Friday, December 11, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Predictions

by The World Weary

One Week to Go. A Million Questions to Be Answered.

This article features spoilers for Episodes 1-6 of the Star Wars film franchise, and some educated guesses, as well as utterly baseless conjecture, about the plot, characters, and overarching narrative of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Read at your own risk!

Here we are.

One week (technically six days, because of the "day before screenings") until the seventh chapter in the most renowned and beloved sci-fi series of all time finally hits theaters. This is a pretty big moment, as it always has been whenever a new Star Wars film came out. Even with the second and third prequel films, there was still an electricity in the air just before the big opening day. Star Wars just has that effect on people.

Perhaps it's because we love the characters. We love their personalities and quirks, or their interactions with one another (like the famous "I love you." "I know." exchange from The Empire Strikes Back). We want to be them, we want to know them, and ironically, they are us. They are the visual avatars of our fears, hopes, and thoughts, and as they live out their two hour lifespan in front of our eyes, we're right beside them. Unseen and unheard, but needed, so we can bear witness to their stories and give them life.

Or maybe the Millennium Falcon is the dog's bollocks, or Kylo Ren and Darth Maul's lightsabers are just... the tits...

Philosophical notions aside, Star Wars is awesome, and just about everyone who has been within earshot of the internet or a television has probably had their curiosity piqued at least once by the endless torrent of trailers, spots, and sponsored ads. So what do we know about the future top grossing film of all time?

Next to nothing, actually.

By now anyone who has paid attention to the trailers knows that the film will be about a young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley), who scavenges the husks of Imperial starcruisers that dot the landscape of her home, the desert planet Jakku. A single Stormtrooper in the armies of the First Order (the neo-Nazis of the Star Wars universe) named Finn (John Boyega), crashes his TIE Fighter on Jakku, encounters Rey, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and they all skip town in the Millennium Falcon to meet General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and her ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), for some reason.

There's also a Darth Vader obsessed force sensitive named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who leads an equally mysterious band of obvious bad guys called the Knights of Ren. Original Trilogy hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is in none of the film's press material outside of a voice over and a single shot of his hand touching R2-D2, and also AWOL is the mysterious new big bad, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and similar to Luke, a voice over is our only clue to who he is.

So, with so many questions to answer, let's dive in to the meaty clues peppered throughout the official trailers, and I'll give you my best guesses about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Also, a shout out to Rich Evans and Mike Stoklasa of RedLetterMedia for their fantastic The Force Awakens Predictions video, and the fine folks over at KinoCheck International for their phenomenal supercut of The Force Awakens trailers and TV spots; both of which served as the foundation for much of the ensuing rambling. 

Luke's Whereabouts and a Possible Sith Connection

So the first thing I want to tackle is the strange lack of Luke Skywalker from the film's poster and trailers. He was supposed to bring balance to the Force, right? Not leave it in darkness, right? Because Anakin screwed the pooch on that one and wound up becoming the second in command of a galactic army of space fascists, so at the outset of Return of the Jedi, Luke resists the temptation of the Dark Side and, together with his father, end the tyrannical and suffocating reign of Emperor Palpatine.

Except, something happened after the celebrations on Endor (and if you're a Special Editions baby, the simultaneous celebrations on Naboo, Coruscant, and Tatooine). Something made Luke shy away from his much deserved fame and renown for almost taking down the Galactic Empire on his own, and his story faded into myth.

My first guess is that he went into a self imposed exile, in line with Rich Evan's theory that Luke may have decided that the Jedi and Sith held too much power over the events and lives in the galaxy. However, it seems unlikely the more I think about it. For Luke to have decided that, he would have needed evidence of his own interference. Sure he did many heroic and tide changing things for the Rebel Alliance, but he was still one of many. The Rebel Alliance was a massive collective of beings and worlds that decided things as a group. They would never have just handed Luke the keys to the galaxy, no matter how messianic he seemed. For them to forego the democracy they just bled for in favor of a new magical, space wizard king seems incredibly counter productive.

A far more likely scenario (in my opinion of course) is that the First Order is trying to cover up Luke's defeat of Palpatine, and Vader's redemption. This could have been necessary for the First Order to maintain the illusion of their power even after the destruction of the second Death Star over Endor, and the sacking of the Empire base on Jakku. It's made obvious in A New Hope (or simply, Star Wars [1977]), that widespread belief and acceptance of the Force is just not a thing. Vader is even challenged by one of his underlings aboard the Death Star about his faith and abilities, and that was during the height of his power. So, if Palpatine were to suddenly and unexpectedly pass away, the Imperials left in charge would want to consolidate their power and rebuild the war machine that kept them so well fed, possibly even creating the name of the First Order with a bunk story about Palpatine's dying wishes and his "first order" to the new leaders of his fallen Empire.

What better way to do this than to say that Vader's supposed mastery of this nonsense space magic hullabaloo failed him in the end, and couldn't help him save himself or his master from the furious attack that the Rebel scum Skywalker unleashed on them? By demonizing both Skywalkers and their predilections towards ancient religions, you could easily outlaw any force related practices you deemed dangerous to the safety of your military juggernaut, all the while allowing Kylo Ren and the Knights of Ren to maintain their little Vader obsessed cult under the protection of the Supreme Leader, or as a sort of MK Ultra, that is, a secret experimental military program, of the Star Wars universe under the First Order. Also, you wouldn't have to cover up Palpatine's Dark Side powers, because to the Empire he was still just Ol' Senator Palpatine from Naboo, who used his political power to unite all the planets in the Senate. So the new leaders of the First Order had a nice convenient martyr pre-made for them.

Another, less elaborate theory I've concocted concers the manner of Palpatine's death at the end of Return of the Jedi. After Vader throws his former master down a never-ending pipe to Hell, a massive burst of energy is released by Palpatine's passing. A huge electric wave washes over Vader and Luke, as Palpatine's dying cries echo throughout his chambers. It is possible that upon his death, the raw Dark Side energy that had no doubt saved and extended Palpatine's life after his encounter with Mace Windu, and up until the moment of his doom, exploded out of his body, effectively neutering Luke and Vader of their power, causing the ultimate disappearance of all known force users in one swoop. Which would allow small fry like Kylo Ren, or shadowy unknowns like Snoke, to step in and become one with the energy left in Palpatine's wake.

Less likely, but it's possible.

Anyways, so what does this do to Luke? Do all his years of exile, and the crippling loss of his only family outside of Leia, finally take their toll on him? Does he become a villain like his father?

I'm calling a big fat "NO" on this one. Again, just like how it would be out of character for the Rebel Alliance to bend to Luke's every whim and allow him to become a tyrant, it would go against the character arc that Luke undergoes in Return of the Jedi for him to suddenly become a Sith after already renouncing the Dark Side, more than once, in front of his father, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and the Emperor. In fact, in Return of the Jedi's climactic duel, Luke throws his lightsaber to the ground rather than forsake his Jedi training and strike down Vader.

Instead, I believe Luke will take on a more paternal role to either Rey, Finn, or both, and be similar in character and disposition to Yoda and Old Ben Kenobi. In the only obvious clue we're given as to Luke's whereabouts or situation, during the second official trailer, he's telling some unseen character that,

"The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it...

You have that power too."

-Luke Skywalker
Obviously, he's talking to one of our new leads, because who else would be important enough to be told this by Luke friggin' Skywalker. So to all you people who think Luke is Kylo Ren... A month or two ago and I would have agreed and speculated with you, but now, there's just too much evidence you'd have to ignore for that to even be considered a possibility anymore.


 "...My father has it...

What about Han and Leia?

So that covers Luke, but what about his sister and the badass of badasses (rivaled only by Indiana Jones), Han Solo?

I think everyone would like to believe that Han and Leia got married and started a nice little family full of the most suave and sophisticated children ever born, but this doesn't seem to be the case. From what I've gleaned from the trailers, Han is on/has been on Jakku, and has been without the Millennium Falcon for some time (as evidenced by his, "Chewie, we're home." line from Trailer #2).  So what brought him to Jakku?

Well, it is possible that Han and Leia might have split. Han being the rougish, independent type, and with Leia being the responsible, independent type, they would naturally get into some good arguments, like any couple would. It is possible that not long after Luke's exile, Han and Leia decided to go their separate ways, so Leia could do more work as General Organa, and Han could shuffle around the stars with Chewie.

Even though this was my first thought, I'm not 100% on it. This would be in direct contrast to what fans would probably want to see, which would be Han and Leia, snarky as ever and still in love, and above all, Star Wars is a money making machine for which the only lubricant is a satisfied fan base. What I think is more likely is either of two scenarios I've thought up. The first scenario works in tandem with my theory that the First Order is covering up Palpatine's failure, and because of the big cover up, anyone with direct knowledge of what happened on the second Death Star would be a loose end; namely Luke, Han, and Leia. The First Order's proaganda war may have driven our heroes into hiding, as they would be public enemies #1-3.

If Han, and Leia split up, it would probably be harder for the First Order to track either of them down, and if one were compromised, they wouldn't have to lie about the others location. Also, it could be that Leia (or Luke) has tasked Han with watching over Rey on Jakku, and he's simply been there in the shadows all along, waiting for the catalyst that would call him and his charge back to Leia.

It's really hard to guess though. We might have more footage of Han and Leia than Luke, but their new titles and locations have changed the name of the game and now their true intentions, both romantically and politically, are anyone's guess.

Who is Kylo Ren?

So now that I've covered the major returning characters (that we know of...), it's time to take a look at the new kids on the block. First let's look at our new villain, Kylo Ren.

It's obvious from the trailers that Kylo Ren is a Darth Vader devotee, who aims to reach the lofty heights of his Sith hero through mastery of the Dark Side of the Force. Note that I said "aims to". He's obviously not really calling the shots for the First Order, not when there's a character named Supreme Leader Snoke around. So is he Snokes' apprentice?

I'm not so sure. Kylo Ren appears to be the leader of a cultish group called the Knights of Ren. Who or what "Ren" is or means remains a mystery, but what is obvious is that they exist somewhere outside the official domain of the First Order, but they are still allowed some power (as Kylo has been called a Commader of the First Order in official releases). Kylo appears to command (or possibly work in tandem with) at least five or six similarly dressed goons. What his motivations, or the motivations of his organiation are have been left unexplained.

One popular theory surrounding Kylo Ren himself is how the volatile nature of his lightsaber might reflect a more unhinged, rough understanding of the Dark Side. If he really is as volatile and uncontrollable as he has been made out to be, it's possible that his fumblings into the world of the Dark Side might have a more negative effect on his standing in the First Order than a positive one. It's no secret that Kylo Ren and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) are basically rivals for power within the Order. Gleeson said in an Entertainment Weekly article about his character,

"He's kind of opposite Kylo Ren. They have their own relationship, which is individual and unusual. One of them is strong in different ways than the other. They're both vying for power."

-Domhnall Gleeson
This could mean that Kylo (or possibly Hux as well) is a spoiled, rotten, entitled brat who thinks he can live up to Vader by waving a lightsaber around and having "Dear, Diary" sessions with Vader's crispy mask. This seems more likely to me, as having Kylo start off as a rough around the edges apprentice would leave room for his character to grow over the next three films.

What is the First Order?

This will be nice and brief...

The First Order is either (as I've mentioned) all that remains of the Galactic Empire trying desperately to reestablish themselves as the dominant force in the galaxy, or, in a slightly more extreme thought, they are an opportunistic faction that swept in after the Battle of Jakku and began a monopoly on Imperial Tech salvaging. This does seem far fetched, as some unknown faction would still need considerable resources and manpower to acquire even a moderate amount of Imperial tech. However, the First Order could have risen from the ashes of the Separatist Movement during the Clone Wars, which could explain how they were able to build their armies. Just get your old Droidekas and Battle Driods up and running and make them do the heavy lifting!

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Who is Rey?

Daisy Ridley just won the jackpot. Not only is she in the new Star Wars films as a primary cast member, but she's clearly going to be the hero of the trilogy, making her the first female main character in Star Wars film history.

So who is her character? Who is this woman we're supposed to be rooting for for the next 9-12 hours of Star Wars episodes? Well, we know she's a professional scavenger, as evidenced by her Lara Croft-esque raiding of Imperial tombs. She's obviously very resourceful, and she seems to be a lone wolf, working and living alone in the unforgiving sands of Jakku.

The most prominent theories surrounding her character all point to her being either the progeny of Han and Leia, or Luke and some unknown woman. There's plenty to back these theories up too, as Rey is dressed like Luke while on Jakku, Jakku is a desert planet, just like the other desert planet that the last two trilogies worth of protagonists called home, and she's featured most prominently of all the characters on the film's poster.

As far as her being Han and Leia's daughter, I'd have to disagree. I could not see Leia abandoning her child no matter what the situation was like with the First Order. For poor Padme it was different. Her husband had just become a walking symbol of fear to the entire galaxy shortly before she went into labor, and it was safe to assume that raising two children under a tyrannical sadist is a recipe for Not Good.

I believe she's Luke's daughter, just like Mike and Rich, but unlike those two nincompoops and their fancy shmancy videos, I believe that Rey knows she's Luke's daughter. My primary reasons for coming to this conclusion are born from two lines taken from the trailers. The first has been in more than one trailer, and it's simply Rey responding to the question, "Who are you?", with a somewhat evasive, "No one...".

It could be argued that Rey is just a humble scavenger, who would prefer downplaying her achievements so she could be left alone to work, but the tone of her voice in that moment leads me to believe she's being intentionally tight lipped, so as to protect herself and her father from the scouts and bounty hunters of the First Order.

I didn't jump to this conclusion based solely off that one line though. There's another line (and I'm remiss to recall which trailer it was in) where Rey mentions that she's "waiting for [her] family". Is it possible that she's waiting for Luke or Leia to contact her and pull her out of hiding?

Another line that could prove Rey's parentage is from Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), the final line of which is delivered as a close up of Rey is on screen and the orchestral music crescendos.

 "I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes. I know your eyes!"

-Maz Kanata
Nothing truly concrete since we can't be sure who Maz Canata is talking to, and it could be another character, like Leia or even Luke, but I think that this is the surest bet in this entire article.

Now watch me be horribly wrong in one week...

Who is Finn?

Finn, as far as we know, is a First Order Stormtrooper who, for some reason, tries to escape his masters, only to be shot down and crash land on the surface of Jakku. We do know that later in the film he will become close with Rey, Han, Poe, and he will somehow get his hands on Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber, which later became Luke's, and was lost along with Luke's arm on Bespin during the climax of The Empire Strikes Back. He will at some point fight a vibroblade (or some such technology with the ability to parry lightsaber strikes) wielding Stormtrooper, and he will also face Kylo Ren in single combat (although the look on his face before Kylo strikes is less confident and more "AW FUCK").

So who is he? And why did J.J. Abrams try and lead us all into believing that he was going to be the hero of the new trilogy instead of Rey?

Well first we need to understand why he's in that Stormtrooper getup to begin with. It's entirely possible that Finn was a First Order grunt, who got sick of his employer's fascist tendencies, and decided to switch sides. It's a pretty logical character arc and everything we've seen suggests that this is indeed the case. However, in a bit of wishful thinking on my part, I'd like to again agree with Rich and Mike from RedLetterMedia and say that Finn is actually a resistance spy working in tandem with Poe Dameron.

Honestly, I think it would just be a little more fun for Oscar Isaac and John Boyega to get to work together, and bring a kind of buddy cop film feel to The Force Awakens, much like Chewie and Han in the Original Trilogy. This is more of personal wish that a legitimate theory with evidence to support it. In fact the only thing that supports this theory at all is a production still of  Finn and Poe aboard a First Order Star Destroyer together.

As far as his possible force sensitivity, I do believe that Finn is in tune with the force, perhaps even as much as Rey and Kylo Ren,  but that he is not going to be the ultimate hero. I believe that he will be the first to exhibit the influence of the Force, and because of this he will gain a false confidence that will ultimately lead to his maiming at the hands of Kylo Ren. Then, similarly to Luke and Vader he will have to overcome his handicap to become a true Jedi.

Who is Poe Dameron?

The best friggin' pilot in the galaxy... Gotta love it. He's already my favorite character, and I already have the Funko Pop! Bobblehead of Poe on my desk. Who is Poe Dameron? A bad M-F-er, that's who.

Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? 

Now, all we're left to speculate about is the real new villain of the series, Supreme Leader Snoke. He is the Palpatine to Kylo Ren's Darth Vader, the dirty floor to the Resistance's buttered side of toast, and we have no damn idea what he even looks like. We've heard his voice though. in the very first teaser we hear him deliver a chilling monologue...

 "There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? The Dark Side... and the Light..."

-Supreme Leader Snoke
Obviously this is someone, who is extremely sensitive to the Force; someone who can feel the rising power of distant Force Sensitives as well as Luke, Vader, The Emperor, or Yoda could. I've heard several commenters and critics alike take a stab at the "Snoke is Plagueis" theory, and there might be some validity to it. For those of you that don't know or remember, Darth Plagueis is a Sith Lord referenced in Revenge of the Sith, by Chancellor Palpatine as a "Sith legend".

"Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith who was so powerful, and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the Midichlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side he could even keep the ones he cared about, from dying...

...He became so powerful, the only thing he became afraid of was losing his power, which eventually of course he did. Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic, he could save others from death, but not himself."

-Chancellor Palpatine
So could Plagueis have somehow survived, possibly even as a Force Ghost, and been resurrected after Palpatine's explosive demise?

I think not. Again to cite the RedLetterMedia video, I agree with Rich and Mike that there will be no references at all to the prequel trilogies. Personally, I think that Palpatine himself may be Snoke. The entire basis of this theory rests is a phrase that Palpatine utters to Anakin during his telling of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis.

"...he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep."
Also, for those of you that don't know, Palpatine is obviously Plagueis' apprentice from the story, a tidbit made fact by the 2012 novel Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. So if Palpatine learned all of Plagueis' secrets, wouldn't he have also learned how to cheat death? If so, isn't it possible that somehow he survived the explosion of the second Death Star, even if it meant losing his physical form?

That would just mean he needs a new body to inhabit, but that would also mean this film series would have to introduce Dark Side Possession as an actual thing... So maybe I'm grasping at straws...

Obviously, with no images, and really little more than a single quote, not much can really be accurately said about Snoke's identity, motives, or looks, or for that matter, if he can even wield a lightsaber. Andy Serkis, the man himself did have one interesting tidbit to share in Entertainment Weekly,
"[He is] ...quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful...

He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn't have gotten there with prosthetics...

Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone and facial structure."

-Andy Serkis
All of that does seem to give a point to Team Plagueis, as the Dark Lord is described and drawn as a rather large alien creature.
The cover of James Luceno's book, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis.

Again, anyone's guess is as good as mine, but in all seriousness, everyone's probably totally wrong, and Snoke will be a totally original villain.

And I'd be just fine with that as long as we can answer the question...

Will this film be good?

Of course it will, ass!

Uh... I mean... er... sorry.

Yes. This will be good. As good as Return of the Jedi? Probably better. As good as Star Wars? Eh... Possibly. As good as The Empire Strikes Back? HELL NO. I don't think there will ever be as good of a Star Wars movie as Empire, but I digress. I think this movie will be a great, revitalizing entry in the series, that will delight fans and newcomers alike. I mostly think this because I simply need to or the little boy in me will truly die, but also because Disney, and by association J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Kathleen Kennedy, will be publicly sacked, tarred, and feathered by Star Wars fans, their investors, and, in all likelihood, themselves.

So now we wait. A week will pass and we will find out the answer to many of our burning questions, and hopefully, just maybe, the Force will be with us on December 18th (or if you're like me, December 17th) and we can be excited about the universe of Star Wars all over again.

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