This article originally ran on Den of Geek UK.
This article contains a lot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers.
Scroll below our spoiler squirrel at your own risk…
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the script by J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt instills a similar sense of scale to George Lucas’ original Star Wars film (the one that later became known as A New Hope). Much like our first trip to that galaxy far, far away, The Force Awakens seems to be one select snippet of a much larger story—one that spreads far beyond that which we actually get to see on the screen.
We tried to unpack as much as we could about these unseen stories, in an attempt to better understand this new Star Wars chapter and what it might mean for the future of the franchise. With spoilers, here’s what we came up with…
The Beginnings of the First Order
The First Order’s hefty armada of Star Destroyer-like ships dominates the first shot of The Force Awakens, after the establishing scroll. It’s obvious that this new, evil force havw picked up where the Empire left off, but it’s unclear exactly how they came to be. They’ve got one hell of an arsenal at their disposal, proving that they’re much more than a cult-like collective of disturbed Vader fans.
The First Order have deep resources. More resources than the goodies, it would seem. But it’s unclear who is bankrolling all of this, and how much time elapsed between the Emperor’s demise and The First Order’s rise. And why didn’t the New Republic stop them before they amassed so much power?
Max von Sydow’s Backstory
Lor San Tekka. Who is this wise old sage, and how did he get a hold of the vital map segment that leads to Luke Skywalker? The film posits no answers.
It’s obvious that Mr. Tekka has history with the villainous Kylo Ren, who remarks upon how old he has become when the two meet. Also, when Ren struck Tekka down, Abrams chose not to linger on his corpse. Could it be that Tekka is a Force-sensitive chap, and that his dead body might have vanished like Obi-Wan’s and Yoda’s in previous films?
The Force Awakens‘ opening scroll wants us to believe that Luke is the “last” Jedi, but that could possibly be a deception. Part of me wants to believe that Tekka could be Star Wars: Rebels’ Kanan grown into a Ben Kenobi-esque hermit, but only time will tell if this—or any other equally offbeat theories—turn out to be true.
What Happened on Jakku?
Before Daisy Ridley’s Rey has uttered a word, it’s clear that her home planet Jakku has seen some action. When we meet her, she’s rummaging around for spare parts in a derelict Star Destroyer. We see other smashed-up iconic battle vehicles—including X-Wings and AT-ATs—shortly afterwards.
Although the film doesn’t tell us much about the sizeable skirmish that happened here, you can find out more in the new Star Wars Battlefront game. The Battle of Jakku downloadable content pack tells us that Rey’s home planet hosted a major post-Endor battle between the Rebel Alliance and the fledgling Empire of old. You can watch some of it here…
We know that the Battle of Jakku, which took place a year after Endor, was the final death blow to the Empire. You can read more of the battle in detail in the novel Lost Stars by Claudia Gray.
When Rey does eventually speak, we quickly learn that she’s a space orphan. She calls her origins “classified” at one stage and is seen etching a lengthy tally chart on a wall at another. It seems that she’s waiting for someone to pick her up, but we’re not meant to know who she’s expecting. Rey acts a bit sketchy when she has to leave Jakku, seemingly worried that she might miss her parents.
Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber later calls to Rey, and she learns the ways of the Force—without any training!—over the course of the movie. Her lightsaber-induced hallucination/vision/flashback suggests that the evil Knights of Ren had something to do with displacing her before the events of the film.
Some fans have been quick to speculate that Rey might be another Skywalker relative, with two opposing theories suggesting that she could be a sister to Kylo Ren or a secret daughter to Luke himself. She could, though, also be a whole new character with links to none of the classics. We’ll surely find out more in the next film.
Captain Phasma’s Backstory
Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma pops up right at the start of the film, bossing Stormtroopers about during The First Order’s deadly trip to Jakku. Afterwards, she gives Finn a telling off. He gets some revenge later on by forcing her at gunpoint to lower the shields of Starkiller Base.
As was the case when we first met her constant real-world comparison point Boba Fett, we know next-to-nothing about Phasma’s backstory. Was she bred for battle like the Stormtroopers she now leads or did she voluntarily choose a life in The First Order? Crucially, why does she get a cool chrome costume? We’ve no idea.
General Hux’s History
Similarly, Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux is something of an enigma. If Phasma is The Force Awakens’ Boba Fett equivalent, that’d make Hux the Grand Moff Tarkin of the piece. He’s got an evil British Isles accent, enjoys power play with his lightsaber-wielding colleague, and is far more at home barking orders on star ships than setting foot on a planet.
Again, we don’t know where Hux came from. Maybe he’s the son of an old Imperial officer, but equally Supreme Leader Snoke could have plucked him from obscurity and offered him a job. He seems like quite a young fella for such an important position, so we’re sure there’s an interest story there. Perhaps we’ll get to hear it one day.
Initially seeming like the outright hero of the movie, Poe Dameron steps away from the main narrative for quite a stretch of time. The film itself doesn’t tell us much about him or his backstory, but you can find out more about Mr. Dameron in Marvel’s Shattered Empire comics.
You may have wondered why Starkiller Base is called Starkiller Base, within the narrative of the film. In real life, as you probably already know, Starkiller was George Lucas’ original proposed surname for the character that eventually became Luke Skywalker, in early script drafts.
The Force Awakens doesn’t tell us why this battle station planet was given this particular name by the First Order, but it’s rather easy to hazard a guess. After all, Starkiller Base’s weapons systems are star-fuelled and do an awful lot of killing.
However, there could prove to be something more to it than that. In The Force Unleashed video games (not currently considered canon), Starkiller was the name of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice. It’s a long shot, but there’s a chance that Starkiller could be reused as a character name at some point?
The New Republic
At the end of Return of the Jedi, the good guys won. Afterwards, some form of new democratic Republic was formed to replace the evil dictatorship of the Empire. However, The Force Awakens doesn’t give us much information about this new galactic government (for example, we don’t know who the head of the New Rebuplic is). Instead, we get to see the Resistance, the freedom fighter group battling off the threat of the First Order.
And before long, the First Order attacks a planetary system of some significance to the New Republic. They succeed in destroying their main fleet of ships, murdering a lot of people, and quite possibly erasing the very essence of the New Republic itself. It’s unclear whether some semblance of the galactic government has survived at this stage.
The Early Life of Ben Solo
If there’s one big “maybe one day we’ll make a prequel to The Force Awakens” teaser moment, it’s the reveal that Kylo Ren was once known as Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s son. But—in the same manner as our first cinematic meeting with Darth Vader—Ren is already an evildoing mask-wearer when he first appears on screen.
We know very little about his early life (was he always tempestuous or was he once a relatively normal child? Did he pod race in his youth?), except for his parentage and the fact that he received Jedi training at an establishment we’d really like to know more about…
Luke’s Jedi Academy
As Han tells the gang at one stage, Luke Skywalker was attempting to “train new Jedi” before he disappeared and became The Force Awakens’ MacGuffin. As with Obi-Wan’s reference towards the Clone Wars in A New Hope, the mere mention of Luke training Jedi has the potential to ignite fans’ synapses with speculation.
How many Force sensitive students did Luke find in the galaxy? Was Ren the only one to turn evil? Did all the others truly perish at his blade? Although many would shudder at the thought of another villain-establishing prequel film, there’s certainly a lot of story there that we don’t know all the details about.
Supreme Leader Snoke and His Schemes
We also know very little about the specifics of Supreme Leader Snoke’s successful bid to draw Ben Solo to the Dark Side. It’s clearly stated that Snoke is the one that turned Solo bad, but we don’t know when, where, or how it happened. (We also don’t know whether Han and Leia ever tried to get their son back before or if the events of The Force Awakens mark their first real opportunity.)
Of course, we don’t know much at all about Supreme Leader Snoke just yet. We aren’t aware of where he came from, where he’s based now, or what his overall plan is. The only things we know for sure are that that he’s some sort of alien, and that he must be a powerful Dark Side user because he managed to turn a Skywalker relative to the Dark Side (lest we forget that Luke was never turned in the films and that it took three movies for Palpatine to snare Anakin).
Interestingly, Snoke is one of the few new characters in The Force Awakens that doesn’t seem very young. In fact, he looks ancient. This makes us wonder if he was lurking around in the shadows during the events of Original Trilogy and maybe even the Prequels. Could it turn out that Darth Sidious’ Sith master Darth Plagueis isn’t quite as dead as we thought? That’s baseless speculation on our part, but it’d certainly be one heck of a twist.
The Knights of Ren
A group called the Knights of Ren is mentioned a few times in the film, but we’re told virtually nothing about them, except—unless I misheard—the fact that Kylo is now considered their leader.
In Rey’s “flashback” (for want of a better term), a cabal of black robed individuals appear at one stage. We only see them for a few seconds, but many seem to be assuming that these fellas are the Knights of Ren.
The film doesn’t clarify which came first—Kylo Ren or the Knights of Ren—but promotional interviews have pointed towards the latter option. Perhaps these cheery chaps helped Snoke turn Ben Solo bad.
“Show Me the Power of the Dark Side”
In one of those scenes that you really wish you could stay with for a few seconds more, The Force Awakens tantalizingly seems to tease the idea that Kylo Ren can talk with Darth Vader at one point. We see Kylo confiding in Vader that he’s having flickers of Light Side feelings and begging his deceased grandfather to “show him the power of the Dark Side” once more (or words to that effect).
It’s left ambiguous whether Kylo is talking to Vader’s inanimate skull here, Hamlet-style, or if he’s somehow genuinely communing with him. Can a Force ghost turn bad? And would he look like Hayden Christensen or Sebastian Shaw if he did?
This is one that, hopefully, will be revisited in future films. Kylo’s now killed his own father, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can somehow become even more evil in Episodes VIII and IX. Perhaps chatting with Vader will be the key to Kylo growing more powerful, or maybe Anakin’s ghost will try to redeem his descendant. Again, that’s just speculation.
The Absentee Lando Calrissian
Not seen, mentioned or even nodded towards, Lando Calrissian is notable by his absence in The Force Awakens. Many classic Star Wars characters aren’t in this film, of course, but the interesting thing about Lando is that his co-pilot Nien Nunb seems to have stayed with the good guys and become an X-Wing pilot for the Resistance.
But what happened to his best buddy Lando? We’re given nothing even vaguely resembling a clue in this movie. Maybe Billy Dee Williams will show up in the new trilogy’s second instalment, Episode VIII, to offer further symmetry with the original films.
C-3PO’s Red Arm
A huge moment of comic relief in The Force Awakens comes when a more-mad-than-ever C-3PO shows off his new red arm in the middle of an emotional reunion scene. You’ll have to pick up a different tie-in Marvel comic to find out what happened there.
The Exact Details of Luke’s Island Getaway
What has Luke been up to on that island (which is, by the way, a real place—Skellig Michael, the site of an ancient Christian monastery off the coast of Ireland)? Did Luke’s getaway involve chats with some of his former Jedi masters who became one with the Force or was Luke on his own, staring out into the sea for the entire duration of his lengthy absence? And what did he eat that whole time?
Episode VIII will surely offer some form of explanation regarding Luke’s bearded retreat, but there’s one even bigger question that I want an answer to…
R2-D2’s Battery Issues
Like a modern mobile phone near the end of its two-year contract, R2-D2 is stuck in permanent low power mode when we meet him in The Force Awakens. Why did he suddenly jolt back to life at the end? And why did no one think to plug in his charger beforehand? Or was it switched off at the wall and no one realized? Um…Okay, I’ll show myself out…