5 Biggest Questions From Star Wars: The Force Awakens That Were Answered in the Last Jedi (and 4 That Weren't)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out, and the reaction from fans, as opposed to the universally positive critic rating, is mixed, to say the least. One of the biggest issues that people seem to have with this eighth venture in the Skywalker saga is how much it deviated from the path as suggested by the previous movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so much so that The Last Jedi is said to flat out ignore or gloss over some of the biggest questions raised by its predecessor, which according to some, is as selfish as it is treacherous.
That may not be entirely true.
Obviously this will contain major SPOILERS for The Last Jedi, so if you have not seen the movie yourself, read on at your discretion. The following is a list of questions raised by The Force Awakens that actually have been answered in the movie, and a few that has not. There is some speculation here and there, but no information beyond the movies themselves will be utilized, which means no novels, comics, video games or other tie-ins will be considered.
Should you be interested in my personal opinion on the quality of The Last Jedi as a whole, you can find it here.
First, the questions that WERE answered:
1. Who Are Rey's Parents?
In The Force Awakens, we met Rey living alone on the desert planet of Jakku, waiting for her parents to come back for her. After she touched Luke's old lightsaber, among her many confusing Force visions, one showed an image of a young Rey left on Jakku in the hands of the despicable Unkar Plutt, screaming after a departing ship which presumably belonged to her parents. Rey later acknowledged to Maz Kanata that deep down, she always knew they weren't coming back, and she was suggested to seek out Luke Skywalker to find out her own future. Since then, speculations on Rey's lineage have erupted among fans.
The Last Jedi spent quite some time further teasing this question, having Rey in the dark-side cave literally asking a magic mirror for the identity of her parents, yet the mirror trolled her (and us) by showing two silhouettes merging into one which turned out to be of herself. The matter was again brought on the table when Kylo Ren revealed to her that he had found out the exact answer, and used it to goad her to the dark side. When pushed by Kylo, Rey admitted that deep down she always knew the answers, that her parents were nobodies. Kylo confirmed that and added that they were junk traders who sold her for booze and died disgracefully afterwards.
Are we satisfied?
Not all of us, nope. I, for one, loved it. It wasn't a pointless fan tease as some have claimed, as that question was an important one within the story as well. Rey spent the majority of her life waiting for her parents to come back, which was a testify of her inner fear and utter denial that she was nothing but an abandoned child whose parents were pieces of s*&t. In that mentality, she imagined a more glorious reason for their departure and a latent destiny of greatness awaiting herself.
Even though that's not to be, it only further cements that destiny does not have to be inherited. Rey came so far by herself, and her subsequent choice of light was completely of her own will and character, which is more powerful to me than any "xxx is your father" revelation they could've pulled. Plus, it makes sense in a storytelling point of view. Imagine having her revealed to be Obi-wan or Palpatine's daughter, Rey would most likely be like: Wait, who?
2. Why Did Ben Solo Turn Against Luke?
In The Force Awakens, Han Solo related to Rey the tale of Luke teaching a new generation of Jedi, only for one of the apprentices, the infamous Kylo Ren, to turn against him, destroying the Academy and everything Luke had built, which drove Luke into his exile. What he failed to mention at that time, however, was that Kylo Ren was actually Ben Solo, his own boy and Luke's nephew. Leia later said that she sent Ben to Luke because there was a lot of darkness akin to Vader inside him and hoped Luke would pull him to the light. Well, safe to say that plan totally backfired.
The manner of this fateful betrayal was flipped over several times in The Last Jedi, truly it's all a matter of "different points of view". It's revealed that Snoke had already got to him for some time. How he managed to do that wasn't revealed, but given Snoke could allow Rey and Kylo to Force-facetime from afar, he certainly could have reached out to Ben Solo himself easily. Luke became concerned of Ben's growing tether to darkness and probed his mind when he was asleep. What he sensed was apparently so horrifying and crushing that it triggered Luke's impulsive instincts, igniting his green lightsaber in that fleeting second of succumbing into fear. Luke felt immediately remorseful and regretted with shame, but the damage was done. Ben woke up at that moment and all he saw was his teacher standing beside him with a murderous lazer sword. Ben used that raw strength that Snoke was always talking about and crashed the whole hut on top of Luke, knocking him out. When Luke came to, he found the Jedi Temple on fire and his students either killed or missing, presumably joining Ben and becoming the Knights of Ren.
Are we satisfied?
Holy cow the amount of fans enraged by this backstory! Many are unhappy that Luke would ever entertain of idea of killing the son of Han and Leia, even for one second. Personally, I believe it works well for the story, but with room for improvement. It by no means ruins or even contradicts Luke's established character. The thing about Luke is, he's not an angel, but a flawed and impulsive human being. He came awfully close to killing his father and succumbing to the dark side at the end of Return of the Jedi. So Luke having one second of darkness and being immediately called back to the light wasn't unthinkable by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually more consistent to his character than you might think.
How I would've improved on it, is to elaborate a bit more on what darkness he specifically saw in Ben to warrant that second. For instance, maybe he saw a future where Han dies at the hands of Kylo (which eventually happened), or Kylo killing Leia (which almost happened) or even saw Snoke himself, any of which would reasonably compel Luke to draw out his weapon of choice out of protective instinct. It would achieve the same narrative effect, and soften the blow on audiences by a considerable margin. I guess a vision inside a flashback was too much for Rian Johnson?
3. Why did Luke Go Into Exile?
The first line of The Force Awaken's opening crawl, aka the first line of the returning Star Wars franchise, is literally "Luke Skywalker has vanished". Talk about teasing your audience! We already talked about the failure of his Jedi Academy and losing his nephew to the dark side, which of course is a huge contributory factor of his self-imposed exile, but there may be some bigger reason as to why he didn't attempt to train yet another generation to make things right.
Basically, Luke lost his faith in the entire Jedi religion. And from his point of view, it's hard not to see why. The Jedi at their height of power allowed Darth Sidious to wipe them all out and create the Empire; Obi-wan, a great Jedi master himself, created Darth Vader who caused immeasurable suffering throughout the galaxy; and now, history had repeated with him and his nephew. The legacy of Jedi is failure, and it's pure hubris to believe that the light of the universe will end without Jedi.
Are we satisfied?
Gotta say, old man makes a strong case. Whether you liked the way he lost Ben to the dark side, his fresh perspective on Jedi fits the current mythology very well. Judging from the movie era, from prequels to TLJ, you have to admit that Jedi kinda sucks at their job, and it's so refreshing to hear that from the mouth of Luke freakin' Skywalker! Plus, the only two Jedi masters he got to know, Obi-wan and Yoda, both chose exile at the end, so Luke probably assumed this is regular Jedi retirement scheme.
4. How Did Rey Best Kylo In A Lightsaber Duel?
After killing Han Solo, Kylo went to intercept the escaping Rey and Finn. He knocked Rey out cold with the Force, had a short lightsaber duel with Finn which ended with a very messed up spine, then he used the Force to summon Luke's old lightsaber, believing it to be his heirloom. Yet the saber flew past him and into the awaiting hand of Rey, who turned it on and duked it out with Kylo in a fit of rage. While Kylo gained the upper hand initially, he eventually lost the battle after Rey tapped deeper into the Force.
Aside from the fact that Kylo was, moments before that duel, shot straight in the abdomen by Chewbacca with his mighty bowcaster; aside from the fact that Rey is just naturally talented in the Force, The Last Jedi confirmed another reason that many of us had speculated all along: Kylo was disturbed by what he did. The conflict within him did not die off as a result of killing his own father as he had expected, but only increased since he felt remorseful, which greatly unbalanced him during the battle that ensued immediately. All in all, Kylo was only battling Rey with maybe 30% of his full capability.
Are we satisfied?
Not entirely but good effort on addressing the dangling issue of the last movie. The problem of that battle lies not in The Last Jedi, but in the handling of J.J. Abrams. Such simple reasoning shouldn't take two movies to address in the first place.
5. Why Is There A Map to Luke?
The Force Awakens began with Lor San Tekka, a member of the Church of the Force played by Max von Sydow, giving a map pointing to the location of the vanished Jedi Master to Poe Dameron. The map unfortunately had a piece missing, and it wasn't completed until R2-D2 inexplicably turned on and revealed that he had the final piece, prompting Rey to go on a journey which ended with her and Luke Skywalker on a literal cliffhanger.
Apparently Luke didn't expect anyone to show up on his doorstep, and had no hand in leaving those maps among the stars. So how the hell is there a convenient map pointing to Luke's current location? It's very subtle, but in The Force Awakens, Han mentioned that those closest to Luke believed he went to find the first Jedi Temple. As it turns out, that Ahch-To island is INDEED the said ancient Jedi Temple, so ancient it in fact was just a big tree, containing approximately seven paper books of Jedi archives which are apparently so boring, that Luke barely bothered to read any during the decade long exile even with absolutely no other entertainment. So the map wasn't really pointing to Luke, but to the first Jedi Temple.
Are we satisfied?
Most of us didn't even get it, so satisfaction is out of the question. It does allow Artoo's convenient role in the last movie to make more sense, because Luke had to do his own research to find that Temple, and part of those research data would naturally be left inside Artoo's databank.
And now, for the questions that were left UNANSWERED:
1. Who Is Snoke and Where Is He From?
Supreme Leader Snoke is the ultimate big bad behind the reigning First Order, master of Kylo Ren and immensely powerful in the dark side of the Force. How powerful exactly is something we would have to speculate from now on, because he looks pretty dead to me. We never got to know who he was, where he came from, when he popped up or how he amassed the First Order, so the character is pretty much still a mystery.
Maybe all of these questions will be answered in the upcoming Episode IX, or maybe they won't be addressed at all. For all we know, he might still be Darth Plagueis, in which case there's a good chance he could come back; he might still be a resurrected Emperor. For a moment, they seemed to be teasing the latter when he said "but you're no Vader" in a disappointed tone that seemingly suggests personal experience, but it'd be pretty stupid for Palpatine to be betrayed by two apprentices in a row.
2. Where Did the First Order Come From?
Basically Empire under a different name, the First Order reigns the galaxy with an iron fist, doubly so now that the New Republic is wiped out (only five planets? Really?). The question that's bursting out of every fan is: HOW? What happened after Return of the Jedi? How did it come to this mess? Again?
As ridiculous as it might sound, we are in dire need of some Star Wars politics expositions. Wow, never imagined I'd say that. The Last Jedi ended with the surviving Resistance so cut down in number that they could all fit into the cargo bay of the Falcon. By the time Episode IX rolls around, with some time gap, they may have re-assembled a considerable force of rebellion. But it's the past that we are really curious about, something the next movie might do well to address with one or two fleeting sentences.
3. Why Was Artoo In Low Power Mode?
Apparently Artoo has been in a droid-coma since the Academy incident, and only turned back up at the end of the Force Awakens to offer his piece of map. So what force of nature or power compelled the little astromech to shut down in the first place? And what made it turn back up?
At first glance, it's most likely following some emergency protocol left by his Master Luke, but Luke wasn't planning on leaving a map for others to follow, so how did it happen the way it did? It would seem that somebody out there really wanted the Resistance to locate Luke Skywalker. Who, how and why?
4. How Did Maz Kanata Retrieve Luke's Old Lightsaber?
In The Force Awakens, Rey was mentally called to the basement of Maz Kanata, where she found, lying inside a box, the lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin Skywalker, with which he cut down 30 something innocent children, but...Luke probably doesn't need to know that. Upon being questioned as to where she found it, Maz slyly replied: Good question, for another time.
But Maz wasn't around to answer that question in The Last Jedi, instead she's stuck somewhere else playing Battlefront II, and we as fans are getting impatient. There is no excuse to not answer this question two movies in, unless the answer and what it implies are going to play a significant part in Episode IX, which I doubt.
Personally I think The Force Awakens suffers from setting up too many questions, so it's no wonder The Last Jedi didn't tackle all of them, especially with another sequel closely following.
Did you enjoy The Last Jedi? Did you like how it answered how ignored the questions raised by The Force Awakens? Let me know what you think.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
© 2017 Kevin Cheng