“Where’s Luke?” That was the question on everyone’s lips during the lead up to The Force Awakens. We all wanted to know why Luke wasn’t on the poster or the trailers. What has he been up to the past 30 years?
A few seconds into the movie, during the first line of the opening crawl, we (sort of) got our answer. Not to mention a hell of a lot more questions.
We also got a new cast of characters who, for a couple of hours at least, made me forget about the search for Luke Skywalker.
(Spoilers under the cut.)
Luke Skywalker has vanished.
When I read that sentence, my heart leaped out of my chest. At that moment, I prepared myself for the inevitable: that we’d only see Luke for a few seconds at the end of the movie. But as the crawl went on, I started to get more comfortable with the idea. I loved that Leia has been desperately looking for her brother, still thinks of him as the hope for the galaxy despite everything that’s happened.
Later on, we learn a bit more about Luke–that he was training a new generation of Jedi Knights when an apprentice turned against him and destroyed everything. Han’s description of events is purposefully very vague and evokes even more heartache when we learn “the boy”–now called Kylo Ren–is Han and Leia’s son.
No wonder Luke vanished. Not only did he feel like he failed an apprentice, but also his nephew–and his sister and brother-in-law, too. That’s gotta hurt.
There are many Luke fans who are unhappy with this turn of events, saying it diminishes his victory in Return of the Jedi. They also say Luke isn’t the type of character to run away when things get bad. To this I say: things got really bad, and also we don’t know exactly what he’s been doing during the 15 or so years since Ben Solo turned to the dark side. Luke wasn’t just sitting around on Skellig Michael, waiting for Rey to show up. Han tells Rey and Finn that the people who knew Luke best (and wouldn’t Han be one of those people?) think he went looking for the first Jedi Temple. Probably in order to gain some insight about the Force, or learn how to defeat Snoke and Kylo Ren.
This makes me wonder how long Luke has been searching for the temple, and if he visited other temples while on his quest. (Luke Skywalker on a Force odyssey would make a great book–in fact, that was the early plot of Fate of the Jedi before Abeloth became the main focus, and one of the storylines I really liked.) Did he find the location of the first Jedi Temple just prior to the start of The Force Awakens? Is that why Lor San Tekka finally hands over the map? Is that why the Force finally awakens in Rey? I still can’t shake the idea that Luke Skywalker would have contingency plans for when things go terribly wrong. We’ve heard that Episode VIII, written and directed by Rian Johnson, will be “weird,” which leads me to believe we’ll be getting some Force-related scenes with Rey and Luke. Will Luke impart the knowledge and wisdom he learned on his quest? I would imagine so. I certainly hope so. It would make his disappearance much more palatable.
Who’s the girl?
Let’s talk about the bantha in the room: is Luke related to Rey, the main character of the new trilogy?
It’s probably not a surprise that I’m firmly on the camp of Rey being Luke’s daughter. Some people think that would make him a terrible father, or that it would diminish Rey’s importance as a character in her own right. I don’t think either of those things are true, and that there’s an explanation for every supposed plot hole out there. I’m sure we’ll be talking ad nauseum about TFA theories until May 2017. Probably even after that.
The movie telegraphs Rey being Luke’s daughter pretty heavily, to the point where some folks are saying it would be too predictable. You mean just like Han’s death was predictable? Leia being Luke’s sister too easy? Ahsoka being Fulcrum the only logical solution to that mystery? Predictable doesn’t necessarily mean bad, especially in Star Wars, which follows a mythological hero’s journey. It’s all about the execution.
I’ve seen the movie seven times now, and each viewing gives me more reason to believe Rey is Luke’s daughter.
- She treats droids like people, just like Luke
- She has natural flying and mechanical abilities
- Han treats her the way he treated Luke in A New Hope, even going so far as to offer her a job
- Her raw power in the Force is immense
- She resembles Padme and Shmi
- She has a very familial relationship with Leia
- The use of the “Luke and Leia” cue when Rey refuses to sell BB-8, and again when talking with Han on the Falcon, infers a relationship with both of them
- The music cue where she calls the lightsaber to her hand is the same as when Luke returns to the burning homestead
- The fact that the Skywalker lightsaber is “calling” to her
There’s a lot more hints throughout the movie that point to Rey being from the Skywalker family. Of course, she could also be Han and Leia’s daughter. Even though I don’t think that’s the case, I’d prefer that to her being a random Force sensitive girl. I actually went back and forth during my first viewing as to whether I thought she was Leia’s or Luke’s daughter. The last scene couple of scenes–Leia and Rey hugging, Rey and Luke sharing a profoundly emotional look–clinched it for me.
Here’s what I think happened: Kylo turned on Luke and helped kill the Jedi apprentices. He saved Rey’s life in a fit of guilt, killing a fellow Knight of Ren, and stashed her on Jakku. Maybe he manipulated her memories, maybe he didn’t need to because Rey was only five, maybe he tried to wipe her memory and failed because he was only a teenager. Maybe he tried to forget everything that happened — until he learns that BB-8 and FN-2187 were accompanied by a girl. Then he snaps, and demands to know, “What girl?” Why would he react that way if he didn’t have some sort of connection with Rey? And why would he have the urge to save Rey if he wasn’t related to her?
Whatever the case, for both Rey’s parentage and what Luke’s been up to for the past 15 years, I’m willing to sit back and listen to the story Rian Johnson wants to tell me. The Force Awakens blew away all my expectations, even with only a minute of Luke Skywalker (with no dialogue!) onscreen. I love all the new characters, I’m completely invested in the state of the galaxy 30 years after Return of the Jedi, and I want to read every book about what happened in the preceding years. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan caught me hook, line, and sinker. I’ve been loving all the discussion and debate about TFA, and I can’t wait to learn more about Episode VIII once filming starts in the next couple of months. We only have a year and a half to wait. It seems like forever, but hopefully it will pass by like a breeze.
Like the rest of the galaxy, I’ve been looking for Luke Skywalker. Like Rey, I found him — but I also found a whole new world I can’t wait to revisit again and again. The Force Awakens did for me in two hours what twenty years reading the Expanded Universe failed to do: get me completely invested in a new generation of characters. I’m still eager to see the continuing adventures of Luke and Leia onscreen, but now it’s time for them to support the new guys. It’s time for Luke to train Rey. It’s time for Chewie and Rey to fly the Millennium Falcon together. It’s time for Leia to send Poe and Finn on more missions together. It’s time for Kylo Ren to step out of his grandfather’s shadow.
I have no doubt our legacy characters will continue to do a stupendous job supporting the new cast. And I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next.