Editorial/Speculation: Luke’s Role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
What has undoubtedly been one of the biggest questions in the minds of fans of Star Wars is the one regarding how long Luke Skywalker will appear in the movie, and what his role in the story could be. Recently, I’ve come across some information from sources I trust that have really made me think about the character’s role in the movie; below is my argument/educated guess as to when and where we’ll see Luke in The Force Awakens. Outright spoilers and potential spoilers ahead!
One of the biggest sources of controversy within the Star Wars fandom right now is the assertion that Luke Skywalker is either in the movie for the last minute before the credits roll, or that he’s in a brief flashback and then in the very last minute of the movie. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of bile from fans directed at Making Star Wars site-runner Jason Ward, who first reported that story. I do not think that fans should shoot the messenger here, but rather take a good look at every bit of evidence that could potentially prove or disprove the argument. Indeed, one of our own sources supported this rumor, while other sources have discredited it. I happen to disagree on this matter – with no disrespect to Jason Ward or any of our sources, of course – and I’m going to spend the rest of this article explaining why by looking over existing information, a few rumors, and some important leads that just came to my attention.
For starters, a key reason why this rumor has been heavily criticized is that, from a narrative standpoint, Luke seems to be a living MacGuffin. Much of the plot – as far as we know – revolves around his lightsaber and figuring out where he is. So the idea of ending the movie right when they find him seems hugely anti-climactic. It would be akin to ending A New Hope as soon as they hand the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance, skipping over what we see the Rebels do with the knowledge that they’ve stolen from the Empire (namely, how to blow up the Death Star) and instead save it for a follow-up. To me, this development doesn’t have a pay-off and instead screams “See you in a year and a half for Episode VIII!” like a post-credits scene would. This does not seem like the kind of thing that J. J. Abrams would want to do as a filmmaker.
Right after the “one scene of Luke in the present” story broke out, there came a few reports that Luke would be conspicuously absent from the marketing in order to capitalize on the “Where is Luke?” mystery that the alleged ending would describe. If that was the plan, it appears to have changed radically. Not only was the teaser revealed at Celebration Anaheim narrated by Luke, but he also appeared in the middle of said narration, resting his hand on R2-D2. Luke also has not one, but two OT-era action figures that will arrive with the first wave of toys meant to promote The Force Awakens – one for the “Build-A-Weapon” line and one for the “Armor-Up” line. If the “Where is Luke?” marketing mystery were to be preserved, then perhaps we would have seen OT-era action figures of Leia and Han instead. When interviewed, J. J. Abrams told a reporter that the question of “Who is Luke Skywalker?” was ultimately a deciding factor for getting him into the director’s chair. So as it stands, Lucasfilm is definitely not hiding Luke. Therefore, the question we should ask ourselves now appears to be “When does Luke show up in the new movie, and for how long will he appear?”
Regardless of what the marketing does with presenting Luke Skywalker, taking a look at Mark Hamill’s shooting schedule is probably the best indicator of how involved his character is in the film. Hamill was present on the three days that they filmed footage of Skellig Michael Island – presumed to be the site of some of the last scenes in the movie. We also know that he’s been growing his beard again and that they’re going to do more filming there, which is either a sign that they’re adding content to the scenes that they have already filmed, or that they’re doing a little bit of early filming for Episode VIII (or possibly both). Looking toward The Cantina, one of our users made an estimate using a calendar of Hamill’s public appearances to establish that Hamill was at Pinewood for three weeks in late July and early August. Given that Hamill was absent from the public eye in October, there is also the distinct possibility that he could have been filming then, too.
Of course, interviews also help paint a picture of his involvement. Given that Mark Hamill apparently had time to play with BB-8 and give advice and words of encouragement to the new cast, it leads me to believe that he was on set for more than a few weeks. How much of that time was spent actually filming is up for debate, but still. It’s worth noting that Hamill walked aboard the Millennium Falcon, and for the days he did film at Pinewood, he had to wear robes over his costume to conceal it from potential leakers.
“You know, the security on it is just crazy,” he continued. “I’m surprised I can even admit I’m in it! …I like being surprised. It’s a whole different era now. When we made the original films, you had the odd reporter hanging around the studio bribing people to give them stories. Now, I said to them, ‘Do I really have to wear this robe and this hood that covers my entire head to go from the trailer to the soundstage?’ They said, ‘Yeah, there’s drones.’ Seriously! There’s drones flying over the studio trying to get pictures of whatever they can get pictures of.”
With all this in mind, it’s worth re-evaluating existing information while adding new information into the mix. In other words, the rumors and the speculation that state that Luke appears in a notable portion of the movie really start here.
First of all, there’s the art piece above that is based on the photograph we revealed not too long ago, which we later took down. While Eli Hyder’s art piece above takes place in front of a rock fissure, the photograph taken was in a studio where Luke was surrounded by dozens of cameras (and he is not holding any lightsabers). Some have speculated that the presence of filming Luke from multiple angles would mean that he shows up in a hologram; a much more plausible explanation is that the image was taken in a 3D scanning facility, and that they would use it to render his appearance for a video game or for molding action figures. In any case, we now know that Luke wears at least two costumes in the film – the one he wears in the second teaser and the one he wears in the photo.
I can now say, with confidence, that there is a flashback sequence in the movie, and that you will see a younger version of Luke in it. I have confirmation that the flashback sequence is one that spans multiple years, featuring a sequence that I can definitely say takes place on Bespin; I also believe – but cannot confirm – that the sequence later extends to a scene that takes place on the desert planet seen in the second teaser, based on MSW’s outline (more details on the flashback sequence can be heard tomorrow in our second podcast). From what I have gathered, two major focuses of flashback are Luke Skywalker and his first lightsaber – the one Anakin used. I believe that the flashback sequence described on MSW is framed by Maz Kanata using the power of psychometry on the lightsaber. This sequence exists so that the characters and the audience learn more about its user and his whereabouts, along with a quick history lesson about where the weapon has been in the thirty-plus years that have passed between The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens.
This last section covers the climax of the film and Luke’s possible appearance in it. If you do not want to be spoiled, stop here.
In the early days of speculation, the famed “Mizzlewump Leaks” described what was at least a working draft of the script, a draft with many ideas present for the final film. Mizzlewump described Luke not having apparent offspring, his absence from the New Republic, and the apparent absence of a New Jedi Order in general long before anyone else brought such developments to light. One statement that is still unclear is one of the last ones he made – that Luke saves the day, but he has changed. Another rumor that came up was that Luke is powerful in the Force, but he is not entirely sound of mind. A trusted source has stated that both of these things are true in some capacity – Luke apparently appears in the last part of the movie, intervening in the final duel between Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren just as it seems that all hope is lost. Luke apparently fights as if he is spiritually possessed by the Force itself – and while he is powerful, his abilities aren’t described as being insanely overpowered. (Nothing along the lines of being able to use the Force to rip a Star Destroyer out of orbit, but still impressive.) He is ultimately able to repel Kylo Ren. This source has also told me that Luke is seen in at least four different night shots in the movie; while some of these shots might be from the flashback battle, I believe that at least some of them come from the climax of the film.
I have heard very similar stories from two other sources. These statements paint the picture that the “search for Luke”, “destroy the superweapon”, and “save Rey” storylines converge at the snow planet where the First Order is stationed, which sounds like the classic set-up for a climax. I would speculate that Luke is introduced in this section of the story, and I believe that there could be a chance that he interacts with Han (since the October leg of the production would have been a perfect time for Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford to meet on-stage after Ford’s injury). Speculating here, if the Skellig Michael shoot is one of the last scenes in the movie, then perhaps Luke goes to that planet with Rey in order to train her for the coming battles against the Ren Knights.
The source told me that stuntman Rhye Copeman’s combat video was pre-visualization for The Force Awakens after all, in spite of Copeman officially denying this. (The choreography is almost certainly for the flashback if this is the case.) As far as cast testimony goes, Toth Gyula, Adam Driver’s stunt double, also mentioned that the movie is called The Force Awakens for a reason – and I’m willing to bet that the reason is that a certain hero goes Force-crazy on Kylo Ren. Following the pattern set by Han coming to Luke’s rescue at the end of A New Hope, it makes sense for part of the climax to have a heroic intervention. If Rey and Finn were able to defeat Kylo Ren on their own, then the narrative would most likely indicate that they would not even need to seek help from Luke in the first place.
Major spoilers end here.
Even if Mark Hamill’s presence in the film were to ultimately be limited, one has to keep in mind that stunt doubles could fill in for Luke in any action sequence that needed the character. Since Captain America: Civil War apparently had stuntmen fill in for Spider-Man before they even cast Tom Holland in the role, who’s to say that they couldn’t have done something similar for Hamill? Indeed, at least one set of reshoots for The Force Awakens only required the body doubles of several cast members, including Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s doubles.
So, it appears that the answer to the “When does Luke show up in the new movie, and for how long will he appear?” question is “Absolutely nowhere in Act One, in a few major flashbacks in Act Two, and for a decent amount of time in Act Three.” Luke will most likely be in the movie both as a hidden mentor and as a driving force for the plot of the movie – a force which will arrive in time for the climactic battle.
It’s worth noting that the contents of this article were pieced together from multiple sources. While the information described may not necessarily play out exactly in the way I’ve described it, I believe that it is very likely that much of it will. In any case, I’m sure that information about Luke’s role in the movie will be made much more clear in the coming days leading up to December 18. It’s hard to believe that the movie is less than four months away!
And watch out for the 2nd episode of our podcast tomorrow for more on this subject…
Grant has been a fan of Star Wars for as long as he can remember, having seen every movie on the big screen. When he’s not hard at work with his college studies, he keeps himself busy by reporting on all kinds of Star Wars news for SWNN and general movie news on the sister site, Movie News Net. He served as a frequent commentator on SWNN’s The Resistance Broadcast.