What has made the day all the more exciting is the fact that director J.J. Abrams and his filmmaking team have managed to keep such close tabs on the new story, which is our first official look at the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa since Return of the Jedi hit movie screens 32 years ago. Yeah, sure – we know a few things here and there, such as that the new trio of young leads is comprised of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), or that villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a member of the mysterious Knights of Ren, or that General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is the head of the Resistance. But these amount to just a few narrative scraps, and there are so many elements to unearth, particularly in filling out the three-decade gap in between the last film and this one.
Here, then, are the 10 Biggest Star Wars: The Force Awakens Mysteries remaining as we march towards the release date. And don’t worry – we’re not going to get into any spoilers in this discussion, as that would ruin the fun that speculation and suspense provide, right?
11 What is the state of galactic affairs?
Yes, we know all about the Resistance (with its dashing X-wing pilots) on the one side and the First Order (with its legions of stormtroopers and mysterious Dark Side leaders) on the other, whose conflict seems to be a recreation of the original trilogy’s black-and-white clash of good versus evil, David versus Goliath.
But then there’s the New Republic looming over the both of them, a governmental entity that has rarely ever been highlighted in the various marketing materials, from teasers to cast and crew interviews. Is the Resistance the military arm of the Republic, a modern-day version of the Old Republic’s Grand (clone) Army? Is it more of an underground (read: illegal) movement, secretly preparing (picking?) for battle with the First Order?
And, perhaps most importantly of all, how much time will the film devote to describing the new galactic state of affairs? One of the most consistent criticisms – whether valid or otherwise – of the prequel trilogy is just how much time was spent on political affairs, from the taxation of trade routes to the secret military preparations of separatist governments; given how keen Disney and the new Lucasfilm have been on avoiding overt references to the prequels, it’ll be interesting to see how such exposition is handled.
10 What happened to C-3PO's arm?
Okay, yes – on a list filled with references to the fate of Jedi Knights and Sith Lords or the emotional connections of our cast of characters, an explanation of why C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) suddenly has a red left arm seems to be rather trivial. And that would probably be the exact answer that J.J. Abrams himself would give if we were to ask him directly; in recent interviews, he references the change in Threepio’s appearance as a mere way to mark the passage of time, to infer events that have occurred off-screen (much like Han Solo’s mentioning of that “bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell” at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back).
But this being Star Wars and all, there are two important items to note. First and foremost, there is always a story behind each and every detail, and if the film fails to provide an explanation, then the huge array of Expanded Universe material certainly will (and, indeed, a prequel comic entitled Star Wars Special: C-3PO has already been announced for next February).
And, secondly, could this seemingly innocuous detail be spun into a salient future plot point? When George Lucas originally wrote Episode IV: A New Hope, Ben Kenobi’s (Alec Guinness) straightforward explanation of the relationship between Anakin Skywalker (Sebastian Shaw) and Darth Vader (David Prowse) was all there was to the story; it wasn’t until Lucas and Kasdan starting breaking the story of Empire did the twist that the two characters were actually one and the same came into existence.
9 What happened to Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber?
Long rumored to play an important role in Episode VII, Abrams has only recently confirmed that Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber – the one first constructed by his father, Anakin (Hayden Christensen), and subsequently nabbed by Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) on the lava planet of Mustafar – does, indeed, show up in the new movie, to great effect. What role the 56-year-old weapon plays in the story will, of course, be seen in Force Awakens, but just how it managed to survive from the time of the original trilogy to the present is the greater question for our purposes – especially considering that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) lost his father’s saber while dueling him in the depths of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.
This is one area that Disney has actually managed to provide a little clue – in its theme parks, of all places. At both Disneyland Park in Anaheim and Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the Star Wars Launch Bay is a repository of film props, behind-the-scenes videos, and, of course, character meet-‘n-greets. Next to Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber is a plaque with this little description:
“Anakin Skywalker constructed this weapon at the start of the Clone Wars, and it was later passed to his son, Luke. Luke lost it in battle on Cloud City, but someone salvaged it from the city’s industrial depths.”
Color us intrigued.
8 What is Maz Kanata's role in the (back)story?
Unlike Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), who have all had their turn in the pre-release spotlight, the ancient and diminutive alien known as Maz Kanata has remained (largely) shrouded in mystery.
The character is important enough to the film to be included on the official poster – she’s next to R2-D2 in both the portrait and landscape versions – and in several of the trailers and commercials, to boot. We know that it is her castle that Han, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 can be seen approaching in the most recent trailer (and that this castle has formed the basis of one of the brand-new Expanded Universe short stories), that she is a pirate of some repute in the galaxy, and that, in case her extremely tiny size isn’t enough to give it away, she will be one of only two CGI-only characters in Force Awakens.
But what is it that makes her secret sanctum so special, particularly to the more dubious segments of galactic society? Why is she so fixated on eyes (“I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people,” she says in a commercial, presumably to Rey. “I see your eyes. I know your eyes”)? Is she Force-sensitive, even – perhaps – an ex-Jedi or Sith Lord? And will she survive the First Order bombardment seen in the previews to make it to Episode VIII?
7 Who are the Knights of Ren?
Much has already been made of the enigmatic Kylo Ren, the Sith Lord-wannabe who is so eager to finish the work that Darth Vader started five decades ago, he’s even fashioned a costume that emulates the last Dark Lord of the Sith’s, right down to the distorted vocoder. We know, for instance, that he has hand-crafted his own raw, unstable lightsaber, using an ancient design (hence the so-called cross guard that it features), that he’s the “apprentice” of the First Order’s supreme leader, Snoke, and that he’s a member of a group that calls itself the Knights of Ren.
Just what, exactly, these knights are is completely left open to speculation; J.J. Abrams and the rest of the cast and crew won’t touch the topic, and the only clue provided by the Expanded Universe is a mysterious group of Dark Side acolytes that sprung up shortly after Return of the Jedi and which worships the fallen Sith as something close to gods. It’s largely believed, however, that the full trailer includes a shot of several Ren Knights, and that the red-lightsaber-wielding warriors are meant to replace the Sith Lords from the previous two trilogies as the Star Wars universe’s new baddies.
Whoever they are and wherever they come from, we expect to see much more of them in future content, both on the big screen and on the printed page, for a long time to come.
6 Who is Anakin Skywalker's grandchild/children?
The Star Wars films – the main episodes, at any rate – are the purview of the Skywalker family, chronicling how the various generations become embroiled in the various conflicts that shape the very face of the galaxy (the fall of the Old Republic, the rise of the Empire, the defeat of Emperor Palpatine and the Dark Lords of the Sith, the institution of the New Republic, etc.). Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas’s handpicked successor as both the president of Lucasfilm and the executive producer of all things Wars, has gone on the record as stating that the sequel trilogy will continue the tradition… but has resolutely refused to explain how, exactly, this will be handled in the new films.
Indeed, the level of secrecy is so profound, the filmmakers refuse to disclose the full names of certain Force Awakens characters; as such, the internet has no shortage of theories as to just why and how Rey, Finn, or Kylo Ren – or all of them! – are the newest members of the Skywalker lineage, with the ramifications for the rest of the story wildly changing from candidate to candidate.
5 Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?
Yes, the mystical pirate Maz Kanata has largely been left as an undefined property, but at least audiences have an idea of what she looks like, sounds like, and acts like (if only thanks to the short stories).
This isn’t the case with Snoke, the Emperor Palpatine-esque figure who presides over the First Order and its galaxy-dominating plans. The closest viewers have come to getting direct exposure to the evil presence is in hearing his rich baritone in the very first teaser; otherwise, all information that we have regarding the character has been supplied directly by the cast and crew.
And, even here, there isn’t too terribly much to go on. We can assume that he’s a Force user, thanks to his mentoring of Kylo Ren and his mentioning of an awakening in the Force, but even this is, strictly speaking, a supposition. We know that he’s the only other CG-rendered character, but, even here, there’s no solid description of his appearance (he may even be several feet taller than a Wookie, according to some comments).
And with a film that already has so many villains in it – Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and, possibly, the other Knights of Ren – will there be enough screen time left over for Snoke to be a suitably effective, menacing part of the story?
4 Why isn't the Force balanced?
Of all the various narrative flourishes that George Lucas opted to introduce in the prequel trilogy, none is as ambiguous – or as potentially narratively fraught – as the prophecy of the Chosen One.
The concept of a legendary super-Force user dates all the way back to the development of The Empire Strikes Back, when the writer was playing around with the idea of bestowing the designation on Luke. It was ultimately discarded, obviously, but then resurrected for Anakin in the later films, presumably in an attempt to add a bit more weight to his character .
Add extra weight, it did – with Anakin rising up to strike down Darth Sidious, just as prophecy said he would, the long-established villains of the Star Wars mythos were removed from the chess board, helping to lead Lucas to declare that Episodes VII, VIII, and IX were narratively unnecessary.
It’s no understatement to say that the entire structural integrity of The Force Awakens revolves around the handling of this central-most concept. Will Abrams and company say that, yes, the Force is balanced, but there’s always a string of would-be baddies hanging around, threatening to disrupt peace and prosperity? (If so, Disney has carte blanche to make dozens of future episodes.) Or will they say that Anakin, after all, wasn’t the Chosen One, and that Luke still has some grand role to play? (If so, then what was the point of the previous trilogy?)
We’ll know soon enough.
3 Are Han and Leia still together?
Viewers of the original trilogy can be excused for assuming that General Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) rode off into the twin sunsets together, living happily ever after in romantic bliss, once Return of the Jedi ended – especially if those viewers had also partook of the Expanded Universe of novels, comic books, short stories, and videogames over the past 24 years, which depicted the married couple’s ongoing adventures.
If there’s anything that The Force Awakens’s two screenwriters, Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (who also helped write Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, along with the upcoming young Han Solo “Anthology” film), have taught us, however, it’s to take nothing for granted. The New Republic, for instance, may have been established over the past 30 years, but the new, much-heralded Jedi Order is nowhere to be seen, and even though the Galactic Empire has, indeed, been toppled, the offshoot First Order has risen in its place.
So what to expect about everyone’s favorite deep-space couple? The few scant snippets of them in the various trailers and commercials leaves us little to go on – despite them looking rather emotionally intense, which can be taken multiple ways – and the few comments that Abrams and Fisher have offered of the Resistance leader only paints a picture of a hardened veteran of one too many battles.
At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised either way, whether they’re still together or have drifted irrevocably apart.
2 Where is Luke Skywalker?
Ah – the question to end all questions.
It is obvious that Jedi Knight (or is that Master now?) Luke Skywalker is, at this point, the central-most mystery in The Force Awakens. Though we manage to hear his voice once or twice – and, more than likely, spot his robotic hand peeking out from a trademark Jedi robe – his face is completely absent from all marketing materials, and the entirety of the plot revealed thus far has him being conspicuously absent, leaving many fans to seriously ponder a question they thought they would never have to face: is it possible for a Star Wars sequel to not feature the protagonist of the original trilogy?
Regardless of how much screen time he may (or may not) end up having, his shadow looms large over all the narrative proceedings, with even the reappearance of his old lightsaber being enough to make large ripples in the storytelling pool. Indeed, figuring out Luke’s whereabouts is not only the key to unlocking the plot of the new movie – and, possibly, of the entire sequel trilogy – but, also, its 30-year backstory.
Have some hypotheses about what the answers to these questions are or how these particular mysteries will be resolved? Or, conversely, have your own unanswered topics you’re the most interested in getting addressed? Let the rest of the interstellar community know below in the comments.
Less than two weeks to go!