WARNING! This is just a fan theory, but if it turns out to be correct, it would be major spoilerage. Of course, we'll only know if its correct after we see Star Wars: Episode VII, so this warming is kind of redundant, isn't it?
We already know J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens will be a Star Wars reunion of sorts, but could someone entirely unexpected also be joining the show?
Recently, speculation has been taking over the internet that Darth Vader himself could be due to return to life in the new Star Wars sequels. The evidence for this is patchy at best, with much of it remaining unconfirmed, however that hasn't stopped fan theorists from creating circumstances in which Vader could return. But, first of all, let's look at the evidence:
1. The second Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens trailer:
The latest trailer is responsible for some of the most compelling Darth Vader evidence. Most notably, the Luke Skywalker voiceover states, "The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power too". This is interesting as Luke uses the present tense for this father, instead of the past tense which is what you'd expect considering he's dead. The trailer also includes a shot of Darth Vader's melted helmet, which will become significant later on.
Of course, one possible explanation for this is that Luke witnessed his father as a force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi. Perhaps he used the present tense because he feels his father is still with him in a spiritual sense.
Remind yourself of the trailer below:
2. There are rumors of a Darth Vader toy
On argument goes: "Why would Disney release a Darth Vader toy if he is not in the new movies?" An obvious rebuttal to this is: because they know it will still make money.
3. Hayden Christensen is apparently training for a role
Yesterday, we also heard rumors that Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith may have been approached for a role in Episode VIII. According to unnamed sources, a team from the UK will soon head to the US to train him for the role.
4. Darth Vader is likely to return to the franchise
Other rumors suggest Vader is likely to return to the Disney owned franchise, most likely through the various spin-off anthology movies. Sources have stated he will make a possible, albeit short, appearance in Rogue One, while its also feasible he would appear in the Boba Fett spin-off movie. With Vader appearing in these movies, Disney might also want to tie him back into the main thread.
Using this evidence, plus a lot of conjecture, fan theorists have created a potential theory for the resurrection of Darth Vader. According to io9, Abrams has previously stated newly introduced Kylo Ren is obsessed with Vader, even going so far to say he has modelled his mask after his.
With this mind, it seems plausible that Ren is travelling around the galaxy collecting Vader relics, including the helmet seen in the trailer. It also seems likely he is trying to acquire Anakin's original lightsaber which is seen in the hands of Princess Leia and Finn. Indeed, one of the confirmed Kylo Ren toys is known to say "That weapon is mine!", most likely referring to Anakin's original lightsaber.
This all seems to make some sense. Fine. However, the theory then takes a rather massive leap of faith by stating Ren could potentially use these relics to bring him back to life or clone Darth Vader. We know cloning is a major part of the Star Wars universe, as is communicating from the 'dead' ("Use the force, Luke") but literally bringing someone back from the dead would be a first in the cinematic universe.
Alternatively, others have suggested the resurrection of Vader isn't literal, but refers to Luke Skywalker finally turning to the dark side. Rumors suggest Luke has already exiled himself away from his family and perhaps Kylo Ren is gathering these relics to attempt to persuade Luke to take up his father's legacy and become the head-Sith-honcho.
Where The Theory Falls Apart
Although this is all interesting, there remains one big gap in the theory. How does this benefit Kylo Ren? We know at the end of the original Star Wars saga that Anakin Skywalker becomes a force ghost (in Jedi garb) alongside Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi, essentially showing (or at least suggesting) he turned to the light side by killing the Emperor. So, if Darth Vader was resurrected, wouldn't we still be dealing with the 'good' post-emperor killing Anakin Skywalker? How would be benefit Kylo Ren's plans? But then again, does Ren know Vader turned to light before his death? Probably not.
Furthermore, if he was cloned, there's no reason to suggest a clone would also hold the same hatred that turned the original Anakin to the dark side. He would only be a physical recreation devoid of the actual life experiences and personality of Anakin. I suppose Kylo Ren could perhaps condition/manipulate the clone like the emperor did with Anakin, but his is less bringing 'Darth Vader' back and more making a cheap, off-brand copy of him.
Generally, I'm inclined to think the legacy of Darth Vader will form a central component of The Force Awakens, but I'm extremely doubtful the character will make a meaningful 'return'.