The similarities between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the original 1977 classic are, depending who you ask, either the film's greatest attribute or its weakest leg. Supporters will say it's what we needed, that J.J. Abrams gave us the Star Wars film that the Prequels should have been. However, everybody's a critic, and there are those that feel the film was a bit too much like A New Hope.
So, the question on everyone's mind is: Will Rian Johnson's currently untitled Episode VIII similarly follow the structure of The Empire Strikes Back? We're not expecting a full-blown remake, but here are some aspects fans are expecting to draw familiarity.
Jedi Training On A Secluded World
As we all know, The Force Awakens ended on an unusual cliffhanger: Rey discovers legendary Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, who has been living in exile on the planet Ahch-To, specifically on an island rumored to house the first Jedi Temple. Despite an appearance baring resemblance to Obi-Wan Kenobi, we're expecting Luke's role in Episode VIII to align with that of Yoda's in Empire.
We say this because, in a way, the Obi-Wan role in Rey's life has already been played by Han Solo. Despite his lack of Force-sensitivity, Han introduced Rey to "a larger world," and served as a sort of mentor until his untimely death at the hands of Kylo Ren. Now that Rey has found Luke, it is time for her training to truly begin, as Luke's did when he found Yoda on Dagobah.
Of course, Luke is not Yoda, and we doubt he will share Yoda's resistance to train the series' new protagonist. While it has been suggested that Luke abandoned the Resistance because he felt responsible for the loss of his students, it's also possible the hero is searching for hope — another him, perhaps. And we think Rey's arrival on Ahch-To is just what he's been looking for.
A Mission On The Side
In Empire, when we weren't on Dagobah learning about the Force, we were following Han Solo and Princess Leia aboard the Millennium Falcon. While evading Darth Vader's Imperial fleet, Han and Leia grew out of their phases of constant bickering and found love and support in each other during a difficult time.
Similarly, we're expecting some strong developments in the relationship between Finn and Poe Dameron in Episode VIII. While we don't necessarily foresee an impending romance, (though a great deal of fans do), we trust that these two will prove to be powerful allies, and probably comic relief as well, for the Resistance.
Surely, they will be joined by supporting cast members. Han and Leia traveled with Chewbacca and C-3PO in Empire. Since Chewie accompanied Rey with R2-D2 on the journey to Ahch-To, our guesses have been limited to BB-8 (almost a certainty) and maybe C-3PO? We suppose it's possible that General Leia will join them, however unlikely, as she is rumored to have her own conflict going on with new cast member Benicio Del Toro.
A New Ally, Or A Traitor?
Director Rian Johnson started to raise hype for Star Wars newcomer Kelly Marie Tran at Star Wars Celebration earlier this month. Many have suggested that she will play a love interest for either Finn or Poe, (or both?) but the vast majority of theories claim her to be the Lando Calrissian of this new trilogy.
Lando did not always receive the warmest reception for his actions in Empire. Introduced as an old friend of Han Solo's who will provide a safe place to stay, he is revealed to have given in to Darth Vader's intimidation and led his allies into a trap. Though Lando ultimately redeems himself, saves his friends, aids the Rebellion, and becomes a fan-favorite character, he often fails to shake the reputation of a traitor, as seen below:
Whether Tran's role will follow Calrissian's footsteps is still a matter of pure speculation, but we suppose it isn't a far-fetched theory. And if she is to serve as a romantic foil for one or both of our predetermined faves, such as betrayal would be even more powerful. Think Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The Spirit Of A Mentor
The Empire Strikes Back was the film that initially introduced the aspect of the Force Ghost, as Luke speaks to an embodiment of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, after the Jedi Master's death. Since the release of The Force Awakens, fans have been speculating how Harrison Ford could return to Star Wars without degrading his character's death scene and the reputation of a series that the public takes rather seriously.
Well, it is entirely possible that Han Solo could return in the form of a Force Ghost, and before you argue that it's impossible because he's not a Jedi, hear us out:
The only characters we've ever seen communicate with a Force Ghost are Luke Skywalker and Yoda in the original trilogy. Both of these characters are Force-sensitive. So, who's to say that the person that died is the one with the power to become the Force Ghost? Perhaps communication with the dead is an ability that lies within Force-sensitive people, in which case the abilities of the deceased are irrelevant.
A Climactic Duel
Much like Empire, we expect the plot of Episode VIII to be stepping stones in the protagonist's trek to an ultimate confrontation with the antagonist. Everything that happened in Empire ultimately pushed Luke to Cloud City to fight Vader — his visions on Dagobah, his fear for his friends, not to mention the Sith Lord was making himself comfortable inside Skywalker's head the whole time.
We're expecting a duel of the same caliber in Episode VIII, this time customized to Rey's experiences. Remember, she's met Kylo Ren before, and he clearly made an impression. He drew both fear and anger from her, and she fought rather aggressively against the villain.
These feelings will definitely fuel her in the ongoing fight between the Resistance and the First Order in Episode VIII. And if her allies fall into the same dangerous trap as Luke's did, her motivation will push her even further. We're eager to see this young Jedi grow even more powerful with the Force, and can't wait for her next meet-and-greet with Kylo.
A Fateful Reveal
Perhaps the most iconic cinematic reveal of all time, Darth Vader's declaration to Luke Skywalker that "I am your father" drew all sorts of emotions from both the character and all first-time viewers of the film. It was the greatest-kept secret in film history, and is succeeded by the mystery of Rey's heritage.
The greatest difference between the reveal of Luke's lineage and that of Rey's is that we didn't see Luke's coming. We thought Luke's father was dead, as Obi-Wan said Vader killed him. However, theories about Rey's parenthood have been spread since before The Force Awakens hit theaters, including potential kinship to Han and Leia, Luke himself, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi and Poe Dameron.
But perhaps the widest-spread theory links Rey, like Luke, to Anakin Skywalker himself. Many have speculated that Rey is a reincarnation of the elder Skywalker, stating that, like Anakin, she was created by the Force to bring balance, (a Chosen One, if you will) which had been disrupted with the rise of the First Order.
What do you think of our theories? Do you think Episode VIII will draw from Empire the same way The Force Awakens drew from A New Hope? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.