Warning: this post contains potential spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The December 18th release date for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is fast approaching and with the recent release of an all-new trailer, the film’s hype is only going to intensify as we get closer to that date. While it’s easy to be cynical about the overwhelming expectations heaped on this film and Disney’s various marketing stunts, the company is actually doing a fantastic job at generating buzz without giving too much away. Thing about it: even after watching that trailer for 20th time, do you really know what the plot is beyond a rough outline? Director J.J. Abrams is going full mystery box with this thing, which means that fans have had to fill in the larger gaps with crackpot theories and wild speculation. We’ve collected some of the most popular theories floating around the internet to discuss whether any of them hold water or if they’re all bogus. Our conclusions? A little bit of each. Read on to find out which sound the most plausible.
7. Kylo Ren and Rey Are Siblings
While it’s been known pretty much from the outset that The Force Awakens doesn’t follow the post-Return of the Jedi plotlines of the Extended Universe (as those stories are no longer considered canon) it seems unlikely that the writing team wouldn’t at least be somewhat inspired by them. One of the main plot threads of the EU fiction is that Han and Leia give birth to three children, with one of them, Jacen, turning to the Dark Side. With The Force Awakens resetting the timeline, one of the prevailing theories is that new characters Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are brother and sister, perhaps even Han and Leia’s children. This theory was given even more fuel last week when the film’s one sheet poster was revealed, as Kylo and Rey’s placement and the alignment of their weapons seem to suggest that they are closely linked somehow. As for whether they are Han and Leia’s children? Well, at least one of them probably is; after all, how could the writers pass up the opportunity for another “I am your father” bombshell?
6. Darth Vader Will Return
Darth Vader is one of the most iconic villains in movie history and his shadow will loom large over the proceedings of The Force Awakens, so it makes sense that some fans are kicking around the idea that he’ll not only be present in the new film, but will actually be alive. One of the more believable hypotheses is that Kylo Ren is actively trying to resurrect his fallen idol, which would explain why he seems to collecting tokens of Vader (his skull and helmet, for one). Although the notion that Ren is attempting a resurrection could very well turn out to be true, we have a hard time buying that his mission will be successful. Bringing Vader back from the dead would cheapen the ending of the original trilogy, as Vader definitively turned back to the Light Side prior to his death. Perhaps Vader will show up as a ghost much like Yoda and Obi-Wan have done in previous films, but we’re not buying that a flesh and blood Vader figures into the plot.
5. Kylo Ren is Emperor Palpatine’s Grandson
Adam Driver’s crossguard lightsaber-wielding Kylo Ren is the most prominent villain in The Force Awakens and despite now knowing that he is devoted to finishing what Darth Vader’s work, his origins are still shrouded in mystery. While the prevailing theory is that he is part of the Skywalker bloodline (a theory that we highlight later in this list), some fans have argued that he is actually the grandson of Vader’s old Master, Emperor Palpatine. The basis for this speculation lies with the Jedi Prince book series from the 90s, which featured a character named Ken who was related to Palpatine. Ken was an apprentice of Luke Skywalker before he fell to the Dark Side, much like Kylo is assumed to have been. While this theory is definitely plausible, it also seems like a stretch, given that its source is an obscure series of books that aren’t even considered canon anymore. Honestly, it seems more likely that Kylo is actually Vader’s grandson, as it would help explain his devotion to the fallen Sith Lord. Either way, it will be surprising if Kylo Ren isn’t related to either Sith Lord somehow, so one of these theories is probably accurate.
4. Luke has joined the Dark Side and Is Kylo Ren
One of the prevailing reactions to both the one shot poster and the new trailer has been: “Where is Luke Skywalker?” Mark Hamill has star billing on the new film, but Disney and Lucasfilm have been deliberately keeping us in the dark as to how the Jedi Master plays into the events of The Force Awakens. Some have theorized that Luke’s being kept under wraps because he has turned to the dark side in the intervening decades between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of this film; others have taken this a few steps further, suggesting that Luke is in fact Kylo Ren. While the former theory seems plausible, given that we really know nothing about what’s going on with Luke yet, the latter seems pretty far-fetched and would only work if Adam Driver is actually playing a different character entirely (like another member of the Knights of Ren). It’s much more likely that Luke is simply in hiding, living as a hermit like Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for certain: Luke’s reveal will be a showstopper no matter what.
Likelihood: Absurd…but possible
3. Han Solo Will Die
Look, if The Force Awakens ends without a major character being killed off, we’ll be shocked. The film represents a figurative passing of the torch from one generation of characters to another, which is why we are seeing the return of characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia and the introduction of new characters like Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s Finn. For that reason, the older cast members are certainly expendable and none perhaps more so than Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. Ford is infamous for having begged George Lucas to kill the character off as far back as The Empire Strikes Back, so there’s already precedent for Han potentially getting the ax. While one prominent theory suggests that Han will perish in a heated battle between Luke and Kylo Ren near the end of the film, after begging Luke not to kill the latter, we really won’t know until we actually see the movie (obviously). As it stands right now though, we’ll be more surprised if Han actually makes it through alive…but we’re still hoping he makes it to Episode VIII!
2. The Force is Now Much Easier To Tap Into
The film is called The Force Awakens, after all. While the trailers haven’t shown an abundance of Force-related action, they have shown a number of characters wielding lightsabers and seemingly able to tap into the Force. Unlike the original trilogy, where being “Force sensitive” was an ability possessed by only a select few characters, the rumor is that this has changed dramatically by the time the events of the new film unfold. We not only see Finn the former stormtrooper wielding what looks to be Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber at one point, but Kylo Ren and his Knights of Ren posse all appear to be able to use the Force as well. Heck, even the old doubter Han Solo seems to be a true believer now, which suggests that the Force is no longer just available to the pre-ordained, but is a power that pretty much everyone can tap into. Did we mention that the film is called The Force Awakens?
1. Kylo Ren is Luke Skywalker’s Fallen Apprentice
Of all the theories surrounding the origins of Kylo Ren and what’s been going on with Luke, this one sounds the most plausible. Putting aside the question of whether or not Ren is the son of Skywalker, framing him as Luke’s fallen pupil would make a lot of sense from a story standpoint, as well as a thematic one. Kylo Ren is obviously obsessed with Darth Vader, which suggests that he rejected Luke’s Jedi teachings somewhere along the way. This development would also explain Luke’s absence from most of the film, as it seems reasonable that the loss of his Padawan was a devestating personal blow, as well as to the effort to rebuild the Jedi order. It also makes thematic sense to have the climactic final showdown be between the two figures, considering the emotional stakes involved. Perhaps Ren will even strike Luke down like Vader did to Obi-Wan in the very first film, passing the torch…er, lightsaber…to John Boyega’s Finn in the process. There are many possibilities surrounding this component of The Force Awakens and it will be exciting to see how it all plays out.