[Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) is nearly upon us, and as we draw closer to that eagerly anticipated release date, fans are desperate to know the answers to the biggest mysteries of the film. The latest trailers and TV spots have given us plenty of hints, but much of the plot for Star Wars 7 has stubbornly stayed secret. As it should - after all, we all know how disappointing it is for the major plot points of a movie to be revealed in the trailers (yes, I'm looking at you Terminator Genisys).
Of course, speculation is another matter, and part of the excitement of The Force Awakens is pondering what these tiny hints could mean. And there's no character more discussed than Luke Skywalker. His notable absence from the trailers and marketing has sparked many a fan theory, one of the most popular being that Luke will follow in his father's footsteps, taking up the mantle of Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode 7. But as much as some fans want to see a Dark Side Luke Skywalker, it's highly unlikely this will be the case...
The Origins Of Evil Luke
As with many Star Wars plot points, this has also been covered in great depth by the Expanded Universe, but it was also an abandoned plot for Return Of The Jedi.
Mark Hamill himself was in favour of this plot, and accidentally pitched the idea of evil Luke to J.J. Abrams back in 2005.
"As an actor that would be more fun to play. I just thought that’s the way it was going from when we finished [Empire]. I figured that’s what will be the pivotal moment. I’ll have to come back, but it will be I have Han Solo in my crosshairs and I’ll be about to kill him or about to kill the Princess or about to kill somebody that we care about."
This was definitely considered for Return Of The Jedi (and Leia was positioned to save the day after Luke went bad), but the plot was eventually abandoned as it was too close to the Darth Vader twist. Having Luke go bad would also end the original trilogy on a distinctly different note: instead having an optimistic and humanist moral, Vader would not have been redeemed and the story would have been a lot less satisfying.
Of course, that was then and this is now, and it's entirely possible that in the 30 odd years after the Battle of Endor, something happened to make Luke lose his determined optimism.
What Happened To Luke?
Let's look at what we know for sure about Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens.
- He's probably missing.
- He's "the last Jedi" in the galaxy.
- He's hidden away on a planet that resembles Skellig Island in Ireland (where the filming took place), which is known in the film as "Luke's Refuge".
- The First Order and Kylo Ren are looking for Luke Skywalker too.
All of this just creates more mysteries than it solves. The crucial question is why Luke might go into hiding. There's a very popular rumour (that has been making the rounds since Star Wars 7 was first announced) which states that Luke went into hiding to protect others, after he became too powerful and endangered his friends.
Of course, the most popular rumour is that power is exactly what Luke Skywalker was after, and he's mysteriously absent from the trailers so as not to spoil the big reveal that he's the ultimate villain. Despite the fact that we already have the name and motive for the Big Bad who's really pulling the strings, many fans are still clinging to the idea that Luke will give in to the Dark Side the same way Anakin did. But honestly, that doesn't really make sense with the story.
Misunderstanding Luke's Dark Side
Don't get me wrong: Luke is hardly a paragon of virtue. He's not all good, he's not naive, and he certainly isn't afraid to take lives in battle....
The final count is over 300k deaths caused by Luke alone. Obviously this was war, but Luke is no angel. He also makes plenty of threats to kill Jabba The Hutt's poor, innocent bounty hunters (um) in Return Of The Jedi, which some fans have used as proof that Luke already went bad before the original trilogy ended. Except that's pretty obviously not the case at all.
Yoda warns Luke in The Empire Strikes Back that if he abandons his training, he'll succumb to the Dark Side in the final fight with Vader. This is because Yoda definitely believes that strong emotions lead to hate which, as we all know, leads to the Dark Side. It's true that Luke is headstrong and impulsive, but his emotional motivations are vastly vastly different to Anakin's when he turned bad.
Anakin always craved power - this is evident even before his mother was killed (grief = hate = Dark Side). This has never been Luke's aim: ever since we first meet him in A New Hope, his motivations have been wrapped up in his desire to help others and save his friends. That's why he abandons his training in The Empire Strikes Back, and it's why he doesn't succumb to the Dark Side in Return Of The Jedi, because ultimately he just wants to save his father.
So what does this mean for The Force Awakens? Essentially, having Luke go bad because he craves power would make no sense with his character. Having him go bad because of grief (maybe all his little Jedi padawans were killed?) would just be a repeat of Anakin in the prequels (and no-one wants that).
The solution? He's not bad in Star Wars 7. That's not to say he'll be a paragon of virtue: the film already looks like it'll be too morally ambiguous to feature a sharp divide between heroes and villains. We'll just have to wait and see to find out what Luke's role really is, but my money's on Skywalker being far from a villain.