First off, this post is likely full of spoilers. While I have absolutely no advanced knowledge of the plot details, I do have a history of accurate story predictions, such as predicting the ending of Breaking Bad with 100% accuracy. (Well, apparently not since they are now doing a season 6 *cough cash grab* and bringing Mr. White back to life but I was right about season 5.) This is not due to necromancy or any magical tricks or precognition (mostly) I just spend a lot of time analyzing stories. If you want to see the movie as a total surprise, then turn back right now. You’ve been warned.
Again to be as clear as I can, I have not seen a script, nor do I know anyone with a script, nor do I know anyone even vaguely associated with the movie.
I am going to lean on several rumors and potential leaks that have hit the Internet as a basis for some of my predictions, but honestly most of the so-called leaks have been thin or weak at best and make little to no sense or are obviously intentional misdirection by the creative team.
To start, I’ve seen a lot of posts looking to the expanded universe mythology when the creators have already made it clear that they plan to ignore the expanded universe completely.
“In an official statement Lucasfilm said, the new “Star Wars” films — Episodes VII to IX — “will not tell the same story told in post-‘Return of the Jedi’ Expanded Universe.”
So what can we rely on so we can understand the new films? Look no further than the Hero with a Thousand Faces (HWTF), a masterpiece of comparative myth by the man who invented the genre, Joseph Campbell. It defines an ancient pattern of stories that we tell again and again throughout all time in all cultures. It’s this pattern that the original stories used and Lucas famously called it out as a primary inspiration. Its formula at its most basic is simple:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
We’ll take HWTF as the guide for the story moving forward but lets start with looking at the characters. Where do they fit in the story and why?
The producers have gone to great lengths to conceal the last names of the characters referring to the main characters as Finn or Rey. This is for good reason. The last names will tell an astute observer a great deal about potential plot details. But the lack of last names is also revealing. Anyone who is listed with a last name should be considered a minor character. Conversely, anyone with only a single name or a moniker such as Captain Phasma is a major character.
Let’s start with Finn. For me he is the hardest character to predict. We can assume that the story will follow the general direction of the first three films, with a rag-tag group of unlikely heroes utilizing the power of friendship to overcome the forces of evil. Hero teams usually have a very specific personality make-up to give them balance. For instance, while Luke is an idealistic dreamer Han is the roguish selfish guy who learns that friends mean something. I’ve had a very hard time reading any personality off of Finn from the trailers. Hero groups in film fall onto a personality spectrum because we don’t want to see a bunch of the same folks on screen at once.
What I can say with confidence is that Finn is not the main character. Instead, that is Rey, the female hero, played by Daisy Ridley. Since she seems to fall into the hardened outsider or jaded recluse from society role, we have to assume that Finn’s personality is a sharp contrast to that to balance her out. You can’t have two of the same character personalities rolling around in the same story. What we do know about him is that he comes to the hero team in a “unique way.”
Since there are very, very few black characters in Star Wars and since we can assume Finn’s last name is concealed for a reason, we can hazard a guess that the Internet rumors about Finn are correct and that he is the son of Lando Calrissian but I don’t think so. I think that Amazon shot is badly faked and everyone fell for it. However, there is really no other black character from the original trilogy and considering this follows on the heels of the first trilogy, 30 years later, we can expect those three films to form the bulwark of the background story. Oh wait, there is one other character that is at least dark skinned, Boba Fett. I can see him as a partial clone or son of Boba. This would make the most sense because it seems like he comes to us with a heel-face-turn right out of the gate. This is basically a crisis of consciousness that turns a man from bad to good in a flash.
That said, Finn doesn’t really need royal parentage to make his character a useful part of the story. He can fill the role of Han, an outsider with rough edges who becomes a true selfless hero.
On the other hand, we have Rey who will undoubtedly have royal parentage. So who is Rey? There is a trend in today’s fiction and film to make a strong woman the protagonist for action films such as with the Hunger Games. Considering that Disney is trying to broaden the appeal of the franchise by setting a black man and a female center stage it’s easy to predict that Rey is the new Luke Skywalker, aka the story lead. She will act as the main protagonist and it’s her that will have to save the universe from the rebirth of evil over the next three films. In fact, no matter what her last name is, you can think of her as the centerpiece of the story. I see her as a kind of a darker and grittier version of Ang in the Last Airbender TV show, a monk like character who is thrust into greatness. This might make Finn a kind of Zuko character, a redeemed bad guy who struggles with doing things the noble way.
Rey is possibly Rey Solo, aka the estranged/hidden daughter of Han Solo and Leia, which would give her a “royal” pedigree with the force as well as a rogue nature, hence making her a loner. There are several other options for her parentage, such as her being Rey Skywalker, the daughter of Luke and some unknown woman. When Lucas talked about the trilogy in the past, according to Timothy Zahn, one of the most popular expanded universe writers, he said “You’d have the original trilogy, then go back to Luke’s father and find out what happened to him [in the prequels], and if there was another 7th, 8th, or 9th film, it would be Luke’s children.”
The ‘Luke’s kids” plot is the strongest possibility for the arc of the next three films.
If you click on the link and try to get to the old interviews with Mark Hamill you’ll find them inaccessible. Surprise, the Disney law machine has systematically purged the web of anything that would reveal the new plot which is telling in itself.
Luke has remained hidden from all promotional material. This leads us to only three possibilities for his character.
The simplest one is in keeping with the Hero with a Thousand Faces story template: he has become the new Obi One. The only photo we have of Luke in the new film shows him dressed like Obi One so this is a likely scenario. It also makes sense. In HWTF, the hero always meets a mentor character that guides him forward teaching him the way of the spirit world. In Star Wars, we had Obi One and Yoda. The mentor character is always a retired hero. He faced the eternal battle in his own time, won the day and retired to teach the next generation. Expect to see him in disguise at first and living far away from society if this is the case. You can also expect him to die in either this movie or the second one, as he will need to sacrifice himself to allow the new heroes to succeed for themselves. Also, expect him to be tracking the rise of the new evil in the galaxy that is hidden and gaining steam. He’ll secretly work against it in the background, perhaps hunting down Sith or he will go Yoda and realize the fight is done for now and hide away from the world until the rebirth of evil in the eternal cycle.
The second possibility here makes Luke the new “Yoda.” In other words, he is the primary trainer of Jedi since there is nobody else left. In fact the more I think of it, the more and more this makes sense as the strongest possibility. Just as Yoda and Obi One failed in training Anakin, who became Vadar, I suspect that Luke failed to train Kylo Ren, the first major bad guy of the trilogy and the Dragon of the story, and this leads Kylo, his son, to the dark side. This also makes it virtually guaranteed that Rey is Rey Skywalker and Kylo is her brother delivering us a Kain and Abel story of epic scale. More about this will be explained later. I also see Luke’s death (in the movie that will follow Force Awakens) coming very smoothly from this plot trajectory: Kylo seeks out his sister, Rey, to try to turn her, but is intercepted by Luke who sacrifices himself so she can get away.
The third possibility is one that I do not give much credence to and that is that Luke has embraced the dark side. There is a lengthily breakdown of the Luke is evil idea here. I am not buying it. If this is true, then we have only one true reveal for the first movie and that is Luke is Kylo Ren.
Here is the reason this won’t happen: it’s a franchise killer.
It essentially destroys the cherished message of the original trilogy that is redemption. Vadar is redeemed at the very end and it is Luke that redeems him. No writer in their right mind would implement this twist unless they want to go into hiding for the rest of their lives or if they are GRR Martin who just likes fucking with people. Actually, it goes even deeper than that. Artists have a fundamental world view that underpins their story-building and that colors everything they do. Martin’s story is a dark saga that is cynical about human nature, believing that the lines between good and evil are not so clear cut and that many great men do wicked things and vice versa. This is known as black on gray morality. Star Wars is a black and white morality play. It draws clear lines between good and evil, much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy where the good guys are beautiful and wear white, while the bad guys are hideous monsters. The original trilogy is two stories, the rise of a hero and the redemption of Vadar. It’s optimistic to Game of Thrones’ cynicism. It speaks to a different world view, one that says people are inherently good and that they are often drawn astray by life circumstances, but given the chance they will turn back to what’s right when faced with the ultimate choice, such as Vadar’s choice to kill his son or the emperor. There is literally no way they make Luke evil and if they do it is a misdirection.
However, there is one way that the Luke is evil idea could play out. This would play out if Rey is in fact his daughter as Lucas originally intended and Kylo is not his son. This would make it possible for Luke to play the role of Vadar to his child because he would act as the contrast to Rey’s goodness. This is a very, very risky possibility and probably too daring and original for a Disney franchise to take on. If the story is about Luke’s children, then he may have to inhabit the dark father figure character, a central tenet of the HWTF mythology. Remember that every character must contrast the others for a story drama to work. Think of Cronus eating his children and Zeus surviving and killing him as a prime example of the HWTF framework. Frankly, I just don’t see them having the balls to do this, though it would make for the most interesting possibilities story wise.
The more I look at this the more I think the most likely strategy is to make Luke good, but not good enough to train Jedi at the caliber of Yoda, since he does not have Yoda’s longevity or life experience, hence his offspring become evil due to the weakness in his teaching ability and he must hide the second (and possibly a third) child to protect her, hence Rey (probably not her real name for the whole story since it is a cover name) is hidden away on a desert planet as he was in his childhood, while Kylo becomes a dark force of destiny.
So let’s get into the plot of the first film: The Force Awakens.
As I noted, Disney is not a company that takes big chances. They are in the business of making money with established franchises, hence buying Marvel and engineering the purchase of Lucas Films for four billion dollars. They buy stories that work and they make big money from them. They don’t take their stories in crazy new directions. They repeat formulas that work. As such I expect them to stick close to the original story line, not taking too many chances, while updating it with some new twists. They picked an established big budget director in J.J. Abrams and they went back to the screenwriter of the most beloved movie in the franchise (The Empire Strikes Back) Lawrence Kasdan. In short, they’re not willing to gamble. Expect them to hew close to the original ideas.
So what are the key ideas that make the first three movies?
- They are war movies
- As well as black and white morality tales
- They follow the major plot points of the HWTF almost exactly
- It’s a generational family saga
- It’s a redemption arc
The Force Awakens will begin in the midst of a civil war. The last generation destroyed the empire, but empires don’t die gracefully. In their wake come violent strong men battling for control. In Rome, we saw powerful generals seize territory after the death of Caesar. We saw the same warlord periods in ancient Japan before the daimyo Hideyoshi united the warring provinces and the same went for China before the nationalists united the country prior to communist rule. In the vacuum of power, strong men and fanatical groups rise looking to take advantage of the chaos and a return to a strong central power. Expect to see the empire and the republic as fragmentary, warlord like fiefdoms, vying for the future of life in the galaxy with neither powerful enough to defeat the other. Unlike in the last movie do not expect the empire to have a Nazi like hold over the whole galaxy, but instead expect to find former commanders of the empire with strongholds of power scattered across the galaxy with the Republic looking to root them out.
Into this volatile mix comes a young dark warrior and his new master looking to return to the glory of the age of the Sith, Kylo Ren, as the movie’s Vadar and Supreme Commander Snokes as the Palpantine, a master of the rule of two and Kylo’s second teacher after Luke. They are the ones that can see a way to manipulate the situation and destroy their rivals to become the most powerful men in the galaxy. While some folks have noted the Sith may abandon the rule of two, I expect that only as a recruitment effort in the beginning. Expect Kylo and Snokes to turn on any Sith in later films to consolidate their rule. To rule the universe again, they must unlock the secrets of the past and rebuild the power of their destroyed order. But first, they must disguise their motives and objectives. This is the art of war: deception. Nourish your light in darkness and bide your time.
The key to understanding the movie comes from the scene with a masked figure descending into a destroyed spaceship. This is Rey kicking off the adventure and setting everything in motion. We know she is a scavenger. She is looking for something she can turn into quick cash. She has no desire to join the fight between the remnants of the empire and the new republic. In the trailer, that is her climbing into the downed destroyer, disguised as a sand person. Expect her to find an ancient relic that sets the forces of the world against her. This is an object that everyone is looking for even if she doesn’t know it yet.
Rumors have it that she finds Luke and Vadar’s old light saber. There’s a lot of debate on the interwebs as to what this means. It’s a waste of time. The short answer is it actually doesn’t matter in the least what the object is, whether it is Luke’s light saber or something completely different. Whatever it is, it’s something Kylo Ren, the dragon/early bad guy of the story wants and will do anything to get. My guess is that it is some kind of key to opening an ancient vault of Sith secrets. It could be the light saber, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it will act like a key and that the bad guys need to unlock a pyramid archive of dark knowledge and power, hidden away by the Sith that came before him, a Pandora’s box of evil that starts the cycle of violence and war anew.
In essence, she is unlocking the macguffin, a key plot device that will bring powerful forces to bear on her. This leads the Dragon of the story, Kylo Ren, to her home in search of the relic/key and brings about the destruction of some of the only things she cares about. Remember that dragons burn and we’ve already seen the clone troopers with flame-throwers. It’s likely that Finn is one of the troopers involved in the original destruction of what little home Rey has and in doing so he sees the evil of his ways, which causes an early heel face turn aka a bad guy turned good. Together they barely escape with their lives and the ancient relic and now they’re involved in the games of empires whether they like it or not, pursued by darkness. The forces of fate come knocking and whether you refuse the call and try to stick to your normal life or embrace it with open arms, eventually the powers that govern the universe force your hand.
Remember that originally Luke refused to get involved in the battles because he had obligations at home. It’s only when his home gets destroyed and his step parents are killed that the battle becomes personal for him and he joins the fight. Expect a similar death in the early moments for Rey that likely triggers the crying sequence we see in the trailer and which many folks think is the death of Chewie. I say it’s not Chewie’s death, but from this early sequence. She may be a loner, but she feels emotion deeply and she only hides from the world to protect the people she loves, perhaps a younger sister like Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games. When she realizes she can no longer do that, the battle becomes intensely personal for her and launches her on her life’s adventure. Expect everything she cares about destroyed early.
In the first film, in keeping with the original trilogy, we will not see most of the family dynamics revealed. Make no mistake, this is a family saga and a dysfunctional family at that, but expect no reveals about bloodlines in this film, other than for the heroes. Expect those reveals in episode 8 and 9. Also, expect the first movie to hint at greater things but instead follow the spirit of the original Star Wars, which makes it a classic space adventure. The forces of evil are looking to build a major weapon to give them the ultimate advantage in the civil war and establish them as the ultimate power in the galaxy. The hero team will destroy the weapon and win the day but unwittingly unlock the key to the Sith’s quick and brutal return to power.
What I can guarantee is that Kylo Ren will not be anyone’s father, such as Rey or Finn. They won’t hew that closely to the original story line because that would be ridiculous and lame. But do expect Kylo Ren related to the heroes in some way such as a brother of Rey. My best guess is that Kylo is Luke’s son or an estranged third sibling to Luke and Leia and that training for him went south, leading him to the dark side. In other words, we do a reversal of the original plot of bad father/good son and do good father/bad son.
But back to our heroes in trouble and just managing to escape with their lives. Their escape leads them to some old familiar faces, namely Han Solo, who rescues them at the last moment. Two things push them into the rest of the rollicking adventure: a message embedded in the droid BB-8, Rey’s friendly droid, an r2-D2 stand-in, and the ancient relic. When Rey tells/shows Solo what she’s found, he realizes there’s only one person who can help them, namely the wizened Princess Leia, now called General Leia, his estranged wife. More battles ensue, as the forces of Kylo pursue them and they narrowly escape. Ultimately, they make it to Leia, who recognizes the power in the girl and/or recognizes her long lost daughter, though she is unable to reveal herself as her mother and realizes she must send the girl off on a mission of great danger even though she would like to protect her.
Above all, Leia knows there is really only one person who can help the girl: Luke.
This sets Rey on a path to find him in whatever place he’s hiding, survivalist style, most likely a forest like his old master Yoda, because there is no place like the forest for an old survivalist to hide in. It’s Luke who will begin her training in the ways of the force.
It’s here that we discover that all of the Jedi are not lost and that a rival group of young Jedi, trained in secret for years, has spawned to face the dark forces of Kylo Ren’s assassin squad The First Order who are seeking to “finish what you [Vadar] started” and wipe out the last of the remaining Jedi, to make way for a return to power for the Sith Empire. As is often the case with strong men, they look to eliminate any dissent and anyone that can oppose them with political violence. In fact, I suspect that Kylo Ren was a part of that new group of secretly trained Jedi. Dissatisfied with his progress he began to study the dark side in secret as Luke trained him, as well as study the history that led to the great war of the first three movies. Beware of studying monsters lest you become one yourself. He breaks off from the group and founds the First Order, originally called the Knights of Ren, bent on finishing the work of Vadar and slaughtering the remaining Jedi and all of their secret knowledge.
Eventually, the republic forces with the help of Finn and Leia destroy the massive weapon that the old empire is building but in doing so they make a critical mistake, unwittingly unlocking the ancient archive of evil knowledge that Kylo Ren was seeking in the first place and giving the bad guys the tools to tip the balance in their favor in the next film.
Expect the fortress of knowledge to be hidden in an unexpected base, perhaps the Starkiller base that forms the basis of the Republic’s army in the early parts of the movie. In other words, expect it hidden in plain sight all along, right under the noses of the good guys and the audience, and though the good guys win the day, they also mistakenly open the doors to the ancient knowledge for the bad guys who will rise resurgent in the second film and wreak havoc on the universe.