Opening the Mystery Box

In 1980, I was 11 years old (nearly 12) and about to see The Empire Strikes Back. Three years prior I saw Star Wars, which was highly influential and shaped my world. The battle in the snow against walking tanks was cool. Boba Fett was cool. The lightsaber duel was cool.

But most importantly, Darth Vader said he was Luke Skywalker’s father.

Woah. Spoilers, I know.

It blew my little mind at the time. I was like those videos when the little kids find this out. I didn’t believe it. Of course, I had no idea “vater” was father in German. I thought maybe, just maybe, Vader was lying to Luke. Or maybe something else was happening.

A few months later my own father bought me Fantastic Films Collector’s Edition #20 and within the pages I found an incredible article of speculation on the then named Revenge of the Jedi. Most of it was silly, but the main headline was gold. “Dark Lord Deceives ‘Son’ with Half-Truth Revelation” was brilliant. The article by Bill Hays speculated many things about the next Star Wars movie. A few gems:

  • Darth Vader is not Luke’s father. Instead, he and Luke are clones of another Jedi named Skywalker
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi is the first clone of a specimen named O.B. Think about it: O.B.1
  • Jabba the Hutt and his pirate friends team up with the Rebel Alliance.

This magazine, more than any other, sparked my own guesses and fan fiction of just what Darth Vader meant. I had actual years to work out for myself just what was going on in Cloud City. Remember, I didn’t have the movies to go back to and watch and re-watch. There wasn’t a repository of information that validated or invalidated any of my crackpot theories.

Our unmasked heroine and villain.

So, I have my own history of prognosticating the future of my favorite franchise.

I had theories about the Clone Wars and who might really be a clone. I loved the idea that Boba Fett was secretly a girl and maybe Luke’s sister. I even thought the Empire likely built more than one Death Star.

Many years later when the prequels came out, I had plenty of ideas on where that story would go. Of course, none of my ideas were even close to what George Lucas would ultimately put on celluloid. However, it has never stopped me from trying to put the puzzle pieces together.

Trying to make something work in an “ex post facto” sort of way is one of the many downfalls of the prequel trilogy. We know where the characters end up because of Episode IV, so there isn’t much in the way of surprise. The plots are boring and plod along. Each of the prequel movies is visually stunning, but are written terribly, acted barely competently, and aren’t particularly good Star Wars movies.

I enjoy plot. Good characters are extremely important and good plot can come from good characters or at least really well-written characters, but I want story beats. I like the spine of the story to be fully-formed and adhered to in order for the motivations and the revelations to make sense. I don’t like twists for the sake of twists and mysteries in which the writer or writers don’t have a clear idea of what’s going to happen next.

Enter Disney. Once Disney bought Star Wars for a cool 4 billion, new movies were immediately green lit and the decades worth of future history of the Star Wars universe banished to the status of “Legends.” It was an incredible opportunity to create something new in the Star Wars world beyond the last frame of Return of the Jedi.

Like most people, I was cautiously optimistic about the announcement of new films. Could they get a great writer, attract a director who could shepherd these films forward, and find a cast worthy of the original trilogy?

Enter Michael Arndt. This is the guy who wrote the screenplays for Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3. I was impressed immediately. Ultimately, he turned in a 50-page “scriptment” that either is the skeleton for the new movie or was thrown completely out when Lawrence Kasdan was brought on board.

Enter J. J. Abrams. As soon as he was announced as the director I was immediately intrigued. Abrams did an amazing job casting the reboot of Star Trek, and I liked Mission Impossible 3. He was on my radar with Felicity and Alias. He’s a good director. Plus, he’s a crazy Star Wars fan, and that’s what this new franchise needs.

Abrams does have a penchant for what he calls the mystery box. It’s his way of adding an element of surprise to his movies. The mystery box in Cloverfield was the small glimpses we get of the monster. He repeats the idea in Super 8 with the train derailment alien. The most obvious version was in the sequel to his Star Trek movie, Star Trek Into Darkness. In that movie, he cast Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison, supposedly an unknown character. Of course, everyone knew it was Khan despite the protestations that he was not playing that particular character. As most moviegoers figured out, the movie was a slightly warmed over version of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Cumberbatch was indeed Khan. It had no punch.

The central mystery between Empire and Jedi was if Darth Vader was telling the truth or not. I was a tad bit disappointed when the answer was basically yes. Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. It’s the same twinge of disappointment when the answer to the mystery of John Harrison is exactly what 99% of the audience already think it’s going to be.

Which brings us to Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. What are the mysteries Abrams and Kasdan have come up with? What did they pick up from the Arndt script?

Aside from where the heck is Luke Skywalker? HINT: He’s the MacGuffin. Along with his old lightsaber (which was also Anakin’s). Most fans want to know who the obvious bad guy is and who the girl is. Who is Kylo Ren and Rey?

Here’s what I think: Kylo Ren and Rey are brother and sister. They are the children of Han Solo and Leia Organa (Skywalker). Rey’s real name is Kira, which was the name of her character in early leaks. Rey was hidden away to Jakku hoping her brother would not find her. Kylo is obsessed with the Sith and collects artifacts. We learned from Abrams that Ren is an honorific for the Knights of Ren like Darth was for the Sith. We haven’t learned much about this group, but they are obviously the new Sith.

If this is what goes down, I’ll have that twinge of disappointment in guessing the answer to the mystery box with the most obvious answer. How boring is that? I’m not saying it won’t make for a rip-roaring good time at the movies, and I hope that Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver bring a sense of gravitas to their characters. It just isn’t all that exciting a story beat. If I can guess it and most of the audience already kinda thinks that’s the way it’s going to go, then you don’t have a mystery box at all. You have a box. A non-mysterious box. One everyone kinda guesses what’s inside.

It’s weak sauce, J. J. Weak. Sauce.

What if we learn something else? What if Rey is not the daughter of Han and Leia? It would, at the very least, make for a more satisfying answer to the mystery now wouldn’t it? What I desperately hope Kasdan has done is throw out the brother-sister idea and make Rey a Skywalker, of a sort.

Kathleen Kennedy has said The Force Awakens is a continuation of the Skywalker family story. Now Rey being the daughter of Leia technically would be a continuation of the Skywalker family, but Rey’s last name would be Solo and that just doesn’t quite work. The audience wants a Skywalker to be the protagonist. Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. Luke Skywalker in the originals. Rey Skywalker in this new trilogy.

Brother and sister? I hope not.
Brother and sister? I hope not.

So is Rey the daughter of Luke Skywalker? Maybe, from a certain point of view.

We know the Skywalker lightsaber was lost in the duel with Darth Vader on Cloud City. We also know this lightsaber plays a significant part in the new movie.

Everyone is concentrating on the lightsaber. No one has mentioned Luke’s hand once. He lost that on Cloud City, too. What if the same people who are looking for the lightsaber also found Luke’s severed hand? What if those same mysterious people had access to cloning technology and used that hand as a basis for a new clone?

What if Rey is a female clone of Luke Skywalker?

She would be different than Luke because she wasn’t raised the same way. Her “family” may have been those same mysterious people who abandoned her on Jakku either by their choice or not. It certainly would make her a daughter of Luke Skywalker, from a certain point of view. Imagine Luke Skywalker saying to her, “Your family never told you the real truth. I’m your father.”

Ties all back to that old magazine from 1980 nicely doesn’t it?

Rey being a Skywalker keeps a Skywalker as the main protagonist in the franchise and doesn’t cater to the obviousness of Kylo and Rey being both the kids of Han and Leia.

Who is Kylo? Well, that one has to be the kid of Han and Leia. Kylo Solo makes sense. Especially if Kylo Ren kills Han Solo, which I’m betting is why Rey is crying in the trailer.

Of course no matter what happens, the movie is going to be great fun. Everyone involved is saying incredible things about the script, about Abrams, about the cast, about everything.

I’m just holding out hope for Rey Skywalker. It’s my only hope.