If you HAVE NOT SEEN STAR WARS (The Force Awakens Groggily and Looks at the Alarm Clock, Closing Its Eyes and Shaking Its Head), then you should skip this post.
I LOVED The Force Awakens. I cannot wait for the next one.
This post is (mostly) NOT about what happens in The Force Awakens.
This is about what I hoped (and feared) would happen in The Force Awakens.
Earlier this year I accidentally spoilered myself when I ran into a site that ran some of the synopsis for the first script of the movie.
I am way too lazy to look up the quote, but it ran along the line of “Luke Sywalker disappeared after the events of Return of the Jedi and hasn’t been seen since, and the Jedi are pretty much out of the picture”.
Knowing that Force-sensitive individuals are always going to be around and that we keep finding narrative ways to explain how individual Jedi survived the Purge in Episode III Revenge of the Sith, I wasn’t too worried about not seeing any on-screen Jedi action.
With the Lucasfilm announcement that all post-Return of the Jedi fiction was no longer canon, I had just one hope and fear in my head about Luke’s journey, and what it would mean for the new film.
Let’s take an objective look at Luke:
- Impetuous, impatient, too-old Luke having tantrums on Dagobah, repeatedly failing because the training was too hard.
- YODA (training Luke): Yes, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.
- LUKE: Vader... Is the dark side stronger?
- YODA: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
- LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
- YODA: You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
- Luke’s failure at the cave, and finding his own face in a Sith Lord’s helmet.
- Impatient Luke failing to raise his X-Wing from the Dagobah swamp because it does not come easily enough.
- Luke’s vision of his friends in pain at Bespin.
- LUKE: But I can help them! I feel the Force!
- BEN: But you cannot control it. This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force.
- YODA: Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.
- BEN: Luke, don't give in to hate - that leads to the dark side.
- Reckless Luke rushing to Bespin to save his friends anyway (after about a week of training instead of “finishing what he begins”), then getting whupped by Vader and flying debris, losing his hand and getting mollywopped by the whole paternity issue.
- THEN, on the Second Death Star:
- All of Luke’s success in battle against the two Sith lords (each trying to turn Luke and ally against the other) came from anger and aggression.
- Luke struck at Palpatine in anger and hate, intending to kill him after the Death Star started picking off Capital ships. https://youtu.be/YZ_j3s5xj8I
- Luke’s anger fueled his later success against Vader in their lightsaber duel.
IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME after all this, then you can see that (despite periods of attempted calm) Luke already turned to the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.
- A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
- If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.
- If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path, as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.
ALL OF THIS TO SAY:
The heartbreaking story of the Skywalker boys should have come to fruition in The Force Awakens. The Force Awakens should have featured Luke as the Sith Lord he began to turn himself into in the first trilogy.
THIS DOES NOT MEAN that Luke HAD to be the villain of the story. In fact, there was plenty of opportunity for real, character-driven drama with Luke playing a heroic role. The Sith way is driven by self-sacrifice – Kylo Ren did NOT WANT to kill his father; he HAD to sacrifice the father he loved and experience all the pain it brought in order to bring himself the power and irrevocability of the Sith. We have two more movies left to show us why Ben / Ren left the Light and why he felt he needed the power of the Dark Side.
· GIANT OPTIONAL SIDEBAR NOTES:
o The VERY BEST “Making and Training and Becoming a Sith” manual out there are the following Star Wars books (now non-canon):
§ Traitor, the 2002 novel by Matthew Stover. It is the thirteenth novel in the New Jedi Order series, and it shows how an ex-Jedi uses some really solid Sith Logic to turn Han and Leia’s son Jacen (a kind, loving young man who has rejected the use of all violence to solve problems) to an understanding that there IS NO Light and Dark Side of the Force – there is only the Force and how we choose to use it.
§ The nine books in the Legacy of the Force series show this kind and thoughtful young man sacrificing bits of his soul piece by piece for the greater good and becoming Darth Caedus: (all the links have brief synopses, but I also highly recommend the books themselves. Some truly fantastic writing!)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS could have still been a rollicking first-movie adventure with much the same story arc.
BUT . . . there was room in the Star Wars universe for a Post-Anakin exploration of what it means to be Sith and still work with (and against) the Resistance and the new Jedi to bring . . .
. . . Order to the galaxy.
Granted, this is the road not taken by Lucasfilm / Disney / JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. (unnecessary link: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536)
BUT, what a brave and scary and complex and exciting story this could have been – a story of . . . what? Redemption? Sacrifice? Tragedy?
Whatever this story would have been, it would have been thrilling and potentially heartbreaking and above all else . . . compelling.