Star Wars Episode VII: A New Plot Theory
*** WARNING! This article could contain spoilers for the upcoming Episode VII ***
A familiar-looking desert planet. A hero in a Stormtrooper outfit. X-wings in atmosphere. After watching the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was feeling slightly less dubious about the Disney take on the sci-fi epic of our times.
It has been widely agreed that director J.J. Abrams’ teaser has combined the established greatness of the original (Millennium Falcon) with a new look and intrigue (a ‘broadsabre’ wielding Sith?) But the trailer has understandably left us with more questions than answers. After watching it, I went back to the original films, the books and storylines of the Star Wars Expanded Universe to keep me going until the next trailer is released. And I began to wonder if I might have found the answer to some questions as well?
The Expanded Universe, or EU, is a vast array of characters and plot that have been licensed by Lucasfilm as official representations of the Star Wars galaxy post Return of the Jedi. But in spring last year, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy released a statement that confirmed:
“In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-‘Return of the Jedi’ Expanded Universe.”
For those fans, such as myself, who have grown up reading books about Han and Leia’s children, Luke’s love-life and a new Jedi Order, it was sad to hear that the new Disney trilogy might not draw on this part of the galaxy far, far away. The EU is a bloody and complicated place. The medium of literature, game plotlines and comics has allowed a more in-depth, psychological look at new characters and established ones. It even explained how the gunner on the first Death Star met his end fairly nobly. (He was feeling so guilty about pulling the trigger on the planet of Alderaan, and the Empire was not the best at looking after its staff welfare, so the gunner stalled and never fired on Yavin 4, allowing Luke Skywalker the time to fire his torpedo.)
J.J. Abrams was already one of the most spoiler-conscious directors in Hollywood before he was in charge of the most anticipated franchise continuation in cinematic history. It would not be a surprise to discover that he and Kennedy have lied to our (or the press’) faces to keep ‘an element of surprise and discovery for the audience.’ Admitting that they were drawing from the expanded universe would be akin to leaving the script in a Starbucks. But after the success of the Marvel Universe amongst comic book fans and novices alike, and after analysing the teaser trailer beyond normal amounts, I have become convinced that we might be seeing more of the EU than expected in Episode VII. Here is a personal breakdown of the teaser trailer with my educated guesses of how Abrams may have been influenced by the EU.
Despite the fact we did not see any old faces in the trailer, the moneyshot of the 88 seconds is still undoubtedly the reveal of the Millennium Falcon. Eagle-eyed critics have already pointed out that it has a new, square satellite dish to replace the one Lando Calrissian lost escaping the second Death Star. But the new film is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, so the big question is, who is flying the ‘piece of junk’? Even if we ignore the EU, Han Solo is surely married to a Princess (Leia) by now, and pretty famous himself as a general of the Rebel Alliance. He can afford something a bit nicer and less conspicious surely? It would make sense for him to want to keep it in the family, and Han and Leia’s kids would be the obvious choice. In the EU, they had three: A twin girl and boy, Jaina and Jacen, and a younger son called Anakin. The first Anakin was a great pilot – might Abrams reference this?
Another easter-egg for the bat-eared is at the very end. The lightsabre sound is exactly the same as Luke’s first one, which was his father’s beforehand. In the EU, Luke’s first lightsabre was lost along with his hand in Cloud City, but it reappeared years later and found its way back to Luke – and eventually his wife, Mara-Jade and son, Ben. As this idea has been directly influenced by an unanswered aspect of The Empire Strikes Back film, it seems more than likely that this idea will creep up in Episode VII.
Stormtroopers and Rebels
The teaser trailer gave us a glimpse of remodelled Stormtroopers and Rebel pilots. In the EU, the line between Empire and Rebel, good and evil, is understandably more blurred. There are light-sided Stormtroopers and dark-sided rebels. It is much more political than the original trilogy, and would be a good mirror of the Senate-turned-Empire storyline of the prequels to see this element expanded on in the new trilogy. It might explain why our hero, John Boyega, is dressed as a Stormtrooper – and why the new rebel helmets have a distinctly dark tint to them. Modern audiences like to see more morally grey characters than they did in the seventies, and this concept would also assure audiences that the new trilogy has not been too ‘Disneyfied’. As Obi-Wan said, “Only Sith deal in absolutes.”
It has been widely assumed (although still not confirmed by ol’ J.J. ) that the trailer opens on Tatooine. The desert landscape, and the fact that Daisy Ridley’s character (allegedly called ‘Rey’ if Abrams is to be believed) appears to own a Tusken Raider’s weapon seems to confirm this. If this is the case, there are several things that could be gleaned from the EU. Tusken Raiders, for example, have adopted human orphans on occasion, including a young girl called Tahiri Veila who becomes a Jedi. She also becomes friends with Leia and Han’s son, the aforementioned Anakin Solo. Could this be an influence for Ridley’s character?
We see at least one other planet in the trailer – a mountainous, lake covered planet. This is not a planet that is instantly recognisable, and therefore very possibly has not been in the films to date. But it does look similar to one planet – the Alderaan we saw at the end of Revenge of the Sith. It is impossible for it to be Aldaraan, given how it was oliterated in A New Hope (side note: is that the largest mass genocide we have ever seen on film?) But the EU has Alderaanians who were off planet at the time of destructuion conolising a similar planet that was renowned for its natural beauty. Maybe Leia has a hand in rebuilding and protecting her home planet during the new trilogy.
A New Dark Side
The trailer introduces us to a new, presumably dark character (called Kylo Ren, if we can trust anyone from the production team.) It has also been confirmed that Andy Serkis is the voiceover on the trailer, suggesting he, too, may veer towards the dark. In the prequels it was confirmed that the Sith always come in twos. But the idea of an ‘awakening’ definitely suggests that there will be more than two people with Force-powers set against our heroes. This matches the EU, where the Sith reform and re-emerge in large groups, almost balanced with the light’s speed of recruiting. This will certainly give the trilogy the surprise element Disney want, as we will not be able to guess who will turn next. Unless they really have followed the EU as I think.
We also have the introduction of a new type of lightsabre. This is very interesting, and does bring hope to the idea that we could see some weapons from the EU. The lightwhip, for example, is a very unusual weapon that comes in different forms. The cat o’nine tails style is particularly terrifying: It bested Luke Skywalker, and would now be possible to show on screen with current CGI.
The Force Awakens…?
Since before it was revealed, the title for the 7th episode has been infamous. And since the confirmation of Star – The Force Awakens – Wars, these three words have aroused speculation. People have been contemplating the vast meanings of ‘force’ and ‘awaken’ with more scrutiny than an English Literature M.A. Theories have flown about the ‘Force’ being new dark forces, a more powerful version of force we know or a new jedi order started by Luke. And the ‘awaken’ has been met with dirision, with cynics scared that Luke has been asleep for 30years. But the cryptic title is greater confirmation than anything else that Abrams and company are definitly drawing from the EU storylines for their trilogy, because there is a EU storyline that can explain everything.
Once you were all with me. Now you are apart, but one by one, you are all awakening. And once awake, you can hear my call, and come to me.
These words are spoken by a character called Abeloth, a very powerful dark side of the Force user, who is awoken after a member of the Solo family turns to the darkside (sob.) She can be found in the outer reaches of the galaxy, near a place called the Shelter that was set up by Lando Calrissian for Force-sensitives (those can feel the force) who were in hiding. The ‘awakening’ she speaks of is a ‘Force-psychosis’ she induces in the minds of Force-sensitives – both the dark and the light. The psychosis leads to both severe paranoia (a great concept for a modern blockbuster that is conscious of complex characters) and incredible, extra-crazy-Force-skills (an amazing idea for the great franchise that wants to improve on its laurels.) This storyline brings together all the Solo family, Luke Skywalker and his son, the aformentioned Tahiri Veila as well as fan-favourite Lando. It is impossible that Abrams and his team have not been influenced by (at the least) or adapted (more likely) this story for screen.
“Premonitions… Premonitions… deep questions they are. Sense the future, once all Jedi could; now few alone have the skill. Visions… gifts from the Force, and curses.”
When Disney took over the franchise and began the new trilogy, it changed the rules on the EU. Whereas before it was regarded as almost canon, the Extended work is now seen as ‘legend.’ It acts as a parallel universe, a chaos theory Star Wars that is now a ‘what-if’ senario. Those of us who are well versed in Extened Universe might have to get our heads around the new films being the new canon. But having been assured it will not be disregarded, we can surely look forward to fan favourites being clearly referenced.
As a Star Wars fan, and a film fan, it is both a gift and a curse – a gift to guess what is coming, but a curse if I am right and have spoiled it for us all.
What do you think? Leave a comment.