When I first saw Star Wars Episode 1 in theaters, I was 8. I couldn’t tell that some of the CGI was painfully obvious. I didn’t care that the handling of the characters, new and familiar, was out of whack. I didn’t care how poorly written or directed Anakin was. But now, I’ve spent much of my higher ed studying stories and how they work (re-hours on TVtropes), I do care. I count myself lucky to have missed the soul crushing existential disappointment that so many older star wars fans proclaim to have suffered due to the prequel trilogy, but I still acknowledge a lot of faults with the prequels.
Now I have the prospect of going into another completely new Star Wars trilogy. This time with all the intellectual and artistic appreciation as well as the uncomplicated fan boy excitement. Star Wars fans the world over are hungry for new, GOOD, Star Wars movies.
With that in mind there are a few questions I still have, that my storyteller and my fan both have, going into Episode 7. Questions about the story, the characters and canonical, narrative threads that will tie this sequel trilogy together and back to the original films. Here are the top 7 unanswered questions about Star Wars The Force Awakens, for those who haven’t yet had the privilege of seeing it.
Is there any Familial connection between the Old and New Characters?
I have two conflicting rationales on this one, separate from whether or not I expect it to happen. On the one hand, a central theme of Star Wars is family. Romantic love and paternal tension were (or at least meant to be) the main character conflict of the Prequel and the Original Trilogy, respectively. If no characters in The Force Awakens share some kind of important familial ties with the original trilogy characters, it might dampen this crucial theme of the main movies. That’s not to say that some sense of surrogate family could end up being more prominent in Force Awakens that could service this theme.
On the other hand, I worry that anything other than a near perfect handling of a familiar connection will come across as cheap and for no other reason than because fans expect it. So much of the post RotJ EU revolved around the descendants of Luke, Leia and Han that much of the Star Wars fandom internalized this narrative direction. Even to the point where, even though the sequel trilogy is it’s own canon now, fans might expect just a different version of the same premise. Doing something this crucial to the theme and narrative of the film just because the fans expect it is not a good idea.
But let’s entertain the idea for a minute. So far in the trailer we’ve pretty much only heard Rey mention her family. Could it be that as yet unknown characters could appear as parents or siblings? If they are from the original trilogy, Han and Leia seem like the most likely pair. Some traumatic separation near birth could explain why Rey and Han don’t recognize each other.
What about Kylo Ren? Pretty much just a hunch here, but it could make a twisted inverted reveal to have the bad guy turn out to be the child instead of the parent like in the original trilogy. Emphasis on “could.”
Fun to think about but I think it’s ultimately up to the creative will of the filmmakers.
How are the Original Trilogy Relics Still Around?
The two major ones we’ve seen are Anakin Skywalker’s second blue lightsaber and Darth Vader’s mask. The first was lost by Luke Skywalker during his duel with Vader on Bespin after Vader dismembered Luke, sending the inherited weapon plummeting into the vast depths of the facility.
The second was presumably abandoned on Endor along with the rest of the remains of Vader’s suit and body after his funeral pyre died down.
The circumstances of the loss of each artifact are very discouraging to either item casually returning to the scene. Especially with Anakin’s lightsaber, somebody would have had to likely known about where they were lost and purposefully search for and recover it.
It’s a safe bet to me that the first person we’ll see in Episode 7 with Anakin’s Lightsaber is Maz Kanata. She’ll return it to Leia who’ll pass it on to Finn, I think.
Somehow or other, Kylo Ren and the First Order collects Vader’s mask, apparently enshrining it and setting out to carry on the Empire’s legacy.
So from my perspective the real big question that these relics beg, as we’ve seen them, is what’s the motivation of these characters, Maz and Kylo? How would each of them know and or care about the saber and the mask respectively enough to find them and keep them? Maz presumably being a pirate of some kind may have encountered Cloud City.
While we don’t know Kylo’s exact age, I’d guess he was born after the events of RotJ, which would mean he couldn’t have retrieved Vader’s helm himself. Perhaps it was Snoke? In any case, are they keeping it for purely symbolic purposes or might it some special Force properties?
What’s the Political State of the Galaxy?
The political drama of the Old Republic on its own wasn’t very appealing in the prequels. With Episode 7, Star Wars has a chance to make politics an interesting if not prominent part of the story.
Clearly, the Empire’s legacy is still felt and threatening to dominate the galaxy again. We could have been forgiven for expecting that by this time the Rebel Alliance had eradicated the Empire and reestablished the Galactic Republic. The good guys have been continuously referred to as the Resistance throughout Episode 7’s marketing. How is it that the triumphant Alliance managed to kill the Emperor, Vader and destroy the second Death Star, along with a successful mop up campaign in new canon sources, and not end up the more dominant governing body of the galaxy?
Unless the Alliance didn’t necessarily grow into the New Republic. It’s looking much more likely from extra canon sources that the New Republic and the Resistance are separate entities. The New Republic committed to governing and representing the galaxy while the Resistance specifically fight’s the First Order?
Wouldn’t that be an interesting dynamic? Not only conflict between the Resistance and the Order but tension between the Resistance and the Republic! Could the Republic be falling back on it’s bloated, bureaucratic commitment to non-confrontation while the First Order takes advantage of this to spread the Empire’s influence again? Could the Resistance be seen as agitators by the Republic and terrorists by the First Order?
What Exactly Causes Finn to Defect?
We don’t get to see the faces or the characters or the backstories of any Stormtroopers behind the helmets in the original trilogy. To make a good protagonist out of Finn, Force Awakens is going to have to handle at least one Stormtrooper a little bit differently.
The old Empire put a lot of effort into indoctrinating it’s rank and file soldiers for total obedience. Finn has talked about being “raised to do one thing”, so we can assume he’s been a traditionally reared Stormtrooper for a while. That must mean that something profound must happen to him to sufficiently disillusion himself from the First Order. It depends on what kind of connections to other characters or backstory the movie gives Finn. Maybe it will be Kylo Ren’s treatment of Poe Dameron?
We could find out a great deal about the experience of a Stormtrooper first hand depending on how Finn is handled and introduced. Hard to say if any of the other Stormtroopers will be humanized. Whatever sets Finn off will have to be a satisfying inciting action to get us invested in Finn as a redeemed protagonist.
How Many Jedi are there Now?
At their highpoint during the days of the Old Republic the Jedi Order numbered in the thousand. Then the Great Jedi Purge happened. Throughout the original trilogy it was well established that the number of Jedi survivors and or Force users not aligned in the dark was barely more than a handful. But Episode 6 was called The Return of the Jedi after all. Yoda urged Luke Skywalker on his death bed to pass on what he had learned.
So has he? Rey’s comments about the stories from the time of the Rebellion have led me to think that Jedi have not especially grown in number since the last movie. 30 years may have been enough time for new Force sensitives to manifest, but power in the force has to be nurtured and trained. Without the Jedi order actively seeking out and training new members, the number of active Force users isn’t likely to grow very much.
There is Finn though, and the guiding narration by some character about letting the Force in. Too early to tell if there could be a resurgent Jedi Order to combat the darkness. The movie is called The Force Awakens after all. More Jedi could be what that awakening refers to, at least for the light.
What’s Happened Between Han and Leia?
Han and Leia were the biggest (only) romance of the original trilogy. We left them at the end of RotJ where a serendipitous revelation left them free and clear more or less. So have they been together all this time? Even if that’s not likely, what might have happened to sour their feelings or keep them apart?
This is another aspect of fan expectations that have been heavily influenced by the EU. Han and Leia married and had children after the events of RotJ. The Force sensitive children of the Solos were central characters of the Thrawn Trilogy.
It would seem based on the footage we’ve seen of Han and Chewie in the trailers that they won’t be with the old characters at the start of the film. Some falling out might have occurred between Han and Leia. The clip we’ve seen of Han hugging Leia to him seems like the sort of moment that would occur after a reconciliation, maybe brought on by some setback to the Resistance.
We’ll probably have some epic snark to look forward to before that earnest heart to heart.
Where is Luke Skywalker?
Anakin Skywalker’s son, the last of the Jedi, the hero who redeemed his father and cemented the downfall of the Empire. Should be a full-blown Jedi master by now right? What has he been doing for 30 years that he’s not present for this crucial, story-worthy, turning point in the course of events in the galaxy? At least that we’ve seen so far.
We can’t even say with certainty if the above picture is Luke since his face is obscured. I mean, realistically, the right mechanical hand in a hooded robe laying an affectionate hand on R2 wouldn’t likely be anybody else, but it’s still keeping his identity obscured.
Why would the second trailer’s voice over be Luke’s familiar connection to the Force if Luke wasn’t going to play a crucial role in these movies? It is merely meant to be an echo of theme and potential or could it be directed at a specific character?
At this point, the absence of even any mention of Luke has to be something that Disney and Lucasfilm have been deliberately cultivating for some big crucial reveal. When, how or why Luke will emerge in the story is really hard to guess at without more info. Maybe he won’t even reappear until Episode 8 as the new Yoda figure of the trilogy, forced into isolation or devoted to some mystical Jedi purpose. Perhaps Finn will manage a meager skill in the Force with Leia’s guidance but be forced to seek out Luke to advance his training with the threat of the First Order.
Just an educated narrative guess. Only a short time will tell now. Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens finally premieres December 18th!