and brash, so he makes a much different decision when faced with the chance to destroy his father. Neither Vader nor Luke could ultimately stomach destroying the other. The same could not be said for Kylo Ren.
When we saw the giant planet with the big red eye on the movie poster, you could hear millions of Star Wars fans asking as one, “Another Death Star?” It’s true, those bad guys in a galaxy far, far away have a bit of a one-track mind when it comes to their ultimate weapons of evil. It’s always a giant planet-like ball with a gigantic sort of weaponized eye that can inflict destruction on a massive scale. Starkiller Base makes three of those now. Even the rescue mission inside the base was similar to the original rescue mission in A New Hope: both feature Han, Chewie and their new friend searching for a woman through its massive precipices and rail-less bridges. Not to mention, the new base even has a trash compactor!
There are a few key differences, though, between the two Death Stars of the original trilogy and this new planet/weapon. First, Starkiller Base is much, much bigger than the already ridiculously huge Death Stars. Second, Starkiller Base is not entirely man-made – it was built into an existing planet. And third, where the Death Star could destroy a planet, Starkiller Base is much more sinister, with the ability to obliterate entire star systems.
The new cantina scene was so clearly an homage to the original Mos Eisley cantina scene in A New Hope. Both featured a fun montage of weird alien creatures partaking in odd beverages, while a quirky alien band plays quirky alien dance music. In both cantina scenes, our heroes go there not to enjoy a lovely beverage, but to find someone who can help them.
The major difference in the two cantinas, though, is that Takodana is maybe a little friendlier – in particular, the owner, Maz Canata, was much nicer than the cranky bartender of the original one, Wuher. At least Maz allows droids in her bar. And there will be no talk of who shot first at Takodana. That was most definitely the First Order.
In A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin, was the ruthless commander of the Death Star, terrifying with his corpse-like, withdrawn, pale face and heartless gaze, as played by a 64-year-old Peter Cushing. In The Force Awakens, General Hux similarly leads Starkiller Base, but is much fresher-faced, as played by Domhnall Gleeson, who is half Cushing’s age at the time of A New Hope’s release. But age is really where the differences end.
Both lead First Reich style armies and are bent on galactic rule with an unapologetic iron fist. Both are thrilled to show off the horrifying power of their weapons of unspeakable destruction. And both have a powerful cohort by their side that they’d apparently rather not have by their side: Tarkin had Darth Vader, Hux has Kylo Ren. They have a quiet, seething antagonism between them – both crave power, but Tarkin and Hux seem to be quietly fearful of their partner’s ruthless Force power.
In both the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, there’s the revelation that the “big bads” we see in the trenches, barking orders, fighting battles and torturing good guys for information, are not the top of the food chain. In the original trilogy, at first it seems as though Darth Vader is the ultimate in evil, but then we’re introduced to his boss, Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, in The Empire Strikes Back. The Force Awakens speeds up that revelation a bit. Kylo Ren seems the embodiment of horrifying evil, but then we’re introduced to Supreme Leader Snoke.
In both cases, we’re first introduced to the leader as a hologram. We have no idea of Palpatine’s actual size and presence until Return of the Jedi. In The Force Awakens, we only see Snoke as a massive hologram. Is that his actual size? Hopefully we’ll find out in the next films in the series, though Snoke actor Andy Serkis has told People Magazine that Snoke is over seven feet tall. Both Snoke and Palpatine are powerful dark side Force users who trained former Jedi students gone bad. But is there more to him and his connection with Palpatine? There are fan rumblings that theorize he’s Palpatine’s late master, Darth Plagueis, who Palpatine is believed to have killed (and actually did in the old, non-canon "Legends" universe), but who had been searching for ways to cheat death.
There are certainly signs that Luke will be the new Yoda as the series progresses. Like Yoda, he’s an aging Jedi Master, thought to be the last of his kind, who lives in self-imposed exile on a remote, largely uninhabitable planet. And his exile, like Yoda’s, comes in part because of his failure to keep a young Jedi from embracing the dark side.
Those are the similarities that we know of after The Force Awakens. But will there be more to come? Will he become Yoda to Rey’s Luke, reluctantly training her in the ways of the Jedi? Will a force ghost – Anakin, perhaps – come to Luke and convince him to train her, just as Obi-Wan had done with Yoda? And could the series end with him having successfully trained her (and maybe others) and restoring balance to the force, just as the original trilogy ended for Yoda?
Can you think of any other ways The Force Awakens harkens back to the original trilogy? Let us know in the comments!