With the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer and poster being recently released, there has been a significant amount of fan interest and anticipation building towards the film's release. But the question on everyone's mind is, "Where's Luke?" To which J.J. Abrams, when asked about him, has said, "It's no accident that you ask that question, and I can't wait for you to find out the answer."
It would seem Abrams has done a good job of keeping secrets with regard to the story of "The Force Awakens," much the way he tried to hide the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch played Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness." He might just want to create a surprise similar to the one in “Empire Strikes Back,” in which it was revealed that Vader is Luke’s father. And of course, fans don’t like surprises, they want to speculate and theorize as much as possible even if it spoils the surprises. As a result, fan theories abound. Most of them revolve around the fact that Mark Hamill himself told Abrams (among others during an episode of Dinner for 5, which can be heard at around the 11:40 mark) about how he unsuccessfully pitched the idea to George Lucas that Luke should have turned evil and come back in “Return of the Jedi.” So let’s speculate. Is Luke Skywalker going to be evil? Or is it all a clever misdirection?
First of all, can we accept Luke Skywalker as a villain? Do we need to see another Skywalker turn evil and be redeemed in similar fashion to Anakin? Would it not be a betrayal of the arc found in episodes 4-6, particularly in “Return of the Jedi?” Any plot involving Luke having turned to the dark side would have to be done very carefully.
But then again, the title “The Force Awakens” suggest that the force has fallen by the wayside. The fact of which, is in and of itself in opposition to the end of “Return of the Jedi.” Yet the fact that it is in need of awakening is furthered with the dialogue we hear from Han telling the younger members of the cast that the old stories about the force and the Jedi are real. These things have disappeared. The force is a myth. The tales of the Jedi have become legends to "kids these days." Even John Boyega’s Finn, a storm trooper whose left his post and joined the rebels, seems unaware of the reality of the old tales. Apparently it’s not required reading at storm trooper school.
Luke has evidently failed to bring the Jedi back to their prominent role in the universe by passing on what he had learned the way Yoda and Obi-Wan had requested of him. Theories so far wonder whether he has become a hermit like Yoda or Obi-Wan trying to do the opposite of their request. By laying low and passing out of the public eye perhaps the force itself would wither and die altogether (even if we know better).
Yet that theory raises the question, how did Kylo Ren obtain his skills? Was he trained by Luke Skywalker? Or someone else? His unstable red lightsaber may be the making of someone not properly trained. His dialogue in which he promised Vader’s burnt mask to finish what he started could mean any number of things. Does he want to wipe out the Jedi, a la Order 66 (which Anakin had a large hand in, in “Revenge of the Sith”), or does he want to convert Luke to the dark side (which was Darth Vader’s goal in “Return of the Jedi”)? Either objective involves tracking down Luke Skywalker. Let's remember there's always a master and an apprentice. Which one is Kylo Ren? Luke could just as well have been the master who taught Kylo Ren and gave him an affinity for Vader and his cause. Either way, Luke turning bad could be the creation of Supreme Leader Snoke played by Andy Serkis (who is also absent from the advertising). The fact that he’s also been absent has lead to speculations that Luke and Snoke could be the same person. If “The Force Awakens” does turn out to be the battle for Luke’s soul (the way the first six films were the battle for Anakin’s) and he should become evil, a name change, deformity and change in voice wouldn’t be out of the question (Emperor Palpatine, and Vader himself underwent vast changes in appearance).
There is the outside chance that Luke has very little part in the film at all. His scene(s) could simply set up the greater struggle to be dealt with in the next two films. Yet the doubt is strong with this one, because Abrams was reluctant to sign on to do the film until producer Kathleen Kennedy posed the question, “who is Luke Skywalker?” It seems unlikely Abrams would have done a film that didn’t feature Luke in a prominent role.
There’s also the question of the newer, younger members of the cast’s relationship to the older ones. The speculation with them is that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is the child of either Han and Leia or perhaps Luke and an unknown party. Yet replicating the Luke and Vader storyline of the earlier films with now evil Luke and his daughter would feel like lazy, unimaginative writing that mirrors too much of what’s already been done.
Whether any of these theories turn out to be true or not is unlikely to be known until the film hits theaters. Abrams does so enjoy his secrets. This trailer being the final trailer, there’s nothing left to be revealed (provided there’s no internet leak between now and then). Now we’ll just have to wait. In the meantime, feel free to keep the theories coming, and may the speculation be strong with you.