With the Skywalker saga freshly behind and Star Wars’ future lying somewhere beyond (or, more likely, far in the past), it is time to recap the main nine saga films. Since I watched all of these recently, I have a pretty clear picture of each movie. Note: as of right now, I have only seen The Rise of Skywalker once, so that film is subject to the most movement in future ranking revisions. Okay, let’s get started!
So Star Wars: the Force Awakens is out and everyone (including me) has an opinion on it. Like it, love it, hate it, or exhibit a fair amount of indifference, Episode VII is here to stay. Now, we as the movie-going public can look forward to Episode VIII… and Rogue One… and the zillion other yearly movies that Disney is no doubt already scheming over.
Now is again the time to speculate. After spending months wondering “who is Rey,” fans can now wonder “who is Rey?” until at least the release of Episode VIII in 2017. The mystery of Rey’s identity was a focus in the Force Awakens, with subtle and not so subtle hints to the character’s origins. Warning: Spoilers follow.
She is strong with the force and good at fixing things. With Kylo Ren’s Skywalker origins having been revealed, many believe that Rey’s are soon to follow. Who is she – Ben Solo’s hidden sister or Luke Skywalker’s estranged daughter? Well, what if she’s not either. The big revelation regarding Rey could very well be the lack of anything mysterious or Skywalker-related…. but that’s not fun to write about. So here is my theory:
Rey is the clone of Anakin Skywalker. On the surface, this sounds ludicrous and wildly improbable… but let’s look at what the film gives us.
Rey is exactly like Anakin Skywalker
From force prodigy to being good with machines, to growing up on a desert planet, to not knowing how to interact romantically in any way, shape, or form – Rey’s defining characteristics are awfully similar to those of our podracing protagonist from the prequel trilogy. At least the whining and natural moodiness appear to have vanished. Those improvements were probably high priority for Anakin 2.o.
Luke Skywalker has some serious explaining to do in Episode VIII. Without him, the First Order was able to destroy the new Coruscant (not actual Coruscant… for some reason) and kill Han Solo. Not to mention the countless other lives ruined by the First Order in various battles. He is a jedi, a guardian of peace and justice – seriously, wtf man?
While Kylo Ren’s fall and the actions of Supreme Leader Not-Palpatine go a long way to explain Luke’s initial disappearance, they come up short of explaining away everything. Namely – Rey is obviously important, important enough to be hidden. Or feared enough to be kept away.
If Luke Skywalker discovered a clone of his father, I’m going to guess he would have mixed feelings about it. How do you train a clone of the Chosen One? No pressure – last time someone trained this person poorly, the galaxy fell to the Sith. Kylo Ren has screwed things up enough, and he is nowhere near as powerful. After failing with Kylo, how could Luke believe that he could train Rey? Better to hide her away and then… go stare out at an ocean for the next indeterminate amount of time.
Okay, Luke’s absence still needs more explanation – moving on.
The Mention of Clones in the Force Awakens
I think there is one thing most Star Wars fans can agree on: we want to forget the prequels. While not the worst things ever (this is the worst thing ever), they were deeply flawed. For every one thing done right, at least two things made us cringe. It made sense that, while Force Awakens was deeply evocative of the original trilogy, the prequels were hardly mentioned. Of the few minor nods to Episodes I-III, by far the most explicit was General Hux’s mention of clones.
In storytelling, a plot element – especially a fantastical one, cannot be introduced out of left field. The groundwork must be laid to insure that the revelation is accepted. Part of what made the revelation of Darth Vader work so well in Empire Strikes Back was the fact that some ground work had been laid in A New Hope. Luke’s father’s death is mentioned multiple times, and Uncle Owen’s dark remarks on Luke being too like his father are allowed to take on a whole new meaning.
While Hux’s comments are nowhere near that insightful, it still serves to refresh the audience. Clones have been a large part of Star Wars, and the idea may be making a comeback in the new trilogy.
Anakin’s lightsaber Calls to Rey
Yeah the clone mention is pretty small, but how about Anakin’s lightsaber going nuts when Rey gets a hold of it. As an audience, we have never seen this happen before, not even when Luke held his father’s lightsaber for the first time in A New Hope. We are aware of force-strong artifacts and places (notably Yoda’s cave in Empire Strikes Back) that are able to create visions, but usually those visions have so far been very personal. Rey’s vision does not include her family (almost as if they don’t exist) but instead shows seemingly random events. The destruction of Luke’s temple might make a lot more sense if Rey was there, maybe it was she that Supreme Leader Not-Palpatine came looking for in the first place.
Regardless of the vision, the fact that Anakin’s lightsaber reacted so strongly to Rey cannot be ignored. It suggests an incredibly deep bond between the two, almost as if awakening the Chosen One yet again.
Star Wars is the Saga of Anakin Skywalker
While other stories may be told as side pieces, the main drive of the previous six Star Wars movies has been the life of Anakin Skywalker. Star Wars has so far chronicled his rise and fall, his life and death. With the sequel trilogy, the natural problem emerged: what then?
Life – Death – Resurrection. Star Wars has long placed its roots in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory. Part of Campbell’s structure includes a “Return” phase following the “Atonement” where the hero returns “victorious” in some way to their previous life. It could be argued that Anakin began his return at the moment of his atonement and that Rey represents the final step: A reincarnation back into a previous state, minus the desire for power (the fatal flaw) that plagued Anakin. Rey so far has shown none of Vader’s more destructive tendencies.
Lor San Tekka
I know what most of you are saying: no, they’re not nonsense words. This is the name of the elderly character played by Max von Sydow at the beginning of this movie. It is a small role, with Tekka dying almost immediately. It is, however, very curious. Why does he have a piece of the Skywalker map and what is he doing on Jakku, so close to Rey? Adding to it is this quote from the character:
What did he do that was wrong? Did that mistake have anything to do with Rey? It seems too much coincidence that two important people would be living on the same backwater planet for entirely different reasons. Tekka is an older man so whatever he did could be some years in the past. Did he create Rey as part of some old plot against the Republic? Who knows, but Tekka’s presence indicates that Luke had someone keeping an eye on Rey. Someone he trusted with his map… to him… that map made no sense.
The Solo Red Herring
Okay, remember how when Vader said “Luke, I am your father” and the audience was struck with surprise? Show of hands – would anyone actually be surprised to learn that Rey was Ben’s sister or Luke’s daughter? In order for a twist to work, it has to be surprising and feel like it is propelling the story forward. After Empire, every Star Wars fan would be on edge for a family connection reveal. That’s why Force Awakens simply told its audience that Kylo Ren was Han Solo’s son. Giving that reveal any build up would draw way too much of a direct comparison with the single greatest emotional moment in the Star Wars series. You can blow up another Death Star, you cannot surprise reveal another family connection.
Yet having Kylo Ren be Ben Solo, coupled with Rey’s age and natural abilities, naturally allows the audience to wonder just who Rey’s parents are, rather than wondering if they exist or not. It directs thought away from one possibility and towards another.
Rey has met Han Solo, Leia, and Luke. If she was related to any of them in the obvious parent-child relationship, you would hope it would have come out by now (especially if she is Leia’s daughter).
Who is Rey? It is a question we will ask and speculate on until the movie is bound to disappoint some of the more clever theories. But for now, consider this. Whether a clone or a messianic resurrection, it is at least plausible that Rey is Anakin Skywalker. The main character is the old villain? When was the last time a Star Wars story did that:
While waiting to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week, I re-watched my least favorite Star Wars film: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. For weeks, as the hype built up and we waited with bated breath to see what director J.J. Abrams would do, I heard a lot of renewed hatred for the prequels.
People really hate those movies. They have been ripped to pieces in the years since their release. Video reviews (longer than an hour each) have been created to talk about what trash they are. For the record – I think that pretty much every criticism of the prequels is valid. They are a poorly acted, wooden mess of a story. That said… I don’t think that any film, even Attack of the Clones, was outright horrible on its own.
That may be the reason, beyond the fact that it’s Star Wars, that the prequel trilogy inspired such hatred: it’s not entirely awful. There is some good there… but it’s broken. It’s too weighed down with all the problems going wrong to ever let the innocent, fun charm of the story shine through. I’ve seen – and forgotten about – many films that are just crap. The prequels, for all their faults, stand at least as memorable.
They attempted to add something real and new to the Star Wars universe. They failed.
Then I saw the movie… (minor spoilers to follow)
Let me say this up front: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not a bad film. It’s fun, it has great performances (particularly Daisy Ridley as Rei and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren), and it has a lot of the heart that was missing from Lucas’ CGI heavy prequels. I absolutely would recommend seeing it in theaters.
That being said – this is not the “sequel” I was looking for.
The quotation marks should say everything. Let me give you a premise: members from the Resistance (not the Rebellion – totally different “R” word) have to get a droid that has secret plans to help them stop the First Order (doesn’t even start with an “E”) and stop their use of a massive super weapon capable of blowing up planets.
To be fair, the droid this time around does not have the plans to the Death Star, *cough*, excuse me – to the Star Killer, it has part of a missing map to find Luke Skywalker – the man whose absence seems to be dooming the galaxy. Still, the plot unfolds with quite a feeling of retreading. Even Rei’s origins as an orphan on an out-of-the-way desert world seem overly familiar.
And unlike Return of the Jedi, which had a similar structure to New Hope (start on Tatooine, finish by blowing up a Death Star) but different feel… Force Awakens never breaks the New Hope mold. Its climax hits nearly all the same notes as its predecessor.
Finally, we must mention the (maybe) main villain: Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced by the one and only Andy Serkis). In general, the villains of Force Awakens are a little conceptually weak, but Snoke stands head and shoulders above the others in this regard. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a shriveled, scarred old man with vague desires of revenge – or some evil motivation – who likely has advanced knowledge of the dark side of the force. But he doesn’t wear a hood – so, you know, totally different from the Emperor.
At the moment, critics and fans are eating up the “nostalgia” of this movie, but it leaves me worried. Lucas’ prequels may have failed, but at least they were trying to do something different. This movie plays on the “remember how awesome this was/felt” feeling way too much.
For example: the cantina scene in New Hope – iconic. Seeing all the aliens gathered around, drinking and playing games, opened up the idea of a huge galaxy. The Force Awakens has the exact same sequence, intended to create the exact same feeling… except I had seen it before.
“Do, or do not. There is no try.” These were the words of Master Yoda in Empire Strikes Back… and they seem to have been the mantra of the movie. Lucas tried and failed to do something new – so don’t try anything new. The Force Awakens is fun, but I have a feeling that – as time goes on – it will lose much of the praise it is currently receiving. It has too many new elements to be a good remake, and too many remake elements to make for a really interesting (or truly great) sequel.
For a universe so rich in original stories (Heir to the Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight) this may be a sign of the dark side. Disney’s bold plan for a sequel to Avengers was just… recreating the Avengers after all. The vision was lacking. We may never know what Lucas’ original idea for Episode VII was, but I’m going to guess it wasn’t “let’s just do A New Hope again.”