Listen. Can you feel it? There is a disturbance in the Force.
Even before last year’s record-setting release of the first trailer for J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ there have been whispered rumors surging through the fan-iverse, wondering about the direction the new film (to be released on December 18) will be taking the beloved characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker. The rumors run the gamut: Han Solo will die, the way Harrison Ford thought his character should have at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi.’ Han will learn that Obi Wan Kenobi was his father. Luke Skywalker will learn that his father, Darth Vader, is still alive. Princess Leia will finally become a Jedi and do something “Force-full,” as was pretty much promised in the original trilogy, but never really happened. And of course, the big one, the rumor that only gets louder with each new trailer, and has reached Death Star Explosion-levels of discussion with last week’s third-and-final trailer.
The rumor: Luke Skywalker has turned to the Dark Side.
If you are rolling your eyes right now, scoffing aloud that grown adults would even care about this sort of thing, you are excused. You may leave this conversation in peace, without threat of harm or retribution—though I must say I do find your lack of faith disturbing.
Here’s the deal: these things are important, because the ‘Star Wars’ films, regardless of the sloppy story-telling of the woeful prequels, is part of the ever-expanding mythological fabric of our culture, and will very possibly serve as big a part in telling future generations who we twentieth-and-twenty-first century people were, as the Upanishads and the Odyssey and Grimm’s Fairytales serve in telling us about the cultures from which those stories emerged.
But where was I?
Oh. right. Like Skywalker has turned to the Dark Side.
That’s what people are saying—many are pretty much insisting its true—given the flowing “clues.”
1. In all three trailers for ‘The Force Awakens,’ Luke Skywalker does not appear. We hear his voice in the scone trailer, giving a new variation of his “the Force is strong in my family” speech from ‘The Return of the Jedi’, and we see what appears to be his robotic hand reaching out to caress the diminutive droid R2-D2. But we never actually see him—because he’s now a full-blown Sith Lord. In the second trailer, we see Han Solo and Chewbaca, and in the third trailer we see Princess Leia, but there are zero shots of Luke.
2. In the new poster for ‘The Force Awakens,’ it happens again. There’s Han and Leia, Chewbaca, R2-D2, C3-PO, the Millennium Falcon, a scary-looking faceless guy in black, and a bunch of new people . . . but no Luke. Why? Though some have suggested (bone-headedly) that Mark Hamill looks too old now to put on the posters (give me a break, ageists!), the main theories are that, having tuned to the Dark Side, he is now so Sith Lord-y looking that it would spoil the he’s-evil-now surprise (they are imagining him as some sort of face-painted Darth Maul-type) or . . . what if . . . he’s the faceless guy in the scary black outfit?
3. In the last movie we saw him in, he’d just engaged in a series of behaviors—prematurely ending his Jedi training, telling lies to Jaba the Hut, letting himself get really, really pissed off, and even giving in and trying to kill the Emperor—all actions established in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ as pretty much guaranteeing that he’d end up traveling down a path from which he would never be able to return. There is a theory that Luke, in fact, had already turned to the Dark Side by the end of ‘Return of the Jedi,’ and was only faking it when he showed up at the Ewok End-of-the-Empire party to act like a good guy, burn Darth Vader’s body (or was it just his outfit and helmet?), trade friendly waves with the ghosts of Yoda, Obi Wan, and his freshly-redeemed Dad, and give his sister Leia one last (slightly creepy) squeeze. This theory is presented in intricate detail in a recent essay by Rob Connery, appearing last week on Huffington Post.
Click Here to read the full Huffington Post essay.
4. In the third trailer, Leia is shown with tears in her eyes. This has been suggested as proof of Luke’s dance-with-the-Dark based on the logic of, well, of this: What sister wouldn’t cry if her brother had been turned into a murderous servant of Evil?
5. On the IFC show ‘Dinner for Five,’ filmed long before J.J. Abrams signed on to direct the seventh ‘Star Wars’ film, Hamill appeared alongside Abrams, and at one point told his stunned dinner-fellow that he, Hamill, had fought hard to have Luke turn to the Dark Side in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ but that George Lucas would have none of it.
So, obviously, go the rumors, J.J. Abrams was, at that moment, infected by the idea that it would be so freaking cool to take sweet, Empire-defying Luke Skywalker, the quintessential good guy of science fiction, and turn him into a raging right-wing Empire-loving asshole.
That’s enough of the “evidence.”
It’s not hard to find.
Just Google the words “Skywalker” and “Evil” and you’ll have enough reading material to waste an entire day. I know. I’ve just done it.
But I’m not having it.
Yes, there are other “clues” of erring various levels of “proof” that one of filmdom’s most boyishly wholesome heroes has crossed over into the land of the lost. A certain segment of fanboys and fan-women are practically drooling over the idea that Luke is now a bad guy—and will be pitted in the new film against his beloved old friends, droids, and family members.
But the rest of us remain rooted in our faith of Luke, the Force, and the relative sanity of J.J. Abrams.
To make it perfectly clear, I remain confident—or as confident as one can be in a world where T.V. good guy Mr. Phelps (from ‘Mission Impossible,’ turns bad guy in the movie version—that Luke is, and will always be, a devotee of the good side of the Force.
So . . . how do I answer those who point to the “clues” in the trailers and posters?
We don’t see Luke in the promotional materials because, for reasons to be revealed, he now looks so cool—bionic eye, robotic implant, some kind of ancient Jedi tattoo—that the producers want to save the “reveal” until the actual movie. Luke doesn’t have to be evil to be “transformed” in a way the producers would prefer to keep secret until the movie opens. He might just be . . . different looking.
It’s possible I’m right, right?
It’s also possible I’m wrong, right?
And that leads us to the most obvious reason Luke Skywalker does not appear on the posters, or in the trailers.
It makes everyone who is even remotely likely to pay ten dollars to buy a ticket start discussing the various reasons WHY Luke Skywalker isn’t in the previews.
Click this image to see the trailer for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’Because of its indelible set of characters, cross-generational appeal, international recognition—and a mythological world that is rich with potential stories, characters, deviations and wild-ass story-lines—”Star Wars’ is George Lucas’s baby, and whoever inherits it takes with them an awareness that this is the biggest toy-producing, T-shirt-printing, Disneyland-ride-designing cash-cow in the history of the world, second only to the Bible (Universal Studios does have a Red Sea parting on the their backlot tour). In other words, the people behind ‘Star Wars’ know how to make money, and nothing makes money more than conversation, word-of-mouth, debate, argument, feature stories, Facebook threads, Huffington Post posts, and long, detailed Blog Essays on websites like this one.
I believe that Luke Skywalker is not there because they want us to ask why he’s not there, much like Senator Iselin (in ‘THe Manchurian Candidate’) keeps changing the number of secret communists he claims are lurking inside the Government because Angela Lansbury wants the press to keep asking how many communists are lurking in the government rather than asking, ‘Are there any communists lurking in the government?’
And personally, I believe that Luke Skywalker has not turned to the Dark Side because for one very personal reason.
I really, really, really don’t want him to.
In everyday life, I’ve watched so many heroes—be they actors, rock stars, sports legends, or presidents—reveal themselves to be dirty, weak, spineless, or undependable, I am quite frankly sick of it. If the good guys in real life all turn out to be servants of Evil, then my only repute is fiction. Since I was 17-years-old, I have identified with Luke Syywalker and his very-human struggle
to remain a good man in the face of impossible forces urging him to give in the Dark Side. He went to the very edge, but he had the strength to resist. He remained good. I love him for it.
If J.J. Abrams decides, like so many cynical fanboys have done, that it would be “so cool” for Luke to turn to
the Dark Side, then something truly earthshaking might just take place.
If that happens, it’s just possible that after nearly forty years, this particular ‘Star Wars’ fan might just stop caring. Because a world where Luke Skywalker can’t make it isn’t a world I want to live in.
Or pay ten dollars to be a part of.