From a brand perspective, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just about perfect. It leverages its brand equity while connecting to a refreshed cast of characters to replace Han, Leia and Luke.
As for the quality of the movie, I’ll leave that up to others although I found it to be no The Empire Strikes Back. But it wasn’t The Phantom Menace either, thank God. Put its quality square in the middle of the series.
What fascinated me as a brand guy was how well The Force Awakens straddled the need to leverage the brand equity of the most cherished episodes of the series with the other need to open the series up to new characters and new audiences.
I’ll do my best to not spoil The Force Awakens here, but I can’t promise I won’t suggest a few things. I’ll need to point out a few examples to correlate how director JJ Abrams managed to bridge the two purposes.
The past and the future of The Force Awakens.
Yes, Han, Leia and Luke are in the movie, although Han Solo of the three dominates The Force Awakens. Luke and Leia were always the soul of the series, but Han was its true audience surrogate. (And, it must be said, Harrison Ford was its breakout star.)
Han plays a central role in The Force Awakens in what has been the main theme of the Star Wars series, which is about family connections and how the past plays out in the future. Leia and, possibly, Luke play a role in that as well. But by including Han in the mixture, Abrams found the leverage to vault the new series into one about Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren.
The new group isn’t completely a copy of the original centerpieces (which included Darth Vader) but the symmetry feels right. Rey, played by impressive newcomer Daisy Ridley, has taken the central role and her family lineage is still a mystery much like Luke’s was in the original movie.
In the world of brand, it’s not easy making the transition from one brand to another while maintaining the equity. Making it fresh and new for a new audience is tricky business.
The Force Awakens turns the trick nicely and the next chapter will should further evolve the themes and meanings for today’s audience.