Star Wars: The Last Jedi may resolve a lot of The Force Awakens' dangling threads, but there is one peculiar plot hole J.J. Abrams created which Rian Johnson refuses to answer: the mystery of Luke's lightsaber.
Episode VIII is an almost perfect sequel to both the classic era films and The Force Awakens, continuing the story and developing the characters in a wholly faithful way. And it answers many of the big questions. We finally get some resolution to the mystery of Rey's parents, why Kylo Ren turned to the dark side, why Luke went to the First Jedi Temple and even how the upstart First Order funds itself, all while the story continues apace towards a new and exciting dawn.
However, there's one dangling question from The Force Awakens - one so major that it's basically a plot hole - that isn't even addressed: the Skywalker saber. The laser sword that reappeared magically in Episode VII plays a pivotal role in its sequel, both symbolically and narratively, yet not once is how it can even still exist after the events of The Empire Strikes Back, a film that came out almost four decades ago, explained.
Why The Skywalker Lightsaber Is A Plot Hole
The Skywalker Lightsaber Shouldn't Exist
The Skywalker saber - originally Anakin's used in the Clone Wars, later taken by Obi-Wan Kenobi and given to Luke - was seemingly lost on Bespin when Darth Vader chopped off Luke's hand, sending it and his weapon into the bowels of Cloud City - and, based on what happened to Luke when he lept a few moments later, presumably towards the gas giant's surface.
Yet in The Force Awakens, it appeared seemingly out of nowhere in Maz's castle, giving Rey a Force vision that nodded to the Vader-Luke showdown but never showed what happened after. The only response given by Maz is that the origin was "a good question, for another time". While it's true her home was under attack from the First Order and so things were a little rushed, it felt like an incredible cop-out. That's especially true as the saber became more important later on, being the object of Kylo Ren's desire in the final conflict with Finn and Rey, as well as what the latter presents to Luke Skywalker in the film's final shot.
The accepted solution is that the saber got caught somewhere in Cloud City and was picked up by some lower level worker, with it passing through hands across the galaxy until eventually winding up at Kanata's. This was what happened in Legends, where the saber and hand were obtained by Grand Admiral Thrawn, who cloned Luke. In canon, though, that's one major coincidence in a film already heavy with them, and looking behind-the-scenes we get an idea why.
Why The Plot Hole Was Such A Problem
The original opening of The Force Awakens was going to have Luke's severed hand floating through space before it dropped into a planet's atmosphere (either Takadona's and straight into Maz's backyard or Jakku where it, not the map, would be the film's MacGuffin). That's an even bigger coincidence than what we got, presumably changed when it was pointed out Cloud City isn't in space and so made little sense (Kylo Ren's attack on Jakku also has much greater plot momentum as a post-crawl beat, anyway). Less weird but just as intriguing, an entire section of Episode VII where Maz went to the Resistance base on D'Qar and gave the weapon to Leia was cut. Quite what this would have happened here is unknown, but it certainly could have been set to provide an answer and there simply wasn't time in the finished edit.
Basically, they struggled to make the saber work in multiple ways, and it's not difficult to see why; while it's obviously not as big a question as many of Episode VII's other dangling plot points, the saber is a greater problem because it links directly to previous movies. Rey, Kylo and Snoke were all freshly introduced, so had freedom and audience favor on their side. The lightsaber was pre-existing and so a lack of answers created a logic gap: a plot hole. One we likely won't get a solution to.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019