Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cloud City Social Club: A STAR WARS Podcast - CCSC003 - STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, Part 3!

Sean, Andrew, and Brooks delve into Rey's mysterious Force vision and what it might mean in STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Listen Now!


STAR WARS: The Franchise Awakens - These are the First Steps

There’s a lot going on in Rey’s vision. 

As the vision begins, the voice of Yoda can be heard describing the Force (a sound recording taken from Episode V). Later we hear the voice of the elderly Obi-Wan Kenobi (a sound recording of Alec Guinness which is cut together to actually call Rey’s name). Darth Vader’s breathing can also be heard in the background as Rey traverses a corridor that looks like a hallway in the Cloud City of Bespin (the site of Luke’s first battle with Vader, in which he lost the lightsaber that Rey has just discovered).

This is the same hallway Rey sees in her vision.

The cries of the little girl that drew Rey into the lower level turn out to be a prelude to the vision. Rey sees a little girl in the desert – presumably her younger self – begging a spaceship not to leave as it flies away. She is held back by what appears to be Unkar Plutt. In the novelization Rey can also hear a familiar voice assuring her that they will return for her.

Rey sees a cloaked figure with a robot hand (presumably Luke Skywalker) watching alongside an R2 unit Astromech droid as a temple burns to the ground. She also sees Kylo Ren murdering what looks like a fellow Jedi with a band of followers behind him. Perhaps these are First Order troops or the Knights of Ren who are said to serve Kylo. It is unclear in the vision who any of them are except Kylo Ren. But even he is mostly obscured by darkness and rain, and it is only his signature style of lightsaber that positively identifies him.

There are a lot of possibilities here: According to the script, it is indeed Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 who look on as a temple burns. This is not stated in the script, but in the novelization Rey not only sees hallways in Cloud City, but the distant figures of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as they duel. Seeing a boy at the end of the hall, she follows and the vision shifts to the rainy night that is the scene of Kylo and his Knights of Ren battling unidentified opponents. The script confirms that the hooded figures accompanying Kylo are the Knights of Ren, but nothing in the film, the script, or the novel identifies who they are fighting. We are meant to assume, from Han’s exposition, that we are witnessing the final destruction of Luke’s New Jedi Order, but there is nothing I can see anywhere that overtly states this. In fact, I think there are some hints that suggest otherwise.

Here’s what we know: Han tells Rey and Finn that Luke was trying to build a New Jedi Order until his apprentice turned on him and destroyed it all. He does not specifically mention Kylo Ren, though it’s possible that Kylo was the wayward apprentice. We learn later on that Leia sent Kylo to be trained by Luke because he had too much Vader in him, the failure of which lost them their son and destroyed their marriage. We know that Kylo took his new name from the order he now commands, the mysterious Knights of Ren. According to the screenplay, Rey’s vision shows her a scene of Kylo and the Knights of Ren decisively winning a battle of some kind. Kylo’s victim is stabbed from behind, suggesting this may be an act of treachery rather than a fair fight. But Kylo’s victim was also poised to strike Rey in this vision, as seen from her point of view, so Kylo may also have been acting to save whoever is being represented in the vision (or possibly even Rey herself). From this perspective Kylo Ren interceded to save the person from whose perspective Rey is viewing the battle. Kylo is flanked by six other Knights of Ren, but the vision shifts before we see what happens next.

So what could this mean? Kylo formed the Knights of Ren to destroy Luke’s New Jedi Order? Possibly. That’s certainly the most obvious explanation. But their victims in the vision are not necessary fellow Jedi. We don’t even know for sure that the Knights of Ren were founded to destroy Luke’s Jedi students. What if the Knights of Ren were Luke’s New Jedi Order? The apprentice that destroyed Luke’s dream may not have done so by killing his fellow students. Maybe he turned them all to the Dark Side. Lor San Tekka said the First Order rose from the Dark Side. Maybe the Knights of Ren, once turned, helped to form the foundation of Snoke’s new Empire. But if so, who were the Knights of Ren fighting in Rey’s vision? The remaining loyalists among Luke’s students? Maybe. But maybe not.

The warrior Kylo kills – apparently to prevent him from striking someone else – seems to be dressed in the traditional battle armor of the Kyuzo warriors. His face is not shown, and in one frame looks like it might be human, but it happens so fast you really can't tell. But the headwear and armor look like those worn by the Kyuzo.

They are not prominently featured in the film, but several of them, led by Constable Zuvio, are the self-appointed defenders of law and order in Niima Outpost, where Rey made her living on the planet Jakku. According to Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary, they’re pretty much the only law in Niima Outpost. Jakku is also the site of the last major engagement between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire before the Imperial Forces finally surrendered to the Republic. Jakku was home to a secret Imperial research facility prior to that battle, but after the initial peace accords the last remnants of the Empire fell back to the Unknown Regions of space and disappeared, returning years later as the First Order.

So what was happening on Jakku? Could the Knights of Ren have been there? Rey’s vision could have been telling her that Kylo and the Knights of Ren were possibly on Jakku and may have even been part of her mysterious past. 

Employing your basic “Bigfoot on Mars” approach to analyzing the limited amount of information we’re given in this scene, I have an interesting theory I’d like to put forward for your consideration. Using undiscovered evidence, I’ve been able to piece together a speculative timeline of loosely inferred or outright invented observations whose main purpose is to support each other (the perfect recipe for your basic internet fan theory):

See, there's no way Bigfoot could be a man in a gorilla suit. A man in a gorilla suit
could never survive the unforgiving atmosphere of planet Mars. That's just science.

A) An Imperial research facility was established on Jakku to explore the possibility of weaponizing Force-sensitive children. The Visual Dictionary tells us the first of these assumptions is true, but the only “fact” suggesting the second might be true is that this was the plot of the Dark Side Inquisitors in Star Wars: Rebels, which is a canonical work even though it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the new film.

I didn't think about it until I posted this pic, but the guy Kylo stabs in the vision 
looks exactly like the Inquisitor shown on the left! Amended fan theory to follow...

B) A young Kylo and his Knights of Ren were somehow involved in this enterprise (very likely fighting to stop it, acting as Luke’s fledgling Jedi Order). This assumption is based on the fact that in Rey’s vision she sees Kylo and a gang of unidentified soldiers attacking a guy in a hat that I think looks like the hat worn by the constable of Niima Outpost. Since there are Kyuzo warriors on Jakku and the guy in the vision looks sort of like a Kyuzo warrior, maybe the battle in the vision actually takes place on Jakku. 

Kylo's victim in the vision actually looks more like Embo, the Kyuzo bounty hunter from the 
Clone Wars 
series rather than Zuvio's constabulary. But now I can't stop thinking about that Inquisitor...

C) Rey’s vision is a flashback of something that actually occurred in her past. Because the vision shows one of these Kyuzo warriors in an attack stance preparing to strike at Rey, then maybe Kylo Ren was actually saving Rey, meaning that at this time he was still one of the good guys. Since this happens on Jakku and the Imperial facility that I’ve now decided was experimenting on young Jedi was also on Jakku, Kylo and his compatriots (who are either his fellow Jedi students or the actual Knights of Ren, who were also Luke’s students before they turned to the Dark Side) are on Jakku to shut the facility down and end its experiments. If the facility were experimenting on Jedi children, that would explain why Luke would want his New Jedi Order to become involved in putting a stop to that. In this scenario the Kyuzo warriors stand against them for some reason, which I’m willing to admit is pretty shaky and I don’t have a good in-story reason why this would be the case.

D) Rey was also somehow involved in this research, possibly volunteered by her Imperial parents. Why do I think Rey had Imperial parents? Well, the British accent that everyone’s so keen to suggest Rey inherited from being a distant relation of Obi-Wan Kenobi is also just British enough to match the accent of pretty much every Imperial officer in the saga. Rey’s accent would make no sense to show that she’s related to Obi-Wan, who would have been dead decades before her birth, but if she were raised by Imperial parents she may have gotten her accent from them before they abandoned her on Jakku. The more reasonable explanation for her accent – if it requires an explanation for a character to have an accent – would be that it’s similar to Unkar Plutt’s. The vision shows us that he stepped in after her parents abandoned her, in a foster home scenario that reimagines Uncle Owen to be more like the uncle from the Harry Potter series. 

There is a bit of a resemblance between Unkar Plutt and Uncle Vernon.
Rey may have even gotten the better deal; at least she got to live in an AT-AT.

"Unkar" even kind of sounds like "Uncle". What's with these
mythic heroes always getting dumped on their uncles?

But reasonable is not what I’m shooting for here, so in my preferred scenario Rey was brought to Jakku by her Imperial parents, who handed her over to Dark Side Inquisitors who were experimenting on Force sensitive children to throw the Force out of balance or some nonsense like that. This operation was broken up by young Kylo and the courageous Knights of Ren, after which Rey and her parents went into hiding. Shortly before the final battle between the Empire and the New Republic that wiped out the bulk of the Imperial fleet, Rey’s parents escaped, leaving her in hiding. Due to the decisive defeat of the Empire, Rey’s parents were either killed in the battle or unable to return, leaving Rey in hiding. This is another point toward Rey’s parents being Imperials, because leaving your kid to the unforgiving conditions on Jakku with the likes of Unkar Plutt is pretty much a jerk move, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

One canonical reference that suggests Rey has some sort of Jedi history and Kylo is in some way aware of it is revealed in the novelization of Episode VII. In the book as in the film, Kylo is very interested in reports of a girl who is helping FN-2187 and the droid escape Jakku. In their final battle, in which Rey instinctively calls the Skywalker saber to come to her rather than Kylo, Kylo says to her with revelation: “It is you”, suggesting that he has suspected she is someone he knew before. This line is not in the film, but it supports the idea that something in both their pasts brought Ren and Rey together once before, long enough ago that he wouldn’t recognize her right away if he saw her again. If she were some child that ran off into the night as he and the other Knights of Ren were destroying an Imperial research facility, he would have some inkling that there might be a girl on Jakku with Force ability but no knowledge of her location or identity.

The vision concludes with a prescient look at what will occur at the end of the film – a confrontation between Rey and Kylo Ren. It is at this point that we hear the voice of the older Kenobi say Rey’s name. As Rey is thrown out of the vision and returned to the castle, we hear the voice of a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi (supplied in a new dialogue recording by Ewan McGregor) saying “these are the first steps”.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Franchise Awakens: Family vs. Destiny

Rey and Finn’s trip to Maz’s magic castle is important because at this point in their mythical journey, they have both received their call to adventure. For very different reasons, they will each offer what Joseph Campbell refers to as the Refusal of the Call.

In stories and fantasies, we expect characters to jump at the chance to be a hero because we want to experience that vicariously through them. That’s because we can enjoy the adventure from a safe vantage point, in part because we have some assurance that they will succeed, but more importantly because we know that none of it is real and that no one is ever in any actual danger. But in our real lives if someone were to confront us with the opportunity to leave all safety, comfort, and responsibility to put ourselves in the way of life-threatening peril, our natural response would be to refuse. Luke Skywalker initially refused to help Obi-Wan Kenobi with good reason, just like Bilbo Baggins refused to accompany Gandalf and the dwarves on their suicide mission to rob a treasure from a dragon. 

"Okay, pretty standard so far... Leave my life of luxury to help a bunch of strangers steal the gold out from under a dragon... What's the worst that could happen?"

Even in the ultimate nerd fantasy, The Last Starfighter, Alex Rogan declines a perfectly polite invitation to fly off into outer space and fight an alien war against an evil empire he’d never heard of. 

"You're pretty spectacular at playing video games, kid! How'd you like to get shot at for real?"

And why? Because in the story, we need to believe that the characters at least think they’re real, with real lives and goals that were already happening when the story began. The refusal in classical myths happens for the same reason: To show us that all heroes in some way begin as flawed imperfect people.

Finn’s refusal is more immediate and overt. He’s terrified of being captured by the First Order and does not believe they can be stopped. He’s basically like a child who’s been raised by a cult and taught their entire lives that the cult is omnipresent and all-powerful. No reasonable argument can be presented to Finn that the First Order is an enemy that can be battled. 

"You've seen what their trash compactors are like, Solo. Would you want to go back to doing their sanitation work?"

The only reason he’s resisted them at all thus far is because he found himself in human situations that presented him with a moral imperative to act. Now that he is free of that immediate imperative, Finn’s instinct is to put as much distance between himself and the First Order as he can. He tries to convince Rey to run away with him, but she refuses. 

Rey’s refusal will happen on a more fundamental level than Finn’s. She has accepted the current adventure, but her experience in the temple will serve to show her that she has a greater destiny. Here is where Rey’s arc echoes Luke’s training on Dagobah.

A lot of people have complained about Rey displaying Jedi ability without having any formal Jedi training. I think it makes more sense story-wise if we see Rey following Luke’s arc throughout the entire first trilogy and not just through the first movie. Throughout the course of this film, we see Rey discover the Force, experience a Force vision that outlines her hero’s journey for her, all the way through to a confrontation with her opponent on what is at this point assumed to be the opposite end of the moral spectrum. As a matter of construction, Rey’s progress is accelerated because the movie is attempting to cover more ground in terms of her character development.

In the framework of the story, I don’t have a problem with Rey exhibiting Force ability without the benefit of training. First, the Jedi philosophy is not the only path to developing these skills. Jedi and Sith both have separate forms of training that teach students how to harness the natural connection they feel with the Force. Training helps you hone skills and focus energies, but it’s not the key to having those abilities. Luke himself only had a couple of weeks of formal training in the original trilogy, consisting of a little basic history and lightsaber instruction by Obi-Wan Kenobi on the way to Alderaan and followed up with a crash course of swamp jogging and rock lifting with Yoda on Dagobah. Most of his power came from his acceptance of his connection to the Living Force, not his education on the subject of Jedi traditions. 

The Jedi are always insisting on training children at a suspiciously young age, but if we watch this in the prequels and in the Clone Wars TV show, this seems to be more for the purpose of indoctrination than anything else. The training is meant to instill you with an innate belief that the Jedi way is the sole path to the Light Side of the Force, which is the only good and proper use of the Force. That is not necessarily a message this new trilogy is intending to communicate.

C'mon, Yoda, how does giving blindfolded kids actual lightsabers teach them the "knowledge and defense" aspect of the Jedi philosophy?

Just as it was with Luke, having a vision of her destiny is an important milestone in Rey’s acceptance of her connection with the Force. This is her cave trial, in which she must face her own fears and accept her path. This trial recalls the belly of the whale imagery just as it did in Episode V. Luke descended into the Dark Side cave on Dagobah to face a vision of Darth Vader. Rey descends into the lower level of Maz’s castle, which becomes a dungeon of magic treasures and dangerous possibilities. 

In the bar, Rey hears a cry from the stairwell and descends the stairs to investigate. She finds a chest with an old lightsaber in it. When she touches the lightsaber, her vision begins.

At the end of Rey’s vision, Maz appears to help her understand it. She explains that the lightsaber belonged to Luke Skywalker and his father before him, so Rey should take it.

It’s important to note that this is not the lightsaber Luke made for himself before the events of Episode VI. This is Luke’s first lightsaber, the one he lost during his duel with Darth Vader on Bespin. It is the lightsaber given to Luke by Obi-Wan in Episode IV, which Obi-Wan told him his father intended him to have. The lightsaber is given the same sense of reverence in this film as it was when it was originally introduced.

"That's the lightsaber I stole from your father the day I set him on fire. Want to go to Alderaan with me?"

There’s a lot of Expanded Universe lore we could get into regarding the significance of this lightsaber. Even though the expanded canon prior to Disney’s acquisition of STAR WARS is now officially considered non-canonical, those ideas still exist and are available to the creative teams producing new stories. Some concepts in Episode VII appear to have been mined from stories in the old Expanded Universe, so there are a lot of interesting aspects of the story this lightsaber may come to represent outside of the fact that it once belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker.

In terms of the official canon, the significance of this lightsaber is questionable. Episode VII pays homage to Episode IV by giving the lightsaber itself a relevant contribution to the story. Outside of the story, this lightsaber is special because we as fans remember the way it was presented to Luke in Episode IV.

Inside the story, this lightsaber is not necessarily important to the core canon at all. While Obi-Wan supposedly kept it for Luke and told him his father wanted him to have it, we know that the latter of these assertions was a lie. Anakin may have had knowledge of Luke’s existence after he became Darth Vader, but he showed no actual interest in him and certainly wouldn’t have had any communication with Obi-Wan as to how to bequeath to Luke the lightsaber that was stolen from him while he was burning alive. The only reason Obi-Wan tells Luke this in Episode IV is to manipulate him into joining the adventure ahead.

Further to that point, this lightsaber has absolutely no significance as the weapon of Anakin Skywalker. In Episode II Anakin’s inability to keep hold of a lightsaber is a running gag, so much so that by the end of the film he only has a lightsaber because another Jedi throws him a spare. So the exalted Skywalker lightsaber that Obi-Wan pretended was an heirloom and Maz makes out to be Excalibur is just Kit Fisto’s backup blade, which Anakin happened to have with him when he dueled Obi-Wan on a lava planet.

Full disclosure: Expanded lore states that this lightsaber is not the spare that was tossed to him during the battle on Geonosis, that he constructed this one shortly after that and used it all the way through the Clone Wars, then murdered children with it and lost it to Obi-Wan Kenobi while he lay dying on Mustafar. 

"Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough... to be stabbed to death."

But from what we see in the movies, Anakin has no special fondness for this particular lightsaber, he did not express any desire for it to be passed down his bloodline, and he certainly did not willingly give it to Obi-Wan Kenobi at all. The only connecting thread this lightsaber offers for its users is that it represents the Skywalker curse. It’s the lightsaber that was used in duels that represented a catastrophic defeat for Anakin on Mustafar and then later for Luke on Bespin. From what we know, this blade is bad news and Rey is right to want nothing to do with it.

Maz can see Rey’s reluctance. Like Luke at the beginning of Episode IV, Rey doesn’t want to forsake her familial duty to accept more universal responsibilities. This is a common division we see between the heroes and villains in the STAR WARS saga. In the prequels, Anakin actually yells “yippee!” at the prospect of running away with the Jedi and leaving his mother to a life of slavery. Even though he seems a little conflicted about it later, we learn in Episode II that he made no attempt to contact or follow up with her until years later. Luke, on the other hand, is offered the opportunity to leave with Obi-Wan and live the life of adventure he’s always dreamed about in Episode IV, but he refuses the call because of his obligation to his aunt and uncle. Only after they’ve been killed does he consent to leave Tatooine. And even then Obi-Wan is manipulating Luke’s sense of familial obligation by pretending that Luke’s father wanted him to follow the path of the Jedi. This is a lie from any point of view, since we learn that Anakin himself had rejected the path of the Jedi.

"Consider this my resignation from the Jedi Council."

The difference between Kylo Ren and Rey is represented by the same dynamic in Episode VII. Kylo Ren abandons his family to pursue the destiny he believes he deserves, but Rey basically dooms herself to exile as little more than a slave on Jakku, with only the vague hope that her family will one day come back for her.

Understanding that this hope is an obstacle to Rey’s development, Maz tells Rey that her family isn’t coming back. In a throwback to Yoda’s cryptic offhand comment in Episode V that there was another he and Obi-Wan could look to should Luke fail, Maz tells Rey that someone else might come back even though her family won’t. At face value, you could assume she’s talking about Finn, but she seems to be hinting at something more profound. Rey assumes she’s talking about Luke, even though Luke’s return shouldn’t have any personal connection for her. Unless there’s a connection between Rey and Luke that has not yet been established in the story.

In any event, this choice prompts Rey’s refusal of the call. Unable to accept that her family is gone and overwhelmed by the sudden responsibility of learning the ways of the Force (and possibly experiencing a genuine intuition that Luke’s lightsaber is more of a cursed object than an enchanted item), Rey vows never to touch the lightsaber again and runs off into the woods. This is probably bad timing on Maz’s part, because she presents the lightsaber and the Force in such a way that they both represent to Rey an abandonment of her family, when Maz is essentially just trying to help Rey come to terms with the truth.

Rey is not ready to trust in the Force yet. When Maz told her to close her eyes (to trust in something more than she saw in front of her), Rey could not bring herself to do it.

The irony is that what Maz is encouraging Rey to do may very well be to accept her familial obligation. What is not overtly stated but is at least implied is that following the path of the Jedi may be an important part of Rey’s heritage. Maz tells her that the lightsaber was Luke Skywalker’s and his father’s before him, and therefore she should take it. There is a strong possibility that we will at a later point in the story (the sequel) learn that Rey is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. 

It may be apropos of nothing, but this theory reminds me of the original teaser for the film. In the teaser Luke explains to someone (presumably someone in the story) that the Force runs strong in his family. “My father has it,” Luke says in a voice-over, “my sister has it, and you have that power too.”

This is obviously a throwback to Luke’s revelation in Episode VI that Leia is his sister and has the potential to become a Jedi. While he uses the words “my family” rather than saying “our family”, it seems like he’s explaining this to someone with the same bloodline, or why say it at all? This could be something said to Kylo Ren during the time that he was being trained as a Jedi, but why say “my sister” instead of “your mother”? It’s also interesting that Luke says “my father has it” (present tense), but that may be getting a little too granular.

Most likely the Luke voice-over in the teaser was recorded just for the teaser to excite the audience’s sense of nostalgia. Even so, it’s interesting that the story being teased here is a story about Luke training a prospective Jedi who may also be a Skywalker.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cloud City Social Club: A STAR WARS Podcast - CCSC002 - STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, Part 2!

Sean, Brooks, Andrew, and Lynn return to continue their discussion of STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS!


Friday, January 8, 2016

The Franchise Awakens: The Goddess and the Temple

As Episode VII continues, we begin to see more and more that Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader. Vader lashed out at subordinates and prisoners alike, but he did it with an ease that illustrated just how powerful he was. He may have been consumed by hate, but he didn’t appear to be controlled by his anger.

Kylo Ren’s anger finds interesting moments to manifest, and I think we can learn a lot about his character from those moments. When he is informed of Poe Dameron’s escape with a traitor, he automatically assumes the turncoat trooper is FN-2187 and doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it. His goal is the recovery of the map, so Poe’s escape doesn’t actually matter to Kylo because he already got the information he wanted from him.

On the other hand, when Kylo is told about BB-8’s escape with the same traitor trooper, he is not quite so composed. He slashes his lightsaber wildly at whatever hopefully replaceable control panel is in front of him, only stopping long enough to ask for more information. When he is then informed that the droid and the trooper were also accompanied by a girl, he becomes murderously furious for what seems like no reason.

Kylo Ren is completely controlled by his anger. He lashes out at everything like a disillusioned teen, defying orders and throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. He is desperate to be feared and respected just as Darth Vader was, but it’s clear that this is not likely to happen.

"You could have it all... my Empire of dirt..."

Kylo reports his failure to recover the droid and the location of Luke Skywalker to Supreme Leader Snoke, the Emperor analog of Episode VII. Snoke appears before his subordinates as a giant hologram which looks like kind of a cheesy CGI effect. There’s a lot of speculation about who Snoke is and why he’s represented by such a weak light show when most of the other FX in the film are practical rather than CG. Maybe this masks a less than intimidating person, in a Wizard of Oz sort of turn. The real Snoke may just be a tiny little man trying to control the galaxy from the relative safety of an as yet undisclosed secret location.

Snoke decides they need a change in strategy. General Hux suggests using their new supreme weapon while Kylo Ren insists he can uncover Skywalker’s location. Snoke warns Kylo Ren that Rey and Finn are with Han Solo, his father. Kylo Ren swears that Solo means nothing to him, but Snoke is concerned that he has not yet had to face a test of this kind.

Snoke calls Kylo the Master of the Knights of Ren, a title that is not explained in the movie. It seems to be a throwback to Darth Vader’s title of Lord of the Sith in STAR WARS, but it seems like more than that. I’ll come back around to them later, because there are some pretty interesting possibilities as to who they could be.

Snoke hints at being older than the Jedi and the Sith, or at least predating the current paradigm of Jedi vs. Sith. Some fan speculation is that Snoke is actually the spirit of legendary Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, who was able to create life merely by manipulating the Living Force. It is also possible that Darth Plagueis was responsible for the spontaneous creation of Anakin Skywalker, who was, according the Episode I, conceived without a father.

"Obi-Wan never told you the truth... No one is your father."

There is another possibility that is similar to that theory. The back story in which Luke attempted to train a new Jedi Order but failed when a powerful apprentice turned against him and ruined it all was also explored in the Expanded Universe of the 1990’s. In that story the specter of an ancient Sith Lord, Exar Kun, poisoned Luke’s students and attempted to seduce them to the Dark Side. The most powerful of these was corrupted and became obsessed enough with Darth Vader that he went to Endor and stole Vader’s helmet from his grave.

Kylo Ren has better reason to be obsessed with Darth Vader, once it’s revealed that he is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. He is haunted by the idea of his grandfather and what he tried to accomplish, and Snoke uses his anger against his father (the reason for which is not stated in the film) to corrupt him into attempting to take Vader’s place.

I think that Snoke seduced Kylo Ren by posing as the Force Spirit of Anakin Skywalker. We know that Kylo wants to be like Vader and that he looks to his Grandfather’s spirit for guidance. Kylo later appeals to the spirit of his grandfather to help him resist the call to the light so that he can finish what Vader began. He does this by talking to what’s left of Vader’s helmet, which he apparently stole from Vader’s grave on Endor. Maybe he’s just symbolically appealing to his Grandfather’s spirit, but how that conversation is playing out in Kylo’s mind is between him and the voices in his head.

It’s Snoke’s appearance that seems curious to me. Most importantly, Snoke’s scars. He has one scar on the top of his bald scalp, cutting across the left side. Also on the left side of his face, his cheek appears to have been burned. This very specific combination of wounds can also be found on the face of Anakin Skywalker in Episode VI. When Vader is unmasked at the end of the film, he is revealed to be bald with a scar across the top left side of his scalp and burns on his left cheek. Cosmetically, Snoke’s avatar is a stylized version of the unmasked Vader. Just a thought.

Meanwhile, Han takes Finn and Rey to the lush green world of Takodana to see his old friend Maz Kanata. At this point it’s strange that they kind of all at least implicitly agreed to take BB-8 to the “secret” Resistance Base, but instead Han makes a detour to get a clean ship that can’t be tracked by the First Order. This might not be as conspicuous if Han had ever done this in any of the myriad prior situations where the Empire was chasing the Millennium Falcon, not the least of which was the time he knowingly led the Death Star to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Han is wiser and not quite as attached to the Falcon these days, so maybe he’s just playing things smarter, but it feels more like he has a different agenda in mind. Of course, the obvious reason Han is taking them there is because he's planning to ditch them with Maz Kanata. Ostensibly Han has no interest in connecting with the Resistance or re-connecting with Leia.

On their approach to the surface of Takodana, Rey says she’s never seen so much green before. Han looks guilty to hear her say this. Maybe he’s just sympathetic because he’s come to like the girl, or maybe there is a deeper sentiment that drives him to look almost regretful at hearing how limited Rey’s life on Jakku was.

There are a couple of times here that Han balks at his own identity. When Rey remarks that he is definitely Han Solo. Han answers that he used to be. Probably because he doesn’t feel he’s the same man anymore. More suspiciously, at one point Finn calls him Solo and Han balks at that. It doesn’t come to anything and doesn’t seem to mean anything, but Han doesn’t like being recognized. Maybe because reminders of his past are just too painful.

Some wounds run too deep.

After Rey leaves the ship, Finn tells Han he’s a big deal in the Resistance and can’t risk being discovered. Han warns Finn that women always discover the truth. What exactly does this line mean? Ostensibly, Han is telling Finn that he knows Finn is lying, and Rey will find out too. But it also suggests that Han has tried to deceive a woman in the past and gotten caught doing it.

This next sequence is Episode VII’s cantina scene. Before entering Maz Kanata’s castle, Han tells them not to stare at anything. This is necessary because Rey is a backwater bumpkin and Finn’s experiences in the First Order were apparently so racially exclusive that he’s never even heard of Wookiees.

Mythologically, Maz’s castle is a threshold in the same sense Mos Eisley was in Episode IV. It represents a much larger world than Rey and Finn are familiar with. Rey has been stranded on a desert planet with limited interactions with galactic society and Finn was raised by the First Order and taught only what he needed to know to be an efficient stormtrooper. Finding BB-8 and each other was their first glimpse at something greater. Now that they have met Han he is once again fulfilling the role fulfilled by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV. First he explains the scope of the larger world surrounding them, then he takes them to a place that perfectly illustrates the diversity represented in the worlds that lie beyond their own. Leaving Jakku was the crossing of an initial threshold, as was their escape from the belly of the whale in Han’s freighter, but their experience on Takodana will be their first real connection to the more spiritual quality of their adventure.

It’s interesting to note here that Episode VII is on the surface a beat by beat retread of the plot of Episode IV, but beyond the surface it’s actually a lot more ambitious. The overall plot structure is not just reminiscent of the first film, but it also mirrors the basic plot of the entire first trilogy.

Once Rey and Finn leave Jakku, their capture by Han Solo serves the same narrative purpose as the heroes’ capture by the Death Star in the first film. The belly of the whale sequence prepared the heroes for the risks and struggles to come. After that many of the sequences are aesthetic analogues to scenes from the first movie, but thematically represent events that occurred in Episodes V and VI.

While Maz Kanata’s castle aesthetically calls back the Mos Eisley cantina, and helps introduce the characters to a world that is much larger than what they’ve previously known, their trip to Takodana is, in terms of plot, more comparable to the flight to Yavin 4 at the end of STAR WARS. Takodana even looks like Yavin 4, just like Maz’s castle resembles the Massassi temple which harbored the rebels at the end of Episode IV.

The planet Takodana, where Maz's castle is located, has the same basic topography as Yavin 4.

In this sense Maz’s castle is symbolic of the same mythological device as the Massassi Temple. It is a representation of the World Womb. Mythologically speaking, the belly of the whale challenge has two distinct aspects: On the one hand it is about danger – such as when Rey and Finn had to escape pirates and rathtars on Han’s freighter – but on the other, it is about transcendence. The World Womb is like the belly of the whale, but you’re not just fighting for survival. You’re also fighting to prove your worthiness.

In Episode IV the adventure that led them from the Death Star to the temple on Yavin 4 was a belly of the whale trial for Luke and Han. In the Death Star, the situation forced them to act for their own benefit while the situation on Yavin 4 gave them a choice. Luke agreed to stay and fight for what he believed while Han initially chose to leave and continue looking after only his own wellbeing.

The experiences that lead Finn and Rey from Han’s freighter to Maz Kanata represent the exact same trial for Finn and Rey. While aboard Han’s ship, they are both in danger and there is no choice given them as to whether or not they should take action. By the time they reach Maz Kanata, they are given the freedom to choose. Rey remains to see the adventure through while Finn initially chooses to run. This is the exact same choice presented to Luke and Han in the temple on Yavin 4.

At the same time, running from the First Order with Han is also a throwback to their pursuit by the Empire in Episode V. So Takodana doesn’t just represent the temple they encountered on Yavin 4, it also echoes the story arc that Luke played out while training on Dagobah.

Of course, there is no substitute for Yoda or Dagobah.

Like a lot of heralds and sage-like divine messengers in myth, Maz appears to be much humbler than her actual station and character would imply. When they enter the castle they walk in on a bar where Maz is serving drinks. At this point we are given no indication that she is anything more than a bartender, but this is quickly demonstrated to not be the case.

Again we see that BB-8 is the only droid like BB-8 in the universe. Within seconds of their arrival, representatives of the First Order and the Resistance report back to their contacts that they have found the droid everyone is looking for.

Maz and all the denizens of her bar know Han Solo, which we learn the second he walks through the door. She calls Han’s name and the whole place comes to a stop like a saloon in an old Western when a stranger comes around. For future reference, Maz’s place may be a terrible hideout if you’re on the run and trying to keep it on the down low.

Maz and Han come off as old friends. She speaks fondly of Chewbacca, referring to him as her boyfriend. We get a sense that there’s a lot of history there.

Maz looks and acts a little bit like Yoda, not revealing the extent of her knowledge and sizing the newcomers up during their encounter. She laughs that Han has been out of the “mess” for a while and is finally getting pulled back in.

Seeing the conflict in Finn, Maz gives him the requisite moral choice: She tells him about two pilots that will take him to the outer rim in return for work. Just as Han did when faced with the seemingly impossible prospect of fighting the Death Star at the end of Episode IV, Finn chooses to run. He goes to talk to the pilots and Rey follows after him. At this point Rey is not committed to abandoning Jakku, but she is for the moment committed to helping BB-8.

We still don’t know what Han really knows about Rey. Maz asks who she is as though she expects Han to know, but the scene cuts away before Han can answer.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


In this inaugural installment of Cloud City Social Club, an all-new ongoing STAR WARS podcast, Sean, Brooks, Andrew, Greg, and Lynn discuss STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS!


Friday, January 1, 2016

The Franchise Awakens: The Call to Adventure!

SPOILER ALERT! I will be discussing the first act of STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS in detail in this article.

Episode VII doesn’t just recycle concepts seen in the original film; it also recycles concepts from earlier drafts of the first film’s script. Poe Dameron’s hand-off of the data module to BB-8, followed by his confrontation with Kylo Ren and capture, all make him a little like Deak Starkiller from George Lucas’ second draft of the STAR WARS script. In that version of the script Deak fulfilled the same function that Princess Leia would in later drafts: He confronted Vader, was captured and tortured, sent R2-D2 to draw Luke into the story, and was eventually rescued. The same happens to Poe in the course of Episode VII.

Poe is, on the surface, just as much like Leia as he is Deak Starkiller, but in some ways I think he calls back to Deak more than Leia. Like Deak, the object of Poe’s quest is more spiritual in nature. In the second draft of the original STAR WARS script, Deak sent the droids to find Luke and get the legendary Kiber Crystal to the Starkiller, a powerful Jedi who might be able to free the galaxy from Imperial oppression and the influence of the Dark Side. The droids found Luke, who then became tasked with finding the Starkiller. In the end finding the Starkiller was proven superfluous next to the importance of bringing Luke into the story, because Luke played a much more important role in galactic events.

In Episode VII, Poe’s mission is to find Luke Skywalker for basically the same reason that Deak was sending for the Starkiller. Like Deak, Poe is prevented from completing the mission himself. He entrusts his mission to BB-8, who then finds Rey, who then becomes tasked with finding Skywalker herself. And in the end finding Luke Skywalker appears to be less important than bringing Rey into the story, because it looks like she will have a far more important role in shaping galactic events.

Episode VII is more reminiscent of the second draft of the original script because it does not revolve around a plot to destroy the Empire’s super-weapon in the same way that the story of Episode IV did. Destroying the Starkiller Base is not Poe’s primary objective and gets introduced almost as an ancillary concern to give everybody something to do in the third act. The primary objective is to re-connect with an ancient spiritual power, which leads to the introduction of a renewed sense of hope for the galaxy.

In the story and out, we start out thinking we need to reconnect with old heroes when what we really need are new ones. 

After his capture, Poe is tortured by the First Order. Like Leia’s torture in Episode IV, this is more suggested than it is shown, but the novelization states that Poe is beaten for days before being interrogated by Kylo Ren. Whereas Poe was able to resist physical torture, Kylo Ren penetrates his mind using the Force and learns that the map is hidden in a droid.

Captain Phasma, a caped stormtrooper in chrome armor, is the commanding officer of the First Order stormtroopers. She orders FN-2187 to hand in his blaster for inspection and report to her unit. In the novel FN-2187 pretended that his blaster jammed and that was why he was unable to fire, but this ruse would not withstand scrutiny once the weapon was inspected.

Captain Phasma, caped stormtrooper extraordinaire 

In the 2015 Fall Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, director JJ Abrams said that the chrome sheen on Phasma’s costume reminded him of the death balls in Phantasm, and Phasma’s name is an homage to that film.

This is just one man's opinion, but Disney may be going a little overboard with the merchandising on this one. 

The look of the character has roots that go back almost as far as her namesake. She looks like early concept art Ralph McQuarrie did for the first film, which envisioned a Darth Vader that much more closely resembled the stormtroopers.

Compare Phasma (left) to the rough concept of Darth Vader (right). 

In the story the chrome alloy supposedly came from a melted down space yacht owned by Palpatine, which had been constructed on his home planet Naboo.

Does that symbolize the recycling of the old STAR WARS movies into this one, or the fact that the prequels have been scrapped?

Instead of submitting himself for sanction and re-programming, a shell-shocked FN-2187 rescues Poe Dameron and they escape in a stolen Special Forces TIE Fighter. Just as it happens with Deak Starkiller in the second draft of STAR WARS and Princess Leia in the finished STAR WARS movie, Poe is rescued by someone in stormtrooper armor. This is the first time this has happened where the rescuer is actually a stormtrooper.

"This is what real stormtroopers look like. Some of us. Others look different." 

It’s worth noting that one of the stormtroopers lets out a Wilhelm scream when being blasted by FN-2187. That is a classic sound effect from the 1950’s that sound designer Ben Burtt used in the original STAR WARS. Since then the sound has become a staple of STAR WARS films and other franchises like the Indiana Jones series.


Phasma reports that FN-2187 was analyzed and sent for re-conditioning, but never had a prior incident of non-conformity. FN-2187 deserted after being ordered to report for re-conditioning, but it’s interesting that Phasma sent him for re-conditioning without following up to confirm that he got there. Even now that he’s turned traitor she says it like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. She almost seems to be defending him a little here. In an earlier scene where she cautioned him not to remove his helmet, it almost seemed like she was giving him a word of warning rather than an admonishment. These moments by themselves aren’t very suspicious, but Phasma seems to support the main characters – voluntarily or involuntarily – throughout the movie. She either has a hidden agenda or she’s just bad at her job.

As they depart the destroyer in their stolen TIE fighter, Poe introduces himself and resolves to call FN-2187 “Finn” because it’s easier to say. Finn wants to leave the system (which is strange because I thought TIE fighters couldn’t travel long distances without a command ship), but Poe insists on returning to Jakku to continue his mission. He is so insistent, in fact, that he tells this stranger his mission and describes BB-8 to him, even down to the color. It looks like it would have been a lot easier for the First Order to have someone pretend to rescue Poe so they could simply ask him where the map was. That would parallel the Death Star escape in the first film too, since Darth Vader allowed Leia to escape because he had planted a tracker in the Millennium Falcon. I don’t think that’s the case here, even though several of Finn’s actions throughout the movie could be considered suspect in the right light. But there is too much exposition about Finn and his mindset that is communicated only for the audience’s benefit for this to make sense in the story. The novelization also states more than once that the other characters take Finn into their confidence because they get a natural sense that they can trust him.

Their TIE fighter is shot down during their descent to Jakku. Finn ejects, but Poe is nowhere to be found. Finn recovers Poe’s jacket from the wreckage, but the ship sinks into the sand and explodes. Since Finn only saves the jacket from the fighter, we can assume that Poe was not in the cockpit when it sank. Finn also came down in a parachute after ejecting, so we can assume that Poe may also have successfully ejected. Finn doesn’t assume this, so instead of looking for Poe in the area surrounding the crash, he steals his jacket and leaves.

Some people criticize the concept of spaceships having ejector seats with parachutes, but several times throughout the movie we will see that these ships are also perfectly capable of flying within the atmosphere of a planet. Maybe they have other safeguards for space crashes, but even if they didn’t this seems like a logical feature. If you crash in outer space, there probably isn’t much point in ejecting anyway.

If I were doing this, I'd want a parachute. 

The Luke Skywalker analog in this film is Rey. She’s a desert scavenger who was apparently abandoned by her family when she was very young. Rey salvages parts from crashed Imperial wrecks to sell at a nearby trading post and she lives inside a fallen AT-AT. It’s interesting to me that we don’t see any wrecked rebel ships in any of these crash sites. Could this have been the site of an Imperial civil skirmish? After the Empire broke up, there had to be some warring factions of remaining Imperials. This occurred in the old Expanded Universe, before leaders like Grand Admiral Thrawn arose to the reunite them.

"Finally something we can all agree on!" 

Rey has some possessions that suggest she may have salvaged rebel wrecks as well. Inside her home she has a handmade doll that looks like an old X-wing pilot. The novel says that it is recycled material from an old rebel flight suit, but it doesn’t say where she got it. She also has an old X-wing pilot helmet, which she tries on just for fun. We are possibly only meant to think these were salvaged from wreckage, but so far we have only seen her salvage Imperial wrecks. There may be another reason why Rey has the remnants of an old rebel flight suit in her possession or that she would make a doll resembling an X-wing pilot.

Rey hears a scavenger trying to capture BB-8 and saves the droid, who decides to stay with her. It is not stated in the story why BB-8 chooses to stay with Rey rather than searching for Poe or attempting to make contact with the Resistance. This may just be to facilitate the story, but there may be a much simpler reason in the story for the droid’s interest in Rey.

Rey looks a lot like early concept art from the first film that envisioned Luke as a female character. Her name may be an homage to Del Rey, the publisher that originally printed the STAR WARS novelization and its follow-up, SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, as well as the original trilogy of Han Solo novels.

Rey is surprisingly knowledgeable on a number of sophisticated topics. Not only is she a top notch engineer with an inherent understanding of state-of-art technology, she also understands BB-8 and can speak (or at least understand) Wookiee. One explanation for this could be that Rey has been able to salvage and access data records from the ships she has plundered over the years. Another may be that she has access to information because of who her family was. This seems unlikely, since they don’t seem to have left her much of anything else. The simplest explanation is that just because she’s a scavenger on a desert planet doesn’t mean she can’t be educated. I think it’s more likely that she is working off of scavenged data. First Order propaganda seems to be prevalent on Jakku, because Luke Skywalker saved the galaxy and destroyed the Empire, but Rey later admits to believing he was only a myth.

When Rey trades in more salvage parts to Unkar Plutt (played under a ton of makeup by Simon Pegg), Plutt offers her 60 portions of dehydrated oatmeal bread (which is a fortune for a girl who lives in an AT-AT) for BB-8. Rey refuses and he orders his men to follow her and retrieve the droid. At this point the First Order knows that the map is in a droid, and there must not be too many droids left in the galaxy because everyone who sees BB-8 assumes he’s the droid they’re looking for.

Finn makes his way to Rey’s settlement after shedding his armor and trekking through the desert. He sees Plutt’s goons attack Rey to steal BB-8 and almost intercedes, but quickly sees that she can handle herself.

Finn recognizes BB-8 as the droid Dameron told him about, which possesses a map to Luke Skywalker. But everyone recognizes BB-8, so Dameron’s description to Finn is pretty much irrelevant. BB-8 sees that Finn is wearing Poe’s jacket and tells Rey that it must be stolen. Rey and BB-8 chase Finn down and he tells them that he rescued Poe from the First Order, but Poe was killed when they crashed on the planet. He doesn’t explain why that logically translates into him wearing Poe’s jacket, but nobody spends too much time on that. Instead Rey assumes he is with the Resistance and Finn agrees because this seems like the quickest way to get her to stop hitting him with a stick.

First Order troops attack the settlement and Finn assumes they are after him even though they are actually after BB-8. This again speaks to his sincerity, because Finn at no time seems to accept the importance of the droid or what he carries. He is absolutely paranoid in his belief that the First Order can and will track him anywhere he goes, which could end up being the case since they always seem to find him no matter where he is.

What Finn doesn't know is that the First Order planted a tracker in Poe Dameron's jacket. 

As to the matter of the mysterious map that leads to Luke Skywalker: Kylo Ren reveals that the map was recovered from old Imperial archives, but portions of it had been erased. He does not explain why everyone thinks the map will lead to Luke Skywalker, but he is obsessed with recovering the missing piece. Even though the Supreme Leader Snoke ordered the droid to be destroyed if it could not be recovered, Kylo insists on risking everything to get it intact. General Hux, the Grand Moff Tarkin of the piece, warns Kylo Ren not to put his own interests above those of their supreme leader. Finn, Rey, and BB-8 get to the Millennium Falcon, which is in Plutt’s impound, and escape. Rey knows enough about the ship to know that it will fly, but she says it hasn’t been flown in years. Plutt shouts at them as they take off, but otherwise nothing is done to prevent them stealing it.

Finn and Rey manage to get past a TIE fighter patrol and into orbit, but Rey doesn’t want to leave Jakku. In order to avoid this, Finn confesses to BB-8 that he is not with the Resistance but needs to know the location of the secret rebel base anyway. BB-8 shockingly accepts this appeal, telling them where they need to take him.

There is no time to work out a plan, though, because the Millennium Falcon is captured in open space by a freighter that turns out to be owned by Han Solo and Chewbacca. Han tells them that the ship was stolen from him, and Rey explains the entire chain of custody that led from one theft to another until it ended up with Unkar Plutt. Han doesn’t explain when it was stolen or why he didn’t bother to track it down, or why he is now bothering to recover it if he didn’t care before, but in any event he is now resolved to reclaim it as his own and dump them off at the first available stop.

Han’s freighter is boarded (rather easily) by rival factions who feel cheated in Han’s recent venture to capture three rathtars, which are now aboard the ship. There’s no real explanation for how two killer gangs were able to board Han’s ship without any defenses to prevent this, and there’s also no explanation for why they all want Han dead when he has clearly secured what he promised them.

This whole sequence feels forced and isn’t quite as organic as the action leading up to it. Its main purpose seems to be to show us that Han is in this movie and is exactly the same character he was in the first movie, scheming and smuggling and only just barely staying out of trouble. Since it isn’t introducing a new character or idea to the story, it kind of slows the movie down. It just cashes in on Han being there, but it doesn’t give him much to do.

Han kind of comes off as the creepy college professor who's always hanging out with his students. 

Rey and Finn are in hiding under the floor, but BB-8 is with Han and Chewie, and the gangs instantly recognize him as the droid the First Order is looking for. Trying to seal off the blast doors to close in the gangs, Rey accidentally releases the rathtars.

Aesthetically this scene mirrors the trash compactor sequence in the first movie. The characters are playing out a “belly of the whale” type scenario in the bowels of Han’s freighter, making this a bit of a mythological proving ground for them. The rathtars are designed to look like early concept art for the Dianoga trash monster in the first movie, so the parallel is (at least cosmetically) intentional.

As a trial on their hero’s journey, this sequence represents a crossing of the threshold for Rey and Finn. Up until this point they were simply trying to get away from the First Order and they were on the cusp of deciding what to do to help BB-8 when Han’s ship swallowed them up. Overcoming the perils represented by the threshold guardians manifested in the forms of not particularly intimidating space pirates and murder-monster killing machines is their first step into a larger world.

Again we see this sequence as an excuse to show us Han is still his old rock ‘em sock ‘em self. It even plays as an apology for the “Greedo Fires First” position of the Special Editions. At one point Han punches a goon to get past him, then, realizing this is not cold-blooded enough to show us that Han is a take-no-prisoners hard-case, he throws the guy screaming into the gaping maw of a rathtar. This doesn’t redeem the Greedo revision, because what made the Greedo scene so silly is that in the original version Han was clearly justified and acting in self-defense. It didn’t need to be edited to portray Han as a good guy. Making up for that unnecessary whitewashing by having Han kill a guy for no reason is missing the point just as badly.

It might just be time to stop being mad about that anyway, guys...

They all fight their way to the Falcon, but Chewie is shot and his right arm is injured. Han escapes the freighter by making the jump to light speed while still in the hangar, and the Millennium Falcon whisks them away from the pirates, Jakku, and any real hope or fear of ever going back to the lives they knew.

Finn recognizes Han as the famous General of the Rebellion and Rey recognizes him as an infamous smuggler. Appealing to him to help them in their cause, they decide to tell him about their super-secret mission too. Han acts like he’s reluctant to get involved. He looks at the map BB-8 is carrying, telling them that it is incomplete.

This movie matches the plot construction of the original movie almost beat for beat. At first Han is not fully recognizable because his role in this movie is not analogous to his role in the first STAR WARS. His story role in this movie is the same as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s was in the first movie. He’s the mysterious patron from another age who pops up out of nowhere and starts telling them all the necessary details about the back story.

When Han tells Rey and Finn about Luke’s disappearance, we begin to get an inkling of what the map really is. According to Han, Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, but one apprentice turned and ruined it all. Feeling responsible, Luke went into exile and no one knows where he went. Some people believe that Luke is looking for the first Jedi temple. If the map stolen from the Imperial archives is a map to the first Jedi temple, then it makes sense that people believe that the map is the key to finding Luke. It doesn’t really make sense for everyone to believe he will definitely be at this location after all these years, but it at least makes more sense than saying that BB-8 has a map to Luke Skywalker.

At this point in the story, Han becomes the herald that guides Rey and Finn on their hero’s journey. His exposition introduces them to the larger world, confirming that the Force and the Jedi are in fact real and, by extension, the conflict between light and dark is equally real. Technically BB-8 carries the information itself, but Han is the only one with any understanding of what it means. Until this point in the story they were both satisfied to help BB-8 on his way and then go back to their own agendas. Han’s revelations change the scope of the situation for them. While he is not directly or intentionally prompting them to join in the larger story, the information he gives them constitutes, in terms of the hero path described by Joseph Campbell, their call to adventure.