When the third Star Wars trailer hit recently, I got a text message. It wasn't from one of my Star Wars obsessed friends though, it was from my Mum...
My Mum and Dad had sat and watched the trailer twice and decided to text me and ask one question about what they had just seen.
"Is Luke Skywalker the new Darth Vader?"
I was surprised that they had thought that, because, like you, I am immersed in Star Wars on a daily basis, so I know the character my Mum was referring to is Kylo Ren. I know he is portrayed by Adam Driver, and so I can report back confidently, no that's not Luke. Then the Internet started talking...
I was shocked to hear rumblings that others were convinced Luke had gone to the dark side, that Luke may in fact be Kylo Ren and its all part of J.J. Abrams' mystery box! My response was, no, that's not true, that's impossible...
And here's why the Internet is wrong.
Luke's journey was the heroes journey. When we meet Luke he is propelled onto a path he initially recoiled from, and then he selflessly pushed on as he faced mythic trial after mythic trial. He took the sword, he accepted the magic bestowed upon him by the wise old sage, he saved the Princess and at every turn he was willing to sacrifice himself, not only for the ones he loved by but for the greater good. Finally, when confronted by the beast (in this case the Emperor) he lays down his arms and defeats his foe through compassion.
Can you imagine being told in The Force Awakens, "and five minutes after that Luke became a selfish tool and went evil! Boo hiss!" It would betray everything Luke has grown to represent.
Let's look at the alternate path.
Anakin and Luke's stories mirror each other at their respective starts. Innocent, selfless young boys, living powerless lives in obscurity. Anakin was also propelled onto the heroes journey, only Anakin feared the loss that Luke faced with courage. In the prequel trilogy Anakin takes the sword and the magic, has the same sage offering guidance, saves a Princess (Queen Amidala) but Anakin recoils from making the sacrifices Luke faced. Anakin couldn't stand the thought of losing anyone he loved, and so makes a deal with the Devil that costs him his soul. We do see Luke flirt with these choices in Empire when he rushes off to rescue Han and Leia, and ends up needing to be saved himself. Luke is punished for stepping off the path of the hero. Anakin too, is punished, and languishes in hell until his children can help him find redemption. That's the path that leads to black mask and helmet, not Luke's.
So where is Luke?
A great deal is being made of Luke's whereabouts in The Force Awakens, and I believe that is the driving force of the movie, which is why we are being kept in the dark at this stage. It's not a trick or a tease, it's the main plot of the film.
Imagine if episodes I - III had been released first and then thirty years later we get A New Hope. Vader might take Kylo Ren's spot in this latest trailer, and we would asking, "Where is Obi Wan Kenobi?" We would be familiar with the selfless Jedi warrior from the previous movies and expect him to be onscreen, saving the day. What we would learn as the movie plays out is that Obi-Wan was waiting for A New Hope to arise, someone to pass the sword and magic to, someone to train as a Jedi who could face this new dark menace with courage and vanquish it's evil.
In this movie Luke is in the Obi-Wan role. Luke is (most likely) living a private, monastic life communing with the Force (just like Obi Wan out Episode III), not twirling his moustache and hatching evil plots. Luke is awaiting A New Hope, someone to whom he can pass the sword and magic.
That someone is Rey...
If we step back for a second a look at the big picture we will have a better idea of what's at play. The enumerated movies are the Skywalker Saga, specifically Anakin's. The prequel trilogy is about Anakin's fall, the original trilogy his about his redemption, and I'm willing to bet this new trilogy is about Anakin's legacy. At the centre of these nine films, is Luke, the redeemer. We close the first trilogy with Luke newborn awaiting his destiny, the second trilogy closes with Luke having saved his father and defeated the Empire. This last trilogy must revolve around Luke being a force for good. Bestowing the required power upon a warrior burdened with an unenviable task.
Rey is that warrior, Luke is her wise sage and her task is to save her brother, Anakin's grandson, Kylo Ren, from the darkness...
Turning Luke to the dark side would destroy a character built on so many beautiful, mythic archetypes, when he has so much more to offer as a force for the light. We have our villains, Kylo Ren, General Hux, Captain Phasma and Supreme Leader Snoke. We don't need another...
Of course the specifics are yet to be confirmed, but the themes, I believe, must be present. These are elements that make the Star Wars movies, even the weak ones, so wonderful to lose oneself in.
Thank you for reading,