SPOILER WARNING: This post is part of several this week (check out Episode I here) in which I will be breaking down, explaining, examining and discussing several different plot points in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and attempting to answer the mysteries they’ve brought up. So if you haven’t watched the movie yet – and why the heck not?! – then you should back out of this article right now! This is your final SPOILER WARNING!
I loved The Force Awakens. It’s one of my favourite movies of the year. But I’m not blind to the fact that it has several problems in its script. That being said, I feel like I have to preface today’s post with something that has seemingly been forgotten by many of The Force Awakens’ most vocal critics: There is a big difference between a plot hole and a mystery. The latter is a question that is yet to be answered, whereas a plot hole is an accidental (or sometimes not so accidental) gap in narrative logic. Toss out a “mystery” with no effective payoff though, and it could turn into a plot hole.
The Force Awakens, unfortunately has both, plot holes and mysteries. And most of them revolve around the characters and their actions we’ll speak about today. So let’s start off with one which at first glance looked like a plot hole, but which has since been salvaged by the filmmakers.
- Why doesn’t Leia have Force powers?
When Master Yoda mentioned in Return of the Empire that there was “another” hope for the Light Side, he was of course referring to Leia. However, in her brother’s absence, she seemingly hasn’t done anything hopeful when it came to the Force. We do see her seemingly feel Han’s death, but that’s about all the Force sensitivity she displays. Which is kind of lame.
In the now abandoned Expanded Universe stories, she also never became a full-fledged Jedi as her duties as the head of the New Republic kept her too busy, but there she at least received a modicum of training from Luke which allowed her to accomplish small Force feats and even use her abilities to “read” her political opponents. In The Force Awakens though she doesn’t even do that. So what gives?
IGN asked J.J. Abrams the exact same question at a press junket recently, and the director explained that once again Leia was just too busy doing something else.
“It was a great question and one that we talked about a lot — even with Carrie [Fisher] — if there was another, why did she not take advantage of this natural Force strength that she’s got?”
“One of the answers was that it was simply a choice that she made.That her decision to run the rebellion and, ultimately, this resistance and consider herself a general as opposed to a Jedi, it was simply a choice that she took. Not that there’s any regret that she could have [become a Jedi] and didn’t.”
“Clearly, we’ve seen, and will see again, that she’s still Force strong. It’s something that is an intrinsic piece of her character.”
So yes, she chooses not to be a Jedi. But she may still unchoose that path in the future.
- Exactly who is Rey and what happens during her awakening?
Speaking of choosing to be a Jedi… By far the film’s largest mystery surrounds Rey and her burgeoning Force powers. When we first meet her, she’s merely an orphaned scavenger on a backwater planet that just happens to be in the right place at the right time to get swept up in this galactic adventure. And then she goes to Maz Kanata’s castle and encounters Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber and suddenly everything changes. Within the space of just a few narrative beats, Rey starts exhibiting amazingly powerful Force abilities, including Force visions and mind tricks with no explanation given as to how she’s pulling all of this off.
The first response to this is that it’s just poor writing, that it’s all just convenient plot holes and that Rey is a “Mary Sue” (a negative term used to describe a female character created by amateur writers as impossibly perfect, heightened versions of themselves who is just awesome at everything because she just is). The “Mary Sue” label is rubbish though, as Rey is a fully formed character with flaws and a proper arc, and the The Force Awakens actually gives us some major clues that there’s something more going on here than just underwritten power fantasies.
Firstly there’s the fact that Luke’s lightsaber actually calls out to her, something we’ve never seen happen to any other Force sensitive characters. Then she has the vision in which she sees Kylo Ren striking down the Jedi students and betraying Luke. And when Ren mind probes her, he sees images of a craggy island in her head. A craggy island much like the one that Rey eventually meets Luke on. So how could she have “seen” those things?
The most popular theory is that she is actually a Skywalker, specifically Luke’s daughter. Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has previously stated that the movies are all essentially telling the story of the Skywalker line from Anakin to Luke and now to the new characters. Technically, Kylo Ren is a Skywalker and his story is already being told, but it’s possible that Rey is one too.
It could be that Luke trained her quite young, but then abandoned her on Jakku as a child (wearing clothing that is very similar to a Padawan’s dress code, by the way) to try and protect her from Kylo Ren and his Knights after they turn to the Dark Side. If so he would more than likely have suppressed her memories, but her “awakening” in the presence of the lightsaber brings out those innate abilities and memories, hence her later suddenly knowing how to do a mind trick or somehow having an idea of where Luke is.
The ancient Maz Kanata also drops a further clue when she tells Rey that the lightsaber once passed from Anakin Skywalker to Luke Skywalker and now it belongs to Rey. Plus, there’s the fact that Rey definitely exhibits an incredible knack for fixing things and is an amazingly gifted natural pilot, much like Anakin and Luke.
Then there’s also the odd situation when Rey and Chewie finally make it back to the Resistance base after the death of Han Solo, and Leia walks right past Chewie, Han’s almost life-long best friend and partner, and instead embraces Rey, a girl she has supposedly never met before. Does she know something we – and Rey – don’t?
The evidence certainly seems overwhelming, and the incredibly full display of emotion on Luke’s face when he eventually sees Rey could certainly also be construed as recognition for his now grown up daughter. That being said, I really don’t like this theory and hope against hope that it isn’t true.
Kylo Ren is already the legacy character we need to continue the Skywalker story. His arc with Han Solo is poignant because it’s a reversal of that of Luke and Vader: this time it’s a father who tries to redeem his son by still finding the good in him. So do we need another character in on the same deal? Personally, while I do think she is an ex-student of Luke’s who may have been abandoned to protect her, I think she’s just that: An ex-student. No Skywalker lineage at all.
Keeping her a normal, but extremely Force-sensitive orphan opens up this universe, not just for the audience who now have an “every-woman” character to latch onto, but also so that it’s now no longer just this elitist tale being told about a single family. After all, the Skywalkers may be extremely powerful in the Force, but there have been stronger Force users before them and it certainly stands to reason that there will be more after them. This is something that Abrams feels strongly about and has spoken about in public as well (via /Film):
“To me, Star Wars was never about science fiction —it was a spiritual story. And it was more of a fairytale in that regard. For me when I heard Obi-Wan say that the Force surrounds us and binds us all together, there was no judgement about who you were. This was something that we could all access.
Being strong with the Force didn’t mean something scientific, it meant something spiritual. It meant someone who could believe, someone who could reach down to the depths of your feelings and follow this primal energy that was flowing through all of us. I mean, that’s what was said in that first film! And there I am sitting in the theater at almost 11 years old and that was a powerful notion.
And I think this is what your point was, we would like to believe that when shit gets serious, that you could harness that Force I was told surrounds not just some of us but every living thing. And so, I really feel like the assumption that any character needs to have inherited a certain number of midi-chlorians or needs to be part of a bloodline… It’s not that I don’t believe that as part of the canon, I’m just saying that at 11 years old, that wasn’t where my heart was.
And so I respect and adhere to the canon but I also say that the Force has always seemed to me to be more inclusive and stronger than that.”
On top of that, making Luke be Rey’s father opens up the can of worms of who her mother is. Every single fan of the now defunct Expanded Universe will want it to be Mara Jade, an extremely popular – and pretty badass – character that Luke married in the EU novels and had 3 kids with. That would leave Episode VIII writer/director Rian Johnson the unenviable task of bringing her to life on-screen, and to not only do it perfectly or face the wrath of fandom, but now having to distract from Rey’s journey to tell her mother’s own incredible backstory. Make it somebody other than Mara Jade, some minor character we’ve never heard of, and you don’t have to tell that story, yes, but once again fans are breaking out the pitchforks and torches because now it’s not Mara Jade.
And if I may just digress for a second here, as there’s a scene that seriously left me rankled: Leia hugging Rey after Han’s death? Now that just smacks of nothing more than bad writing to me. Even if Rey actually was Luke’s daughter, Leia should still have hugged Chewie first. There’s just far too much emotional history to have brushed it aside like that. It’s kind of insulting. And it could so easily have been fixed by just having Leia and Chewie – the two most important people in Han’s life – embrace and console each other for a bit while Rey stood awkwardly to one side. Leia could then have spotted her, and pulled her in. That would not only make a lot more narrative sense but it would also sell the emotional loss of Han even more. But no, Chewie gets given the cold shoulder for some strange reason. And I hated it!
- If not a Skywalker, then who could Rey be?
There is another theory though about Rey’s parentage, and it’s one that has actually been around since way before The Force Awakens was released, and for which there’s actually some evidence in the movie. Before the cast was announced, there were plenty of rumours surrounding the script and one indicated that there was to be a female lead who was the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The animated Clone Wars TV series actually provided Obi-Wan with a love interest in Mandalorian leader Duchess Satine Kryze with whom he stayed for a year, and during which time he could have fathered a child who could theoretically have gone on to have a child of their own. A child Luke would train, before hiding away on a desert planet, much like was done to him.
And here’s the kicker: When Rey experiences her vision, she hears numerous voices. JJ Abrams has since revealed that there are several voices, even including Frank Oz’s Yoda, and that “the idea of the voices was, we wanted the audience to feel – but not necessarily be presented right in your face — this idea that familiar, Force-strong voices were connecting with her. At least as well as they could.” There is one voice that is the most prominent though and it can be clearly heard saying: “Rey, you have taken your first steps.”
Who does that voice belong to? Obi-Wan Kenobi. Both of them. Yes, both of them, as JJ Abrams revealed that they used a sample of Sir Alex Guiness saying the word “afraid” and then snipped it into “Rey”, after which they “asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the [rest of the] line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever… So when you hear Obi-Wan talk to Rey it is both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor doing the voice.”
Not only is that pretty cool, but it actually makes sense that the lightsaber is now calling out Rey. After all, it was in the possession of Obi-Wan for decades longer than either Anakin or Luke had it. His progeny would have every right to it. Plus, this would mean that her fighting Kylo Ren is another Kenobi vs Skywalker duel.
- How did R2-D2 get the rest of the map to Luke and why did he wake up when he did?
Despite reportedly having been stuck in “low power mode” since Luke left, R2-D2 magically wakes up right when the heroes return from the final battle, having lost a comrade and needing some hope, and just so happens to have the final piece of the star map that leads Rey right to Luke. It’s extremely convenient timing.
So was there another reason for R2-D2’s prescient waking? Maybe Luke turning him on remotely via the Force? Nope, turns out that Abrams, and co-writers Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan just used some creative license – logic be damned – to give R2-D2 his big “Hurrah!” moment at the right time, as they revealed to EW:
“The whole movie is a series of character introductions. You want all your character introductions to be A-plus. You want to give each person their moment. Even the Millennium Falcon. That was [producer] Bryan Burk’s idea. They’re running to get a ship, it blows up, and you turn and there’s the back-up – the Millennium Falcon.”
“I had originally written R2 and C-3PO showing up together, and Larry very intelligently said, ‘You want to keep them separate from each other. And of course I’m like [joking], ‘No, no, no, Larry. You don’t get it at all!’”[R2-D2’s arrival had to be presented as a kind of delayed gratification, building up the audience’s expectation before the droid rolls out and starts beep-blooping.]
“While it may seem, you know, completely lucky and an easy way out, at that point in the movie, when you’ve lost a person, desperately, and somebody you hopefully care about is unconscious, you want someone to return.”
Abrams and co even have some in-story reason for explaining how R2-D2 ended up with map.
The story group’s thinking went back to the 1977 original movie, when R2-D2 accessed the Empire’s mainframe as the heroes searched for the captured Princess Leia. “We had the idea about R2 plugging into the information base of the Death Star, and that’s how he was able to get the full map and find where the Jedi temples are,” Arndt said.
Abrams says he chose to spell this out indirectly in the movie because he didn’t want the story to get bogged down in “how s–t happened 30 years ago.”
“But the idea was that in that scene where R2 plugged in, he downloaded the archives of the Empire, which was referenced by Kylo Ren,” Abrams said. Thirty-eight years later, in both our own and galactic time, that data becomes useful in The Force Awakens when a new droid approaches the dormant R2.
“BB-8 comes up and says something to him, which is basically, ‘I’ve got this piece of a map, do you happen to have the rest?’” Abrams said. “The idea was, R2 who has been all over the galaxy, is still in his coma, but he hears this. And it triggers something that would ultimately wake him up.”
All of that leads you to ask why it is that BB-8, who is seemingly very chummy with C3PO and has been part of the Resistance for a while, is now only “meeting” R2-D2? Also, shouldn’t the fact that R2-D2 still has the Empire archives have been mentioned in the movie? I mean Kylo Ren mentions that they got their portion of the map from there, but there’s nothing mentioned in relation to R2-D2. Like I said up top: Plot holes.
And tomorrow we’ll fill a few more of them as we look at the (not-so) mysterious parentage of Finn and Poe, reveal exactly who Max Von Sydow’s character is, unmask all the cameo actors and Easter eggs you may have missed in the movie and also discover what the writers’ original plans were for Luke.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: December 23, 2015