Star Wars Episode VIII doesn’t open until December 2017, but Star Wars fans hungry for more adventure—and more than one explanation—haven’t stopped debating the events of The Force Awakens since they walked out of the theatre. Of course, in the internet age, rumors circulate on a daily basis as to what characters or events will pop up in the next movie. The internet age has also seen a rise in legitimate leaks of story points which only further whet the appetites of salivating fans.
The list compiled here features a collection of rumored or confirmed plot elements from the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII. Spoiler-phobics begone, as we take an early look at the story for the next entry in the Skywalker saga, and what twists and turns await our beloved characters. Take all of them with a grain of salt or two; movie plots can change right up until release (just ask the makers of Suicide Squad). Still, discussion of the upcoming movie is always fun, so why not take a few minutes to consider what will come?
And seriously, if you’re afraid of learning the plot in advance, go read something else! Shoo! Here come 15 (Possible) Plot Points for Star Wars Episode VIII!
15. It Picks up Where The Force Awakens Left Off
In perhaps the most unusual move of all, Episode 8 picks up the moment The Force Awakened ended. That breaks with the tradition of the other Star Wars movies in both the Original and Prequel Trilogies, which have a many as ten years elapse between chapters. Director Rian Johnson already teased the opening just as production on Episode 8 began with a brief video showing Rey handing her recently-acquired lightsaber over to Luke. Leaked production photos also confirm extensive shooting at Skellig Michael, the Irish location used as the planet Ahch-To.
What this creative choice means in terms of storytelling is anybody’s guess. Maybe Johnson (and Disney) felt that Luke shouldn’t be too detached from the main action. In other words, learning of Han’s death, the destruction of Hosnian Prime and the defeat of Kylo Ren would prompt Luke to come out of exile right away to save his friends and family, rather than abandoning them to go mope on scenic cliff tops. For that matter, perhaps somebody felt The Force Awakens, for all its nostalgic fun, didn’t do enough to advance the Skywalker saga, and left too many questions that needed answers.
14. Luke is Back in a Big Way
Fans of the Original Trilogy rejoice: this time, Luke Skywalker is back in a huge, huge way. Keeping Luke out of the main action during The Force Awakens made a certain amount of sense from a storytelling standpoint. Screenwriter Michael Arndt has revealed that early drafts of Episode VII featured Luke in a pivotal role through most of the third act, but that including him upstaged the new characters like Rey and Finn. Making Luke into the “McGuffin” solved that problem, even if it does mean we will never get another Han/Luke/Leia bickering scene, or some more Luke-Han bromance.
Details at this point are scant, though photos have surfaced of actor Mark Hamill on set. Hamill has also stated in interviews he will have a much more substantive role in Episode VIII as a Jedi master, who will continue Rey’s training in the Skywalker family trade (So is Rey a Skywalker? More in a moment) Hamill lost a reported 50 pounds for The Force Awakens only to have his role cut to a glorified cameo, which probably left him a bit depressed given the size of his part. No doubt he’ll want to show off his newly-buffed body this time! On the other hand, given that the amount of money he likely made for The Force Awakens to appear mute in a single scene probably made him into the highest paid-per-minute actor in history, he probably cried all the way to the bank…
13. Leia Finally Gets Back in on the Action (THANK GOD!)
Speaking of returning favorites, General Leia Organa, last seen relegated to standing around in a bunker in The Force Awakens, will also get back into action in Episode VIII. It seemed like a waste to have the girl who saved the boys on the Death Star so removed from the main action, though much as Luke could have distracted from the new characters, so could Leia in an expanded role. Actress Carrie Fisher’s well-publicized health problems and semi-retirement from acting also probably didn’t help.
Happily though, the sassy Princess that became the most iconic woman in sci-fi gets her due this time. According to reports, a scene early in the film features an attack on Leia’s ship, which prompts Leia to use a secret ability: she uses the Force! Fans of the former Expanded Universe have lamented Leia’s lack of Jedi training, though it seems Episode VIII might hint that she has some Jedi training after all. On the other hand…
12. Leia Spends Most of the Movie in a Coma
According to reports, Leia spends most of the movie comatose after the attack on her ship. Her absence so close to the destruction of Hosnian Prime and emergence of the First Order sends the Resistance into chaos. Factions develop, as do power rivalries that will fuel a good chunk of Episode VIII’s plot. Now if only her French Bulldog Gary Fisher could get a cameo!
Leia’s abbreviated role again likely has roots in Fisher’s health issues, though given that her character’s son murdered her husband, Leia should have a dramatic moment or two. Carrie Fisher recently cut short an appearance at the New York Comic-Con due to additional filming on Episode VIII. That could mean Leia’s role is bigger than originally planned, or that her scenes require higher security to keep their contents under wraps. Though it’s nothing more than speculation on our parts, Luke and Leia reuniting after years apart alongside Rey, Finn and Poe would offer a magnificent ending to the film!
11. The Knights of Ren Appear
Rey’s Force-flashback in The Force Awakens became one of the most talked about scenes in the movie, in part because it offered audiences their first (and so far, only) look at the evil Knights of Ren. Leaked photographs from the set of Episode VIII would seem to confirm that an entire squad of knights led by Kylo Ren will appear this time out, hopefully for some rip-roaring action.
Thus far, Star Wars fans know next to nothing about the Knights of Ren, other than that the former Ben Solo leads the troupe under Supreme Commander Snoke’s guidance, and that the Knights had a hand in wiping out Luke’s latter-day Jedi Academy. Even the new in-canon novels have offered little insight into the Knights. Exactly what are they in relation to the Jedi and the Sith, and why does nobody seem to know about them? Episode VIII should offer a bit more needed exposition for the Knights of Ren, and likely, Ben Solo’s turn to the Dark Side as well.
10. We Learn more about Luke’s Downfall
Early story leaks from the set of Episode VIII also stress the importance of Rey’s Force-flashback in The Force Awakens, in part because the new film will expand upon them. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, as well as early script leaks from The Force Awakens have confirmed that the film contained a much longer Force-flashback than appears in the final edit. Originally, the film would have traced the journey of Anakin/Luke/Rey’s lightsaber from Cloud City on Bespin all the way to the bowels of Maz Kanata’s castle. Early reports say Episode VIII will contain a similar vision, though it will elaborate more on the fall of the new Jedi Academy, and Luke’s journey into exile.
Such a development seems natural considering that Luke has some major explaining to do, since he ran off without so much as a word to his sister or best friend. Said flashback would also likely offer a peek at Ben Solo’s turn, and just how things went down the night the Knights of Ren killed all the new Jedi.
9. Yoda Returns
Luke Skywalker isn’t the only Jedi making a big return in Episode VIII. Actor/puppeteer/all-around-badass Frank Oz confirmed that he recorded new dialogue for use in The Force Awakens that went unused. Numerous reports have placed Oz on set during the Episode VIII filming, likely because Yoda will make a return appearance in the new film.
Just how Yoda will fit into all the new action remains a mystery. He could appear in a flashback sequence, communicating with either Rey or Luke. Most bets, however, seem to fall on the possibility that he will return as a Force ghost, much as Obi-Wan did throughout the Original Trilogy. For that matter, the character may not even appear on screen. Oz, who has also returned as Yoda in Star Wars: Rebels, could just lend his voice, which will appear disembodied. That said, letting Yoda return to the live-action Star Wars to offer training to Rey seems like too great an opportunity to pass up.
8. Finn & Poe go to a Casino planet
A good chunk of Episode VIII’s filming took place in Croatia, in the city of Dubrovnik. Noted for its architecture, the Episode VIII art department redressed portions of the city into a new Star Wars planet, and actors John Boyega and Oscar Isaac were spotted there filming action sequences. That means Poe & Finn will likely spend a good part of the movie together, but why?
Details remain sketchy, but leaked set photographs hint at a casino planet—the Star Wars equivalent of Monaco—will play host to a galactic delegation of Republic dignitaries. Other set photos hint that some kind of bombing or attack takes place there, which recalls a similar plot point to a new Star Wars novel, Bloodline.
Rian Johnson, director of Episode VIII, has confirmed that he insisted on a plot point appearing in Bloodline, as it would tie into the new movie. Known as the “napkin bombing,” a group of First Order terrorists bomb a Republic Senate meeting to stir up fear of the neo-Imperial cabal. Poe and Finn might get involved in trying to prevent a similar attack.
7. Kelly Marie Tran Plays Aya
Shippers of the Finn/Poe romance lament: it looks like Finn might get a new love interest. Actress Kelly Marie Tran joined the production of Episode VIII, in what is, unsurprisingly, an unknown role. Tran reportedly had to screen test opposite John Boyega before she snagged the part, which would suggest the two have a number of scenes together. Eyewitnesses place Tran on the Dubrovnik set with Boyega, possibly riding some kind of alien creature. The two also appeared together in scenes shot in a medieval fortress, possibly the site of the Republic delegation.
So who is this mystery woman embodied by Tran? Reports refer to her character as “Aya,” a sort of spy-information broker that meets Finn in a cantina. The First Order intervenes in their meeting, and the two escape together. Aya may or may not become a love interest for Finn, though reports also say the two have a flirtatious relationship. In interviews, Boyega has referred to Tran as a “new lead,” though more recent reports claim her role is not quite as large as Poe’s in The Force Awakens. Regardless of her screentime, it would appear Tran has landed a pivotal role in Episode VIII.
6. The Knights of Ren Invade Ahch-To, and Luke Whips Out His Lightsaber
Prop photos from the prop warehouse of Episode VIII have confirmed that Luke Skywalker will again carry his green Return of the Jedi-era lightsaber, and that the Jedi Master will again wield it in battle! Mark Hamill himself would seem to support these rumors, as he’s confirmed Luke has a major battle scene in the film.
Other set photos of Ahch-To would seem to confirm as much: Rey, Luke and the Knights of Ren have all been spotted on set, performing some heavy duty wire work. Reports state that the Knights of Ren, led by Kylo Ren, invade Ahch-To and confront Rey & Luke. Kylo chases after Rey for revenge (she did give him a couple nasty scars), while the other Knights take on Luke. In short, Luke hands the Knights of Ren their asses, and intervenes before Kylo Ren can duel Rey. Kylo escapes in terror, in what may be another callback to Luke’s own story arc in the Original Trilogy. Much as Obi-Wan and Yoda instructed Luke to kill Vader, Rey will have to kill Kylo Ren.
5. Laura Dern has an Important Role
Academy Award-nominee Laura Dern has joined the cast of Episode VIII in major role. Recent reports refer to Dern’s character as a political envoy of the Republic, possibly named Chancellor Valara. The name, which recalls “Chancellor Vallorum,” of the Prequel Trilogy, should be taken with an extra grain of salt, but here’s what else we know…
Dern has a scene early on following the attack on Leia’s ship, which sees her character trying to take control of the Resistance from an injured General Organa. Star Wars fans familiar with Bloodline will understand why this is significant: Leia formed the Resistance on her own after the Republic and First Order signed a treaty over the objections of several senators. Leia left the Republic Senate in disgust following the treaty, which not only legitimized the First Order, but a number of neo-Imperial senators who pine for the days of the Empire. Referred to as “Centrists,” these Imperial sympathizers feel Emperor Palpatine strayed from the true ideals of the Empire, and feel a more authoritarian government should replace the Republic.
If Chancellor Valara’s name is any indication, she’s likely the current head of the Republic, and may have some history of conflict with Leia. Poe Dameron reportedly gets involved with Valara’s political dealings, which brings us to…
4. Poe becomes a Resistance leader
In the aftermath of the attack on General Leia Organa, Chancellor Valara steps in to take over the leadership of the Republic. Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro reportedly plays a Republic General allied with Valara’s intentions, and tries to take control of the Resistance while Leia remains incapacitated. Loyal to Leia’s ideals and to the Resistance’s original intent, Poe Dameron steps up to rival Del Toro’s character for power.
Given the much needed political intrigue (The Force Awakens never even bothered to explain what the Resistance was in relation to the Republic), and given earlier reports which included comments by Del Toro that his character had nefarious intentions, Del Toro’s general figure might have less-than-noble intentions for the Resistance. With the Republic firmly established as home to a group of neo-Imperialist Centrists, Del Toro could favor surrender to the First Order despite the destruction of the Hosnian system. Poe steps in to continue to lead the Resistance and protect Luke & Rey, giving time for Leia to recover.
3. Several Pivotal Characters Return
It should come as no major surprise that Episode VIII welcomes the return of several popular characters from The Force Awakens and beyond. Chewbacca returns, of course, and according to reports takes part in the Knights of Ren battle. Admiral Ackbar, BB-8, Nien Nub, General Hux and Ungar Plutt also will make appearances.
Perhaps most compelling, two pivotal characters from The Force Awakens return: Maz Kanata, again performed by Lupita Nyong’o, and Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie. Neither had much screen time in the previous film, despite playing a huge part in the marketing campaign. For that matter, for featuring such talented, renowned actresses, neither had much in the way of character development, either. Here’s hoping Episode VIII gives the characters—and the actresses—their due.
Episode VIII will also feature a number of cameos for people wanting to play spot the Easter Egg during the film. Already reported: Tom Hardy has a short role as a stormtrooper, a la Daniel Craig’s role in Force Awakens. British royals Prince William and Prince Harry also donned stormtrooper armor for one scene. Rumors also rumble that Harrison Ford will return to play Han Solo in some form or another, possibly in a Force flashback scene. Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy hinted at as much, remarking that “everyone” from The Force Awakens would return in Episode VIII.
2. The Rey Backstory
Rey’s backstory—in particular, her lineage—became one of the most talked about, tantalizing elements of The Force Awakens. Rey exhibits some impossibly powerful Force abilities which would seem to contradict Star Wars canon… unless of course there’s a really good explanation for them.
Is Rey Luke Skywalker’s estranged daughter, or is she the next generation of Kenobis? Is she Anakin Skywalker reincarnated through the Force, or just some random desert scavenger whose powers are a product of bad writing? Episode VIII will no doubt offer more insight. In recent months, a bizarre “leak” has circulated that Rey is actually the reincarnation of the woman who founded the Jedi order centuries before. Regardless of the validity, adding the element of reincarnation to the Star Wars idiom would take the series in a radical new direction.
A few plot details in the novel Bloodline could also offer a clue: in the book, set some six years before The Force Awakens, Luke has yet to go into exile. Said plot point would nullify the theory that Luke placed his daughter on Jakku to protect her from Kylo Ren, a major element in speculation that she’s of Skywalker or Solo kin.
1. Ben Solo’s Turn/Who is Snoke
The setting of Bloodline six years before The Force Awakens has another vital ramification: Luke still has his nephew Ben Solo under his tutelage, and presumably the new Jedi Academy as well. The plot of Bloodline follows Leia’s path toward creating the Resistance, and leaving the Republic Senate in disgrace. The reason? Somebody found out about her true parentage. Bloodline features a scene where a desperate Leia sends a message to Ben about his dear departed granddad’s identity—something even the Jedi-in-training never knew.
The circumstances of Ben Solo’s turn to evil will no doubt play some role in Episode VIII. Based on the information from Bloodline, learning of his relation to Darth Vader played some role in his fall from grace, as did Supreme Leader Snoke. Much like Rey’s backstory, Snoke’s nature and identity have become two of the most debated elements of the new Sequel Trilogy. Recent chatter has pegged Snoke as Darth Plageuis, the father of Anakin Skywalker, though such speculation is nothing new. George Lucas, for his part, always intended Palpatine as the creator of Anakin’s conception, though the movies never stated as much outright. Disney could have something else in mind that will lead into a new storyline. Regardless, expect a further exploration of Ben Solo’s turn, and expect the nature of Snoke to tie in with it!
Know something we don’t about the Episode VIII plot? Want to debate plot theories? Do it in the comments!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in theaters on December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.