JJ Abrams responds to THE FORCE AWAKENS "rip-off" criticisms

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As much as we love Star Wars: The Force Awakens around these parts, it’s hard to deny that there’s a huge familiarity to it all as several of it’s plot beat seem to copy those found in the Original Trilogy, particularly Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. For the most part, I felt that these homages worked well as they played with audience expectations about what’s going to happen next, but there is a point where it becomes a tad too much and a bit silly (yes, Starkiller Base, I’m looking straight at you and your stupid weakness!).

These criticisms of The Force Awakens being a “rip-off” of the previous movies have been floating around the net since the movie released, but according to director/c0-writer JJ Abrams looking back at the Original Trilogy was fully intentional. He explained to THR:

“I can understand that someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s a complete rip-off!’ What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards.”

To be fair to Abrams, the Original Trilogy – and the Prequel Trilogy to some extent – actually had a habit of ripping itself off. Like creator George Lucas explained on a behind-the-scenes featurette for the making of the Prequel Trilogy, ““You see the echo of where it all is gonna go. It’s like poetry, sort of. They rhyme.” If that is the case – and really, it is if you look at the big plot points of all the movies again – then technically what Abrams did here was completely in keeping with the tradition of the franchise.

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Personally, I would just have made one change – the aforementioned Starkiller Base – overall I clearly loved the film as much as most of the rest of the world. And that’s a big deal because rarely has a sequel been created under this much pressure. No matter what Abrams did, somebody in this ultra fanatical fanbase was going to find fault with it, and the director was fully aware of that.

“I knew that, whatever we did, there would be a group of people — and I was just hoping and praying that it would be smaller than not — that would take issue with any number of things. But I knew we weren’t making the movie for any other reason than we believed that it could be something meaningful and special and entertaining and worthy of people’s time.”

Meaningful, special, entertaining? I would say that’s “Mission accomplished”, Mr. Abrams. Oh and don’t forget profitable. So ridiculously profitable. Changing gears, Abrams also spoke during the TCA 2016 Winter Press Tour (via Collider) about whether or not The Force Awakens would get an extended director’s cut on home release. As has been mentioned in several publications, there were quite a number of scenes that were cut from the final theatrical release – most notably the scene in the trailer where Maz Kanata hands Luke’s lightsaber to Leia. Would those deleted scenes be incorporated back in for a Blu Ray release? Well, yes and no.

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Abrams revealed that while there’s no plan for an official Director’s Cut, plenty of those deleted scenes will be included as extras on the Blu Ray release. Abrams didn’t reveal exactly how many deleted scenes there would be, but did reveal what the running time of his original cut was:

“I don’t know what the longest cut was. Probably, if it were with credits, close to two hours and 50 minutes was the first cut.”

Doing the math using the theatrical cut’s 2 hours 16 minutes running time, that means that we could potentially expect 34 minutes of deleted scenes. That’s a whole lot!

Read  "Here... we... go!" First trailer for Star Wars Resistance flies in!

Changing tack again, Abrams also spoke about The Force Awakens’ awards potential (via /Film). If you may recall, Disney intentionally didn’t send screeners of the film to some of the earlier awards judging panels for fear of spoilers leaking out, putting it out of contention for many awards (like last night’s Golden Globes). It is potentially in the running for the big one though, the Oscars, and Abrams commented on his Oscar hopes for the movie.

“I’m only hoping that there are certain people I know that deserve it desperately, and it would be wonderful if they got it. I feel like I have the gift of working on that film is such that I don’t need any further validation other than the movie being out there and people liking the movie, but there are people that I will be disappointed if they don’t get nominated. If I mention 8 people, the 9th person will be like ‘thanks.’ But honestly, it feels obvious to me who deserves that kind of recognition. They might no even care. They may say ‘Oh please,’ but I saw how hard some of these artists work and they are very deserving.”

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When asked by a reporter in attendance if he feels that the breakout ball-droid should get any love, Abrams replied that “I’m hoping for a new category”. But even if The Force Awakens doesn’t bring home any gold statues, it’s already a gigantic success standing on approximately $1.6 billion at the global box office after just 4 weeks. It’s already dethroned Avatar as the biggest domestic box office ever (Avatar took 7 months and a rerelease to reach it’s record breaking total, whereas The Force Awakens eclipsed it in in just 20 days) and with it opening in the important China market this weekend past, there’s a chance that it might even take the all-time global box office crown from James Cameron’s movie as well.

And for all of that crazy commercial success, Abrams is extremely grateful. And apologetic.

“I’m grateful to anyone who’s gone to see the movie. When I hear anecdotally people have gone seven or eight times, I just want to apologize to I’m guessing their parents. Honestly, I’m just very grateful. I can’t believe that it’s done. It’s three years of very intense work by a lot of people, so I’m just so happy all the work that everyone did, even the people who you don’t even see in the movie, the puppeteers who were painted out. I watched them in 125 degree heat in Abu Dhabi bringing BB-8 to life. Then we painted them out of the movie. I’m just so glad people get to see all the work that this amazing crew and cast did, whatever the numbers are. Whatever the numbers are, I’m just so grateful that the movie’s out there and has been well received.”

I think “well received” may just be the understatement of the decade in this case.

Last Updated: January 11, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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