All your STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS questions answered – Episode III

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SPOILER WARNING: This post is part of several this week (check out Episode I and Episode II) 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!

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In the first two installments of this series, I’ve covered a lot of info, including the origins of the current state of Star Wars galaxy, who the new Dark Side power players are and whether Rey is actually a Skywalker or a Kenobi (or maybe even a nobody!), among others. So today we tackle the last few outstanding questions that need to be answered, and even sneak in a book recommendation!

  • Why did Maz Kanata have Luke’s lightsaber?

All this discussion about Rey’s heritage was of course kicked off by her awakening when she is drawn to Luke’s lightsaber. Now the last time we saw that weapon was in Empire Strikes Back when Vader chopped off Luke’s hand, sending the lightsaber tumbling into the atmosphere of Cloud City.

Back in July last year, Birth.Movies.Death‘s Devin Faraci reported a rumour that one of the drafts of the script opened with a shot of Luke’s severed hand, still holding the lightsaber, tumbling through space until it eventually crashlanded on a planet (somehow surviving atmospheric re-entry) where it’s found by a character, and that’s where the story kicks off. Somewhere along the line though, that scene got scrapped but it’s very clear that Abrams and co still have definite future plans for telling that tale as Kanata clearly says that it’s a question for another time.

It is a bit of an annoying question though, as it is a complete deus ex machina that Han just happens to take Rey to the one person in the entire galaxy that just happens to have Luke’s lightsaber.

  • What happened to Maz Kanata?

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Another related scene that got scrapped is the shot seen in the 2nd trailer of Maz handing the lightsaber to Leia at the Resistance headquarters. This clearly doesn’t happen, as the last we see of Maz is her climbing out of the wreckage of her castle and handing the saber to Finn before… Well, actually she literally just disappears out of the film at this point, so we never get to see that scrapped scene in the trailer which – just like the shot of Kylo Ren igniting his saber in the snow – has now ended up on the editing room floor. JJ Abrams explained why to EW:

“There’s a shot where Kylo Ren turns on his lightsaber, which was also not in the movie. There were a bunch of things we ended up not using.”

“At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to have her sitting around. Lupita [Nyong’o] did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt like going right just to go left, and it was unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out.”

  • How did Poe survive the crash on Jakku?

Speaking of scenes left out, when Finn and Poe crash their stolen TIE Fighter on Jakku, we never get to see Poe’s body. He’s just gone. Of course, about an hour later he just shows up again with almost no fanfare and a very quick explanation of having been tossed from the spaceship. In the novelization of The Force Awakens though, which actually differs from the movie in many ways (more about that later) we learn that he actually stumbles away from the crash site just as Finn is coming to it over an opposite hill, but thanks to his ears buzzing from a concussion, he cannot hear Finn’s screams. He eventually meets a local whom he saves from some trouble, and is rewarded with a trip to the nearest spaceport.

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What’s most interesting about Poe’s second act disappearance though is that it came about due to the fact that originally Poe was supposed to die in that crash. Actor Oscar Isaac was originally quite bummed when he learned of his character’s early demise, but luckily  for him – and for us as we got more of the very entertaining pilot – Abrams changed his mind, as Isaac explained (via Independent):

“I went back home, and I thought about it. Then I wrote [J.J. Abrams] and said, ‘Okay. I’ll do it!’ I figured it would be a cameo: I’ll come in, do my thing, and maybe it’s actually better not to have to sign myself up for three movies.”

“[But Abrams wrote back,] ‘Never mind. I’ve figured it out. You’re in the whole movie now.’

“I was like, ‘Holy sh*t! Alright, cool.’”

  • Who are Finn and Poe really?

This is not really a proper mystery to me, but some people are asking it so I’m including it. And the answer to both is simple: They are exactly who they say they are. Poe is actually a second generation Resistance fighter, and you can read all about the exploits of his Resistance fighter parents in the comic book ‘Star Wars: Shattered Empire’. Finn is also just an infant stolen by the First Order and trained from young to be a Stormtrooper.

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The leap that people are making that Finn’s actually the son of either Lando Calrissian or Mace Windu simply because he’s black is ridiculous and insulting and does nothing other than to take this vast literary universe and make it smaller for no apparent reason.

  • So why can Finn use a lightsaber?

Once again the answer is pretty simple here: Because he has hands. Nowhere has it ever been mentioned that non-Force adepts cannot use lightsabers. In fact a number of them have done so over the years. Anybody who can swing a sword – or perhaps one of those electrostaff weapons that Stormtroopers are trained with? – can swing a lightsaber quite handily. Just don’t expect them to start deflecting blaster bolts.

  • How can Finn and Rey stand up to Kylo Ren so well in a lightsaber duel?

One of the reasons people are looking for something more significant in Finn’s heritage, is because he does so well against Kylo Ren, a Jedi-in-training turned Sith. Except he really doesn’t. He gets owned and taken out in a few brief moments. And Kylo Ren does it while bleeding out from a massive wound from Chewie’s bowcaster – a weapon that the movie spends most of the second and third act hyping up about how unbelievably powerful it is.

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It’s Kylo’s wound – something that a lot of people seem to be overlooking – combined with the fact that he really doesn’t have much finesse as a swordsman, fighting emotionally like Luke did in Return of the Jedi, and Rey’s already established martial skills, that allows her to last as long as she does though. And even then she is on the back foot for literally the entire fight, doing nothing more than frantic defending right up until the moment when she finally centers herself and taps into the Force. It’s only then that she can turn the tables on an already wounded and tired Kylo Ren.

  • What has Luke been up to the whole time?

This something we simply don’t know at this point in time. It’s a mystery that will hopefully be explored in the coming films. What we do know though, is that it was never in the original plans to keep Luke off-screen until the film’s closing moments. Michael Arndt, who wrote the original draft of the screenplay before Abrams and Kasdan took over and changed the story direction to be more of a passing of the torch, revealed to EW that he had some very different plans for Luke but that they were problematic due to the Jedi master’s overwhelming presence.

“Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass. It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012.”

“It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh f–k, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do.’”

  • Who was Max Von Sydow’s character?

Before the movie, people spent plenty of time trying to figure out just who legendary screen veteran Max Von Sydow would be playing. I even took my own crack at a theory (waaaay off, by the way). And then, in the movie’s opening moments we discover that he’s an “old ally” named Lor San Tekka who’s found a clue to Luke’s location and before you can even process that thought he’s killed by Kylo Ren. But it seems that that may not be the last we hear of him.

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Firstly, who is Lor San Tekka? The ‘Star Wars Visual Dictionary’ and the official Star Wars site actually reveals a whole lot of his background, saying that he’s “a legendary traveler and explorer” who “helped Luke Skywalker recover secret Jedi lore that the Empire had tried to erase” after the Battle of Endor. This would explain why he knew Leia as a Princess. He apparently also “follows the dictates of the once-forbidden Church of the Force”. It also goes on to say that the “spiritual” San Tekka “has proven his worth to the New Republic and Resistance many times over.”

This actually leads to the most interesting theory about the character: We may see him again. In the past. San Tekka’s opening line when he hands over the information about Luke’s location is that “This will begin to make things right,” as if he’s atoning for something that happened in the past.

Could that something be revealed in the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One? We know that the Gareth Edwards directed film, the first of the planned standalone Star Wars spinoffs, is a heist film dealing with the stealing of the original Death Star’s plans three decades ago. Up until now all we’ve really known about that operation is that a lot of Bothans died in getting that info. Could Lor San Tekka have been involved somehow? It certainly fits the character profile to have helped out the resistance for that job, and Max Von Sydow’s age means that he would have been in his prime during those events.

Most intriguingly though is the fact that Madds Mikkelsen, a fellow Scandinavian actor who is conveniently thirty years younger than Von Sydow, is playing some mystery character in Rogue One that is being shrouded in secrecy. All we know is that it’s “an important role” and is “is actually not a bad guy.” Could Mikkelsenn be playing a younger Lor San Tekka? That will certainly be a cool way to link the two films.

  • Why is Captain Phasma so lame?

For all the fuss about Gwendoline Christie’s casting as the “Chrome Trooper” Captain Phasma, she really is a complete non-entity in the movie. She’s 100% the new Boba Fett: Look cool but do nothing significant and eventually get tossed into the garbage/sarlacc pit. But Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has already confirmed to the LA Times that this was just the start of Captain Phasma, that she will be back for Episode VIII and that “she’s an important character, a baddie in the best sense of the word.”

  • Who were all the cameos?

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JJ Abrams is clearly a gigantic Game of Thrones fan. Christie shot to fame as Brienne of Tarth on the HBO fantasy show, but she’s not the only GoT cast member in The Force Awakens. Also present is Jessica Henwick (Sandsnake Nymeria Sand) as an X-Win pilot in Poe’s squadron, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed) played a First Order Officer who helped with firing of the Starkiller Base, Miltos Yerolemou (Aria Stark’s “dance” teacher) is in Maz Kanata’s castle as a “bar patron”, and Mark Stanley (Grenn, one of the Night’s Watchman) is one of Kylo Ren’s Knights of Ren. And of course Max Von Sydow is actually going to be starring in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

We’ve also already mentioned that Ewan McGregor, Sir Alec Guiness (posthumously) and Frank Oz provide respective voices for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda in Rey’s vision. Then there’s also Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt, the junkyard owner who Rey works for. Warwick Davis, who played the Ewok Wicket in Return of the Jedi, is also a bar patron in Maz Kanata’s pub, and Carrie Fisher’s real life actress daughter Billie Lourd shows up as Resistance Lieutenant Connix, complete with a Princess Leia-like hairdo.

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Greg Grunberg and Ken Leung, who both appeared in Abrams’ Lost and are friends with the filmmaker, respectively appear as X-Wing pilot “Snap” Wexley and Resistance Admiral Statura. Movie composer Michael Giacchino, and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, both also friends/collaborators of JJ Abrams, play Stormtroopers FN-3181 and FN-9330, respectively.

But the biggest and most hilarious cameo though, is that of James Bond himself! Yep, Daniel Craig is actually in the movie and is none other than the Stormtrooper who Rey mind tricks into undoing her restraints and dropping his blaster!

  • Should I read the novelization for The Force Awakens?

This is probably not a question that many – or any of you – may be asking, but I’m going to answer it anyway: No. Well, sort of. If you’re familiar with Star Wars novels then you may know the story of how the original novelization of the first Star Wars movie, which inexplicably came out 6 months before the film, boasted several weird differences from the film it was supposed to be adapting. For one, Palpatine isn’t even a Sith Lord and is more of a stooge being controlled by other politicians. And the guy who wrote that book, Alan Dean Foster, just so happens to be the one who also penned the novelization for The Force Awakens, and once again he’s thrown in plenty of his own deviations.

So as a Star Wars fan, you probably want to know what those differences are, right? So why shouldn’t you read it? Well, because the folks over at i09 have already done so and listed all the major changes for your convenience!

We’ve already mentioned a few of these facts through the course of this series, but the biggest addition is that we learn that Supreme Leader Snoke has actually been around for ages, and has been working behind the scenes manipulating events all through the events of the previous films. Which does play nicely into the Snoke = Darth Plagueis theory. We also learn that the relationship between the New Republic and the Resistance is very testy, as the Republic may support the Resistance in secret but publicly denounces the organization as its afraid of antagonizing the First Order. This politicking results in Leia not having much love for the Republic, hence why she didn’t really seem too perturbed about the Senate being wiped out by the Starkiller Base.

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And speaking of the Starkiller Base, in the novel it works completely differently. Instead of drawing on the power of a sun – which is rather silly, since its pretty hard to find a steady supply of suns right in your backyard – it is powered by dark matter. It also doesn’t fire an impossibly long beam which then somehow splits up to hit several targets (movie science!), but rather it fires a ball of energy through hyperspace, which disappears just off the Starkiller’s “bow” and reappears in the core of a target planet causing the entire planet to go supernova (movie science again!) and destroy its entire star system.

But when it comes to the movie, sucking the juice out of a sun and firing a massive laser beam into five planets simultaneously obviously looks much cooler, and so here we are.

  • The Expanded Universe lives on! Sort of!

Yes, I know that that is not actually a question, but I feel that I need to point out the fact that Lucasfilm is most definitely living up to its promises. When the old Expanded Universe was scrapped, it was clearly said that the newly established Star Wars story group would not be so dumb as to toss away decades of really good stories, but would instead be re-appropriating some story beats to suit the new saga.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done, especially in regard to Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo-Organa. In the EU, Ben is actually the name of Luke’s son. Han and Leia instead have have twin children, Jacen and Jaina, with Jaicen being one of Luke’s Jedi students who gets seduced by the Dark Side and becomes a Sith Lord, forcing his sister Jaina – who is incredibly strong in the Force and is a naturally gifted pilot, just like Rey – to stop him.

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Kyp Durron, another padawan at Luke’s new Jedi Academy, also goes bad after he’s influenced by an ancient Dark Side power, like Supreme Leader Snoke. Under the influence of the Dark Side, he steals an Imperial superweapon called the Sun Crusher which he uses to destroy an entire star system by causing a supernova. Almost like the Starkiller.

So yes, the old Expanded Universe is still living on in some form. And yes, that means we can still keep our hopes up for the awesome appearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn, or – be still my geeky heart – an invasion of the Force-immune, technology hating Yuuzhan Vong!

And with that bit of geekery, we actually come to the end of this series! If we missed any questions, or if there’s something you just really want to have clarified, ask away in the comments below. I mean, it’s about time I put my raging Star Wars fanboyism to some use.

And to close, I’m going to leave you with this quote from JJ Abrams on why we should show a little patience with this movie:

“Can this movie actually also hold, ‘And Rey is this … And Finn is that … And this is where Poe is from …’ This is the first of a series. There is a story to be told. And it will be.”

May the Force (and hopefully some answers) be with you!

 

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 24, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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