Monday, December 7, 2015

The Force Has Awakened... And So Have the Theories [Contributor: Melanie]

It’s very nearly time to return to a galaxy far, far away. Now that December 2015 is officially here, I, like Charlie Sheen, do not sleep. I wait. I was first introduced to Star Wars a long time ago, when it was first announced they were going forward with the prequel trilogy. My parents decided that if those were going to be the Star Wars movies of my generation, I was going to get a proper education first. And so, they borrowed the trilogy (on VHS no less) from our neighbors and spent three nights giving me a crash course in the most important film franchise of our time (and a lesson in OH @#!& plot twists). Then I bought some toy lightsabers, started whacking my friends in the backyard [Assistant editor’s note: And, as an adult, scared her poor roommate by attacking her with her lightsaber at 3 AM – Jaime, aforementioned roommate], pretended I was using the Force to open automatic doors, and slogged through some interestingly executed backstory for Darth Vader in the early 2000s.

And now, here I am, 23 years old, stocked up on merch, and prepared to storm the theatre on December 17th at 10:35pm for amazing seats (jk, my theatre has assigned seats), and some overpriced Force Awakens-themed adult beverages that hopefully light up (my theatre also does that). And as excited as I am by the prospect of crying as the familiar blast of music and the title crawl appears on the screen, I was not always so hyped up for this movie. In fact, I initially hated the idea (and who knows, maybe it’s garbage and I’ll hate it again). Though Disney is in fact my former employer, I was annoyed at the idea of them cashing in on three more movies in a film series that I felt, narratively speaking, was complete and as near perfect as it could possibly get.

This all goes back to an old debate: is Star Wars the story of Darth Vader or of an entire family? I always fought hard to defend the former and shot down anyone who tried to tell me to watch the movies in the Machete Order because, by my analysis, all six Star Wars films follow a nearly-perfect Greek tragedy narrative structure. This is done purposely, as George Lucas heavily utilized Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces (a heavily marked-up book on my own shelf) in the creation of the initial film we know today as A New Hope to guide the developments of the screenplay and Luke’s story. However, it became an overarching plotline once Anakin’s story became the center of attention, and reshaped the traditional steps of a "hero’s journey" into something closer to a modern Greek tragedy: the story of a hero from childhood, into adulthood, downfall, and death. Sure, it’s messy and Hayden Christensen is annoying, but as a whole, Star Wars is an awesome piece of narrative heft. And for many, many years it remained the six-movie story of Anakin Skywalker.

But then it was announced in 2012 that a trilogy was in the works, focusing on a new set of characters and a new story. Thus, my beautiful saga of Anakin Skywalker was destroyed and morphed into the second argument I mentioned: the story of the Skywalker family. And that mentality has driven a lot of theories I’ll talk about below. While I eventually got over losing my "hero’s journey" lens on the films, there was another issue that arose out of this that was probably a lot more important to most audience members: the multiverse. Because Abrams chose to create his own story, decades of work in the canonical Extended Universe became simply one facet of the Star Wars multiverse. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, considering I never really delved too deeply into it beyond some novelizations of the movies and in-between graphic novels and the like, but I had friends who lived by the contributions to the EU, and were quite heartbroken to find characters and stories they’d been attached to for years become second fiddle to a blockbuster level story. Because let’s be real, as beloved as the EU is by cult audiences, history will likely remember the story we’re about to see on screen.

Multiverses aren’t bad, of course. Comic books have utilized them for years without too many big incidents. And recently the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved you could jive with the canon of your source material pretty fluidly. But, on the other hand, Spectre, the newest Bond film, generated a lot of dialogue on whether or not multiverses, specifically the Bond one, were something that couldn’t continue without irritation. Luckily, this particular case seems fairly easily remedied, as the EU wasn’t something the public widely consumed. That’s not to say the hard work of the EU writers and artists should just be tossed to the side because no one’s making a huge stink, but at the very least they can exist along side each other without too much friction from audiences.

But, back to the story of The Force Awakens itself. A story about which... we know nothing. We know Rey (Daisy Ridley) is something of a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku. We know Finn (John Boyega) is a Storm Trooper deserter. I have no idea who Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is beyond being a pilot. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Dark-affiliated Force sensitive with the world’s most non-logistical lightsaber.  Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are around, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)... exists... maybe? Basically, it follows a bit of the EU where the Empire makes something of another go at it, this time as the First Order, led by another Dark-affiliated Force sensitive Supreme Leader Snoke. And that’s really all we know.

But, my sweet summer children, that is where THEORIES come in. And here they are, the most prominent theories the Internet has collectively wrestled up:

Rey is a Skywalker

This is possibly the only thing every corner of the Internet unanimously agrees on. Like, everyone collectively decided it and just ran with it. People have accepted it as canon to the point where there are some pretty popular posts on Tumblr including Rey in the Skywalker family tree. Why does this make sense? Well first off, like I said, if this isn’t the story of the Darth Vader, then it’s the story of his family as a whole. And why else would we care about a rando girl wandering the desert unless she fits in with our previous canon of main characters who are all, in some way, affiliated with the Skywalker family?

Furthermore, she was abandoned by her family as a child with no clues to their identity or where they are. CONVENIENT. Not to mention she looks enough like previous Skywalker ladies (Leia, Padme, Shmi) that I’m willing to buy it. Most people assume she is Leia’s daughter, but if Luke is MIA at the beginning of the film as the synopsis suggestions, then that jives with her abandonment. Also daddy issues are a running thing in this family.

Kylo Ren is a Skywalker

This is the second most proposed theory out there. A fair number of people tried suggesting Ren was just Luke gone bad, but considering there are set photos of Adam Driver sans mask, that has been debunked.

So what’s the evidence here? Well, we were explicitly told Ren is not Kylo’s real last name, but a title from the Knights of Ren, an order to which he belongs. So, that’s suspicious. And after the second trailer portrayed him worshipping Vader’s armor and promising to “finish what [he] started,” many people assumed he was referring to the one goal Vader had from the beginning: establish himself and his family as a ruling power in the galaxy. And in the EU (and in general science) twins run in families. Leia had a pair of twins herself, and some of Luke’s descendants ending up being twins. So, he’s possibly the literal evil twin brother of Rey. The struggle over there is real.

Rey is a Force-sensitive

While Finn is the one shown in trailers and posters to be wielding Luke’s old lightsaber, I will note all those images are from the same scene. Which tells me, and others, it might be a fake-out. Especially since Rey seems to be the one all that Force talk in the trailers is directed to. And one Duracell ad showed a young girl dressed as Rey wielding a green lightsaber and taking on some Storm Troopers. SUSPICIOUS. And if Rey truly is a Skywalker descendent, there is like a .00006% chance she’s not a Force-sensitive, but what do I know about Punnett Squares?

Vader’s relics are important

Not sure to what end, but we’ve seen some focus on Vader’s goodies throughout the trailers and tidbits of information. One theory tried taking a crack at the plot and suggested that after Finn obtains Luke’s old lightsaber (separated from him along with his hand in Empire Strikes Back), he and Rey work to return it to him while Kylo Ren, a collector of Vader items, hunts them down for it (since it was Anakin’s before it was Luke’s). The movie, if nothing else, seems to use Vader as a shadow throughout from Ren’s obsession to Luke’s peace out into obscurity.

A character from the original trilogy will bite it.

Star Wars thrives on narrative symmetry and, of course, the rules of the "hero’s journey." This means — like Qui-Gon Ginn and Obi-Wan — a mentor figure will be kicking the bucket at some point to give our hero the tools to move forward toward their destiny. If we’re following the hero journey arc directly, it’s got to be some kind of Jedi character (though that’s not necessarily a rule). Anyone from a previous trilogy who now serves as a mentor figure is fair game. And right now, that looks like Han. This is further worrisome if you factor in Ford’s repeated wish to George Lucas to kill Han off in the original trilogy. He may have gotten his wish.

Those are the big theories at the moment; there are certainly a spattering of fan crack theories all over the Internet, but these are the big ones everyone seems to be debating. I’m excited to see how these pan out, but mostly I just really want Rey to get a lightsaber and kick booty. And, you know, hopefully I can avoid having all my hopes and dreams crushed in the meantime. Maybe both will happen and then we’ll all go home happy.

Look for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in theatres December 18th!


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