It hasn’t been easy trying to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but the safest approach has been discussing themes and metaphors with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi”), the Yoda of the inner circle with J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy.
So what was the eureka moment when they finally cracked the story?
That required not simply restating the good vs. evil struggle, but making history repeat itself for the next generation’s hero and villain: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). “Whenever you see a historical film or read a book of history, you’re just shocked that everything’s being repeated,” Kasdan added. “And these horrifying news events [the Paris attacks and San Bernardino mass shooting] have such recent antecedents that are forgotten. And the things that threaten our peace of mind have not changed much over the years.”
It’s worth noting that when “Star Wars” first arrived in 1977, it literally provided a “new hope” for moviegoers mired in a decade of cinematic despair, which Robert Towne (“Chinatown”) thematically characterized as “the futility of good intentions.”
For Kasdan, storytelling’s about the most primal internal struggle, which “Star Wars” tapped into: “Everything I’ve ever done on my own is about the fact that we’re at war with ourselves and the constant battle between our sense of responsibility and our desires, which are not necessarily related to our responsibilities,” he explained.
This goes all the way back to the biblical “sins of the father,” which torments the new generation of “The Force Awakens.”
“That’s what ‘Star Wars’ is about,” Kasdan said. “It’s never an old story because everyone of us has to deal with that story. What are we carrying around from our parents that would be helpful to shed? Is it possible to shed it? What was the good thing that they gave us that we can sort out? It’s like panning for gold. You do the best that you can and you do that personally. You have a setback, you make a mistake and you say you’re never going to do that again.
“If you can put that in a vessel that has this much potential audience, that’s really fun.”
We’ll find out this weekend if they can capture lightning in a bottle again.