Now that J.J. Abrams is all but guaranteed to be directing Star Wars: Episode VII — Attack of the Phantom Clones it’s time to take stock of what an influence George Lucas‘ franchise has already had on him throughout his career. I’ve already argued that his Star Trek owes a lot more to Star Wars than it does to classic Trek.
Throughout his best-known contribution to television, Lost, however, there are dozens of outright shout-outs and homages to Star Wars. Most of those are pretty obvious, like when Hurley, who’s been transported back to 1978 decides to rewrite The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. What’s more interesting to uncover are points of comparison between Lost and Star Wars that go deeper, down into the storytelling DNA, and aren’t just easily dismissed as “pop culture references.”
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up nine points of comparison between Lost and that Galaxy Far, Far Away, with videos to back up our claims. Oh, and we’ve got one bonus comparison of Star Wars to Alias as well. It may surprise you, which of the Star Wars movies seems to have had the greatest impact on the storytelling sensibility of Abrams and the people in his storytelling orbit, like Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who obviously deserve a large part of the credit for the direction that Lost eventually took. No, the Star Wars movie that seems to have proven most influential to Abrams and his colleagues is not The Empire Strikes Back.
Delusions of Grandeur
There’s more than a little bit of Sith Lord in Ben Linus, so no wonder he tells Juliet “You’re mine!” just the way The Emperor Formerly Known as Darth Sidious does to Luke in Return of the Jedi.
Good Guys Going Dark and Bad Guys Taking a Beating
You know, if you’re styling yourself as a supervillain you have to remember there’s likely to be some blowback. In fact, it’s hard to think of any TV character before or since who was beaten up more frequently than Ben Linus, and often by the good guys. Funny thing about that, though. When Jack Shepherd bloodied Ben’s face to a pulp, it also exposed the violence Jack himself was capable of, the darkness lurking in his own soul. Much like when Luke Skywalker finally owns Darth Vader in their lightsaber duel aboard the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi — even cutting off Daddy’s hand like was done to him — he pauses to realize that in using his enemy’s tactics against him he’s become his enemy. Consider the villains in both Lost and Star Wars as a kind of walking litmus test for our heroes.
Garroting Deaths of Bloated Criminals
The staging and lighting when Sawyer kills Locke’s father, Anthony Cooper, is eerily similar to when Princess Leia strangles Jabba the Hutt. Though playing the Leia role, Sawyer is not nearly in as much a state of undress. (Sadly, YouTube is lame. This classic moment from Lost is not available in embeddable form. Enjoy this photo of Cooper’s bulging eyes instead!
The Trouble With Nets
At least Sawyer’s sense of smell wasn’t responsible for getting him and Kate trapped in a makeshift net set by Rousseau, the way Chewbacca’s was when he got half the Rebel force on Endor ensnared. Outsmarted by Ewoks! Oh, the indignity.
Wait, We’re Related?
Like Luke and Leia before them, Jack and Claire never realized they were brother and sister. Thankfully, though, Claire never unwittingly planted a big wet kiss on her sibling , the way Leia did to Luke on Hoth.
Darkness and Light
Star Wars takes place in a particularly Manichaean universe. There are good choices and bad choices, a Dark Side of the Force and a Light Side. Lost replicated that light-dark bipolarity all through its run, from the white and black pebbles Jack and Kate discover on corpses in a cave, to the white and black logo of the Dharma Initiative, to this classic moment from the pilot, when Locke teaches Walt backgammon. Also, Yoda’s description of the Dark Side as “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering,” pretty much sums up the life story of Smokey the Monster, doesn’t it?
Bold, Beseeching Declarations
Because in any great mythology you can’t have your heroes go it alone both Lost and Star Wars have characters crying out to the women in their lives for help. Jack didn’t have the Force to help him, but he did have a tangled mass of facial hair, when he shouted at Kate, “We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!” Somehow even Luke seemed more emotionally stable hanging from an antenna high above the planet Bespin when he reached out to Leia through the Force with “Leia! Hear me! Leia!”
Monosyllabic Cries of Pain
May 2005 was a dark, presumably hoarse, time for pop culture characters. It saw the release of Revenge of the Sith, with Darth Vader’s much maligned “Noooooo!” Right around the same time, the Others stole Walt from his incredibly needy father, Michael. Altogether now, “WAAAAAAALT!!!”
Fathers Doing Horrible, Crippling Things to Their Sons
Freud says that the Oedipal conflict involves a son wanting to destroy his father, that said father senses this desire and fights back with equally destructive force. Hence, Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand and Anthony Cooper pushes John Locke out of a window.
BONUS ALIAS CLIP: Unlikely Heroes
When SD-6’s tech geek Marshall Flinkman says to Sydney Bristow on a mission, “My name is Marshall J. Flinkman, and I’m here to rescue you,” it’s obviously a direct, word-for-word callback to Luke Skywalker’s classic swashbuckling line in the original Star Wars. But it gets at the subtext of Luke’s valor as well, that heroism can come from even the most unlikely places, whether you’re a farmboy from Tatooine or a glorified IT support nerd.
All in all, across these 10 references to Star Wars in Lost and Alias, here’s how the specific callbacks break down per movie: The Phantom Menace, 1; Revenge of the Sith, 1; A New Hope, 1, The Empire Strikes Back, 2; Return of the Jedi, 5. Based on this tally expect Abrams Episode VII to look a lot like Return of the Jedi! Which is exactly what the fans want to hear.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: ABC, Lucasfilm]