Saturday, January 02, 2016

Star Wars Episode VII - My Take.

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

On Thursday, December 17th, I was lucky enough to attend a private screening of the long awaited Star Wars Episode VII.
I have to tell you, I saw the original 1977 Star Wars when I was 8-years-old,  and this latest installment made me feel like that same little boy. The magic and the drama were back and I loved every minute of it.

I went back to see it again on the following two Saturdays, and was able to put on the English major hat and really watch the film for the story elements.  And, you know what? I still liked the movie.

Throughout this post I’m going to focus on specific people and moments from the movie, and give my opinion about them.  There will be spoilers, so if you have yet to see the movie, stop reading, get over to the movie theater and then come back and finish reading.

You Have Been Warned!

I think that I'll start with Rey, a scavenger, raised in the desert of Jakku, picking valuable parts from the leavings of the Imperial civil war. While we are being introduced to her we find that she is waiting for something, or someone, as indicated by her scratched calendar on the walls of the AT-AT in which she lives and by a comment she made to the droid BB-8, stating that she is “waiting for her family.”
She makes her living by picking valuable parts from the downed spacecraft that litter the planet Jakku, and she's very good at it, either by nature or by training. She trades these parts for food rations, and because she is able to find the best and most valuable parts, their value drops from day to day.

There is so much that we are not told about Rey, so here are my theories: Rey is a Skywalker. We don’t know if she is the offspring of Luke or of Leia, but I tend to think that she is Luke’s child.  The reason will come clear in a moment.
She's a natural pilot who, like Luke and Anakin, can pilot anything through an almost instinctual use of the force. She may have had some training in this regard, but for some reason she cannot remember her past. She is, also, a natural mechanic like Anakin and in some ways Luke.  She is talented in the force, and knows how to use it, probably through trial and error, but most likely through some training she has had as a youngling, but which she has mostly forgotten.
Why is she on Jakku? Most likely to keep her hidden from Snoke. With Luke being pursued by the First Order and with Leia taking command of the resistance forces, the Skywalker siblings probably went to the most familiar tactic they knew of, which is to hide a force sensitive child from the Sith (or whatever Snoke and Kylo Ren call themselves at this point in the timeline), on a desolate backwater planet until such time that they are old enough and strong enough to take their rightful place, whatever that place happens to be, in the galaxy.

I'm sure that we're going to find out that Rey is Luke's child in Episode VIII.

Some have argued with me that Luke, being a Jedi would not have been able to marry and father a child. But, Luke wasn't a part of that particular version of the Jedi Order and so the rule to live a monkish existence free from distraction would not have applied to him as there wasn't a "Jedi Order" to be expelled from. He, being the last Jedi in the galaxy, would have been under an obligation to produce force sensitive offspring in order to rebuild the Jedi Order.

So if Rey belongs to Luke, that would make Kylo Ren, Rey’s cousin.  Perhaps his turning to the dark side was the impetus for Luke to hide Rey on Jakku.  We know from several scenes in the movie that Kylo Ren is the son of Han and Leia and was born with the name Ben Solo.  It’s my contention that the name Kylo comes from the names Skywalker and Solo and that his new surname Ren comes from his membership in the Knights of Ren.

We are not told much about the Knights of Ren, but it is very possible that the Knights of Ren is an organization that supplanted the Sith, just as the First Order replaced the Empire.  Thus, the surname “Ren” would take the place of the honorific “Darth” that existed in the Sith Order.

As with many of the characters in this latest installment, we are not told very much about Kylo Ren. We know that he is the child of Han and Leia, that he is a master in the Knights of Ren and that he is the apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke.  We can also surmise that his training in the dark side of the force is not complete.  We know this because of Snoke’s statement that it is time to complete his training and by the fact that he is barely in control of his skills in the force.  His light saber is barely usable with its unstable blade and unorthodox design.

Much has been made, by the geek community, about Kylo Ren’s lightsaber.  Many have stated that because he is splitting the blade into what is essentially 3 parts, the blade has become unstable.  That may be, but I look at it this way; Ren is still not fully trained and therefore his shoddy, incomplete training, has left his skills wanting, and therefore his lightsaber reflects that lack of proper training.

And, I think that I can go a step further into this topic.

His lightsaber, with all of its arching and sparking, is the unstable embodiment of his internal battle between Kylo Ren, on the dark side, and Ben Solo, in the light. It is an internal battle that he thought that he could overcome when he took that unstable blade and ran it through the father of Ben Solo. But, killing Han did not purge the light from his being.  Instead the act added energy to the light, and made ever so brighter by being gut shot by Han’s life long friend, Chewbacca.  The pain from that wound, being a constant reminder of what he had done.  This is why, while facing his cousin (I’m going to go with the theory that Rey is the daughter of Luke) on the Starkiller planet, he was constantly striking the wound with his fist in an effort to purge the guilt, and the light, from his soul.

The fact that Rey and Kylo Ren are cousins, family, and both grandchildren of Anakin Skywalker is made abundantly clear when Rey defeats Kylo Ren and then a gulf literally opens up between them with Rey on the right side of the screen and Kylo Ren on the left.  The light and the dark that used to dwell in Darth Vader represented by his grandchildren separated by an uncross-able gulf.

It’s brilliant.

One of the other questions that has been raised by rabid fans has to do with Luke’s original lightsaber; the one built by Anakin, taken by Obiwan, given to Luke “when [he] was old enough” and then lost by him on cloud city when his hand was cut off by Darth Vader.  If the lightsaber was lost, how did Maz Kanata come to possess it?

If you think about it, the saber was lost to Luke when it fell into the heart of cloud city’s gas processing vents but was not necessarily lost to the galaxy.  Some sources put Maz at somewhere around 1000 years old, and didn’t start running her “watering hole” until after the battle of Endor.

Now, I’m speculating here, but is it possible that she worked on cloud city?  Possibly, with her small size, worked in the small spaces of the gas processors and found the saber stuck in a fan or some other piece of machinery?

That’s totally speculation on my part, but my point is that it doesn’t matter how she got ahold of the lightsaber because there are any number of ways that it could have come into her possession. But the fact is that the saber was in her keeping, and that, through the force, it was able to call to Rey and was able to show her a bit of its history and of her’s.

This is where you must realize that the Star Wars saga is more that just Science Fiction.  Star Wars is a classic “Lord of the Rings” style “Swords and Sorcery” fantasy disguised as tech driven Science Fiction.  So, it is possible for a lightsaber, a dead piece of tech, to call out to someone who is force sensitive much like the sword Excalibur could call out to Arthur, the rightful king.

Finally, who is Supreme Leader Snoke?  There is speculation that he could be Darth Plagueis having survived Darth Sidious’s attempt to usurp his master’s power and position.  Something I read a little while ago, on (authored by Barry Allen) thought that Snoke could be Darth Bane.  That is also very possible.  But I tend to think something a bit different.

Darth Sidious had several apprentices throughout the prequels seemingly in opposition to Yoda’s pronouncement that the Sith always consists of a master and an apprentice, “never more and never less.”  But Sidious seemed to have apprentices waiting in the wings: Maul, Dooku, Grievous (through Dooku), and Vader.  Is it possible that Sidious had other apprentice hopefuls sitting in wait?  I think that it’s very possible.  I’m sure that we will find out his history in coming movies.  One article I read said that Snoke’s appearance was still in flux as late as October of 2015 and that J. J. Abrams was even considering making Snoke female.  So, I think that it is more likely that Snoke may have been a previously unknown apprentice of one of the past Sith Lords who being very long lived (like Yoda) and could have waited on the sidelines throughout the clone war and the following civil war, hoping for (or even foreseeing) the outcome of the Battle of Endor, before stepping in to take over the remnants of the Empire, and thus creating the First Order.

We can speculate about these things all day long, and many of these answers will not be made clear for at least 18 months, and I am almost positive that the screenwriters for episode VIII have been and probably still are grappling with all of the questions (and probably others) that I brought up in this little article.

If you happen to be one of these screenwriters, have your people call my people and let’s do lunch.
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