Okay, you'll be warned now. This will have a few spoilers. But really? It's been a month and a half, almost two months. If you're here you should have seen it, or you want to know a little a bout it before you take your family to see it. Well, this post isn't so much a review as a rebuttal to all the haters that think J.J. Abrams copied bits from A New Hope for The Force Awakens.
Why am I point out the hero's journey? Because every story has it. If you pick up a copy of Myth and Movies by Stuart Voytilla he takes a look at fifty classic films and points out the hero's journey in each. Every writer knows, whether they realize it or not, that the story must have this journey. So, here's a comparison of ANH and TFA featuring Luke Skywalker and Rey (Solo, I doubt she's a Skywalker but that's for another post).
To first disprove that the movie was "ripped off" from the original, it didn't start the same. One started in space with Leia trying to avoid capture with the stolen plans to the Death Star (which if you want to read the Empire's version of events, Tarkin by James Lucerno is a pretty good read). The other started with someone offering the Resistance the last piece to a map to find Luke that the New Order didn't have. And they were on a planet. (All though I'm thinking Max Von Sydow's character was really one of the Jedi historians that knew much more than he let on.)
We already know our reluctant heroes, Luke and Rey. How are they reluctant? Let's examine where we first meet them.
Luke we meet on Tatooine, a desert world in the Outer Rim. He's in the care of his aunt and uncle who are moisture farmers, left there by Obi-wan as an infant after the death of Padme. (Okay, if you didn't know that please review Episode III.) His uncle acquires two droids from the Jawas and it's Luke's responsibility to ensure they are ready to begin work the next day. (Got that? If you're here you should already know that!) R2-D2 runs away beginning the chain of events that takes Luke on his adventure.
Rey is a scavenger on Jakku, a desert world we can assume is in the Outer Rim. (I don't recall it being mentioned but I'll have to read the novelization to see!) She's on her own and has been since she was a child and dropped on the planet. She has little memory of her family but she firmly believes that they will come back for her. She rescues BB-8 from another scavenger and he follows her knowing that she is a good person and will be able to help him complete his mission. This doesn't start her journey but it's a good indicator that something is going to happen. She meets Finn and this begins her journey.
Some of the things happen out of order from the traditional hero's journey, so here's what's what. Usually during what's called "The Separation" there's the call, the refusal, and meeting the mentor. In the case of Star Wars, it doesn't work that way.
Luke meets Obi-wan/Ben first, then gets the call from Ben.
The refusal of the call...
Luke refuses, at first, to go with Ben on some damn fool adventure. Ben chides him saying that was his uncle talking and indeed Uncle Owen didn't want Luke to leave.
Rey, on the other hand, doesn't meet her mentor in the Force, unless you count General Leia and Han Solo, then you could say she meets her mentors after then call but as she's so strong in the Force... I have trouble seeing that. She gets the call to adventure from Finn, then Han and then Leia. (Wait, Leia? You've seen the movie? Yeah... think about it.)
Rey's refusal is repeated over and over as she says she has to get back to Jakku to wait for her family through most of the first third of the movie.
Crossing the threshold...
Luke crosses the threshold when they discover the Jawas that sold the droids to his uncle have been slaughtered and he returns home to find both his aunt and uncle had been murdered. Here, he now realizes that he has nothing left on Tatooine and leaving is now the only option. He accepts his call to adventure.
Rey's repetitive "I have to get back to Jakku" tells us that she doesn't fully accept her call. She runs from her future when it's laid out before her in the treasure room at Maz's and she's captured by Kylo Ren. This, I believe, is where she crosses her threshold since it's not as clearly defined as Luke's threshold.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies...
Luke's enemies are pretty clear cut as are Rey's. The Empire and the New Order, respectively, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. But, as Luke and Vader, there seems to be more of a connection to Rey and Kylo. (If Abrams is as much of a fanboy as he claims he is he will have undoubtedly read the EU that has been lovingly crafted over the years and Rey will be Kylo's twin sister, which makes sense right? She's a strong light side to his dark side Jania and Jacen Solo in the EU. But that's my opinion.)
The Inner Most Cave & The Ordeal
This is where I rely on Stuart Voytilla's book for ANH because at this point in viewing the film I become so engrossed I lose all track of what I'm supposed to be doing!
Voytilla says that this is where Obi-wan separates himself from the group. I don't necessarily agree but this is where the group moves into the Death Star to rescue Leia and escape to get her and R2 back to the Rebellion. They do get them back, Han leaves with his reward but not before Luke has his say. The Rebellion goes on to attack the Death Star.
For TFA this is also a bit ... different. There isn't a clearly defined moment. You could argue that it begins with the battle at Maz's and continues with the rescue of Rey (insert a sad moment that in Ep VIII may not be all that sad) and the destruction of the planet killer. The battle here between Finn and Kylo is so extraordinary. (When Kylo felt an awakening in the Force I don't think he necessarily meant Rey. I think he meant Finn. I think that's why Finn's "programming" didn't hold when he saw what was happening at the village in the beginning.) According to EU, not many can wield a lightsaber with such efficiency.
Kylo unknowingly taught Rey her own strength in the Force while holding her prisoner. She already knew of the Jedi lore and accepted it after Han told her that everything about the Jedi she'd heard was true.
For Luke it's an obvious moment, he and Han are awarded medals by Princess Leia.
For Rey, it's taking the Falcon out, which she and Chewie now pilot together, to find Luke. Here is where she finds her mentor.
After examining the journeys of our heroes... how can anyone say that TFA ripped off ANH? Some elements were mere homages to the original but nothing like it at all. I loved Episode VII and I can't wait for Episode VIII. I just hope we don't do away with the EU all together! I want to see Mara Jade Skywalker the former Emperor's Hand turned Jedi Master.
This post was also a product of my daughter studying the Hero's Journey in her Pre-AP English class in school. Thank you to her teacher for allowing her to use Star Wars: A New Hope.
College graduate, Army vet, single mom, Husky mom, Movie lover, writer