WARNING: SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: EPISODE VII-THE FORCE AWAKENS AND OTHER STAR WARS MEDIA
It’s safe to say that, generally, everyone loves Star Wars. And with the success of 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens, the popularity of the brand has been revitalized in ways I never would have imagined ten years ago. Though many were not thrilled with the over-the-top deference to the original Star Wars trilogy (ANOTHER version of the Death Star? Seriously?!), one aspect of the film that everyone enjoyed were the new characters, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron (our new heroes), and Kylo Ren, the film’s villain.
With Rey setting off to meet Luke Skywalker, Finn recovering from the final battle, and Kylo Ren retreating to complete his training in the dark side, there was bound to be obsessive speculation in the two years between Episode VII and Episode VIII. Some intriguing and well thought out, and some that is completely insane and makes you question whether the person who presented their theory actually watched the movie. Nevertheless, a quick search of Reddit or YouTube will reveal an endless amount of fan theories, so instead, we’re going to narrow it down to the most well known ones.
Here are some popular theories for Star Wars: Episode VIII:
Rey is Luke’s Daughter
Let’s start with the theory that pretty much everyone and their mother expects to happen. The original 6 film saga was the the story of the Skywalker family. In The Force Awakens Rey was a lonely scavenger on the desert planet Jakku, seemingly abandoned by her family. Adding this to the fact that she seems to be strong in the force in ways that are unprecedented (successfully using a mind trick and defeating a darksider in lightsaber combat with NO TRAINING), and it makes sense that this new trilogy would be about the next generation of Skywalkers. Luke may not say anything at the end of the film, but it’s clear from the look on his face when he meets Rey that he at least knows who she is, so there’s some prior connection there. The best evidence for this theory is Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber literally calling to her, AND showing her visions of the past when she touches it. Despite all this evidence, however, I personally feel that this is too obvious, and it seems like Lucasfilm is planning on giving us a surprise, so as likely as this theory is, I have my doubts for that reason alone.
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo will be redeemed
The belief by some that Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, will be redeemed either by the end of Episode 8 or 9, is a popular topic of speculation in many circles. The Force Awakens goes out of it’s way to portray Kylo Ren as a deeply conflicted man who, while willfully choosing the dark side, continues to feel “the pull to the light”. The screenplay also hints at this, saying that by killing Han Solo, his own father, Ren hoped to strengthen his connection to the dark side, but instead he just felt “weakened” and “horrified” by what he had just done.
Look, I get it, I really do. Everyone’s sad about Han Solo and they don’t want him to die in vain, so they want Kylo Ren/Ben Solo to follow Darth Vader’s path and come back to the light. But for the sake of good storytelling, this is a terrible idea.
Part of the reason why the character of Darth Vader is one of the most beloved villains in cinematic history is because of HIS redemption arc. Giving the next bad guy another one would not only be taking the lazy way out, it would cheapen Vader’s story as well, which to me, is unacceptable. The fact that Kylo Ren is torn between the dark side and the light just makes him all the more compelling as a straight up villain. And if there is one thing that this new trilogy needs to differentiate itself from previous movies, it’s a menacing, complex antagonist that stays evil to the very end. Besides…he killed Han Solo. This guy’s gotta go down at some point.
Rey is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Granddaughter
I was skeptical about this one at first, but when I started listening to it, I thought it sounded like a good idea. We know from The Clone Wars television series that Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine of Mandalore had a romantic relationship, so it is possible, however unlikely, that they had a child that Satine never told him about.
Star Wars loves its parallels, and the evidence for this theory points to many. Ranging from the similarity of their clothes, to their British accents (not a genetic trait, but whatever), to their shared proficiency with the Jedi mind trick, a difficult ability that takes years of training to master, yet Rey somehow succeeds on her first attempt (a plot hole I hope this theory can rectify).
The most interesting piece of evidence is Rey’s force vision. Filled with confusing images and disembodied voices from the past, Obi-Wan Kenobi’ voice directly addresses Rey, and at the end of her vision, whispers to her, “these are your first steps”. Of all the voices that could have directly communicated with Rey (Yoda, Palpatine), why him, save for some kind of connection?
In the world of Star Wars, the only name that means just as much as Skywalker, is Kenobi. When it comes to the prequel films, the popular opinion is that Anakin is the fallen hero of that trilogy, but I always felt that Obi-Wan was the true protagonist of those films, especially since Obi-Wan has to fight Anakin/Vader in both their trilogies. So it makes perfect sense to me that how a Kenobi was once the mentor to a Skywalker, now a Luke Skywalker will be the mentor of Rey, the next Kenobi. This theory also happens to be the perfect excuse for the rumored Obi-Wan spinoff film that I desperately want to happen.
Snoke is Darth Plagueis
Another theory that is wildly popular among the hardcore fan base, is the idea the Supreme Leader Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis, Emporer Palpatine’s former master. Plagueis is first mentioned in Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine tells Anakin a “legend” about a Sith who could supposedly influence the force to cheat death.
Due to the utterly mysterious nature of Snoke’s identity and his obvious similarities to Palpatine (dark, disfigured overlord sitting on a throne and giving orders to an apprentice that wears all black), it makes sense that fans would want to see this connection to the prequel films be brought into the new trilogy. Unfortunately, it would also undo the ending of Return of the Jedi where Vader brings balance to the force by killing the Emperor and destroying the Sith for good. Also, Palpatine clearly states that Plagueis was killed in his sleep by his apprentice (Palpatine). Pretty hard to come back from that.
Luke Skywalker is a Gray Jedi
Ok, so this one isn’t popular at all but it is known, and I feel like it needs some love. At the start of The Force Awakens, we learn that Luke Skywalker has vanished after failing to restart the Jedi Order when Kylo Ren betrays him and destroys it all. Feeling responsible for the disaster, Luke exiled himself to Ach-too for reasons yet to be discovered.
Looking back at past films, it becomes clear that the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith has wreaked havoc on the galaxy. The Jedi Order in the prequels, though being the good guys in theory, were arrogant, dogmatic, and blind to the fact they were being manipulated by the Sith, leading to the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Galactic Empire. As for the Sith, they need no explanaition as to why their Order is flawed because, well…they’re the main antagonists of every film. So what if, instead of choosing one extreme over the other, the right path is to find a healthy middle ground? A couple of recently introduced concepts in supplemental material might raise a few eyebrows.
First, Star Wars: Rebels, a Disney XD spinoff show about the beginnings of the Rebellion, recently introduced a character known as the Bendu, a mysterious force-wielding being that is beholden neither to the dark or light side of the force, but rather to balance. This is very unconventional for standard Star Wars fare, as the battle between good and evil tends to have a pretty clear cut tone (Light=good, dark=bad). The introduction of a character that defies that understanding must (or at the very least, hopefully) have some bigger purpose in the canon. More compelling still is the inclusion of a poem from The Force Awakens. Taken from previously expanded universe material called The Journal of the Whills, the poem cryptically waxes and wanes about the refinement of darkness and light:
“First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight.”
―Journal of the Whills, 7:477
Obviously that doesn’t prove anything, but the fact that it opens the novelization for the film has to mean something. Admittedly, the only hard fact that would really support this theory, is the fact that the Jedi and the Sith, along with the vast majority of their teachings, are extinct, save for Luke. But considering the polarized real-world political climate we’re currently experiencing, learning to reject extremes and operate somewhere in the middle would be quite a relevant message for the times we’re living in.
At the end of the day, the only thing we know for certain about the next installment of the franchise is that we know virtually nothing about where Rian Johnson and company are going to go with this story. But if his 2012 film Looper is any indication of the talent behind the new Star Wars, then we are indeed in good hands.
Star Wars: Episode VIII will arrive in theaters on December 15th, 2017