Williams Knows More About Rey Than We Do…

Listening back to the soundtrack of The Force Awakens, it suddenly struck me that Rey’s bright but yearning theme actually maps on top of the Force theme John Williams has established across the saga. I don’t know why this hadn’t jumped out at me earlier – but the chord changes are the same, which cannot be an accident.

(For those who don’t know what this “chord changes” nonsense means, it just refers to the underlying musical design of a melody. If this is the same between two themes, it’s just how you can hum, “It’s a Small World” and “76 Trombones” on top of one-another and they’ll ‘fit’ together.)

PopSugar actually identified the relationship long ago, but they completely misidentified the themes (and botched the interpretation as a result):

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Luke-Skywalker-Theme-Mixed-Rey-Theme-From-Star-Wars-39813938

What they identify as Luke’s theme is actually the Force theme woven together with Rey’s. Luke’s theme does actually show up in this clip, but it’s at the very end of the suite in the harp/vibraphone, just for a brief moment… just like Luke’s appearance the movie. (Never let it be said that Williams didn’t have a sense of humor!)

So, what does this all mean? Well, it strongly suggests that Rey is “one with the Force” in a way we’ve never seen before. And up until now, who has been the most Force-infused person? It just so happens to be another young, desert-bound prisoner of circumstance who was extraordinarily good with mechanics… and piloting. 

Yep, I mean Anakin, the alleged “Chosen One.” But, how could Rey be more One with the Force than the Chosen One? Brace for the plunge into the rabbit hole.

What we know about this Chosen One is sparse. 

  • A virgin birth arising from the Force, the Chosen One is foretold (somewhere) to be the one who will “bring balance to the Force,” whatever that actually means. (Ep. I)
  • Anakin Skywalker had the highest Force reading in Jedi history (according to Qui-Gon), and he was a virgin birth; according to his mother, “There was no father. I can’t explain it. Can you help him?
  • Believing Anakin to be the Chosen One, Qui-Gon commits Obi-Wan to training him as a Jedi, despite’s Yoda’s premonitions of danger. (Ep. I)
  • Palpatine takes specific and targeted note of Anakin as soon as he is made aware of the boy: “And you, young Skywalker – we will watch your career with great interest.” (Ep. I)
  • Palpatine reveals prior to Anakin’s fall that an ancient Sith Lord wielded the power to “influence the midichlorians to create life” – effectively to create Force virgin births! (Ep. III)
  • Obi-Wan cries out in despair that the prophesy had gotten everything so wrong about the Chosen One: “You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!(Ep. III)

Well, with all of this in mind, what Williams has done here in musical parlance is suggest that maybe it wasn’t the prophesy that was wrong… maybe it was Qui-Gon’s choice in the Chosen One.

Envision a scenario where the Jedi are duped by a Sith facsimile of a Chosen One – A corruptible Force-demigod who would be instrumental in overthrowing the galaxy if properly trained, prodded, and seduced away from the light, producing an Anti-Chosen One who destroys the Jedi and brings the entire galaxy into darkness. 

Doesn’t this look exactly like the saga we have? 

 So, by extension, is Rey the real Chosen One? This is what Williams appears to be subtly suggesting. Signs certainly seem to point in that direction.  …And the clues mount when movie details viewed through this lens:

  • The elderly ally in the Jakku village makes a point to bring up Chosen One Prophesy lingo: “Without the Jedi, there can be no balance in the Force.” (Ep. VII)
  • Even the title The Force Awakens could literally refer to Rey, herself – a Force-conceived child of prophesy – awakening to her destiny as the Chosen One.
  • Rey confounds a stormtrooper with no training and without even a hand motion – something we’ve never seen before, even amongst the most powerful Jedi. (Ep. VII)

Another interesting thing about this idea is that it’s a way out of (and a way to explain) all of the prophesy references in the prequels that don’t result in the prophesy just being plain wrong, or arm-waving it away as something Vader did when he killed the Emperor. I’ve never found that wholly satisfying.

So, while I’ve been on Team Rey-is-a-Skywalker for the longest time just in terms of symmetry, I think this musical choice has convinced me away. Rey may be something, and someone, truly new: The child of prophesy long ago foretold to bring balance to the Force. And what about her parents? Galactic nobodies, probably. (Who was Shmi Skywalker but a slave on the outer rim?)

And in this light, not only would it still be a family saga in a global sense, (Rey is 1/2 Force, like Anakin, while Luke is 1/4 Force, and Kylo 1/8th Force), but the operatic themes here ramp up the epic level to 11:

  • Son of the Anti-Chosen-One trains the Chosen One for a cosmic confrontation with the grandson of the Anti-Chosen-One in a duel for the fate of the galaxy.

Or even better in terms of Symmetry: 

  • Prequel Trilogy: Obi-Wan trains Skywalker as Chosen One, who falls to the Dark Side.
  • Original Trilogy: Obi-Wan trains new Skywalker to defeat the old Skywalker.
  • Sequel Trilogy: Old Skywalker trains the Chosen One to defeat a new Skywalker.

I’m in. I’m now Team Rey-is-the-Chosen-One. 

Will we get the big reveal in The Last Jedi? I don’t know – but now that the thought is out there, keep an eye out for the clues. 

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Symmetry in Star Wars – What to Expect in Episode VIII

StarWarsSymmetry

Recurring Themes and Plot Forecasting

When George Lucas created the Star Wars prequels – Episodes I, II, and III – he intentionally utilized recurring cinematic themes across parallel movies in each of the two trilogies.  This is one of the things I dig most about the much-maligned tales of the fall of the Galactic Republic and the rise of the Galactic Empire, if for no other reason than it adds the weight of destiny to the apparently-spontaneous events of the original films.

Most intriguing to me now, however, is that if these themes are honored in the new trilogy, they provide us specific clues about what must happen in upcoming (and as-yet-unnamed) Episode VIII.

Forget spoilers, leaks, and rumors.  We may already have everything we need to sketch out key moments in the next Star Wars film.

Pervasive Symmetry

What do I mean?  Well, Lucas’s symmetry principle stretches from the overt to the amazingly obscure.  For instance, take the title of Episode IV, the beginning of the original trilogy.  It has three words in it – an article, and adjective, and a noun: “A New Hope.”

Just so, some may be surprised to realize that the (somewhat clunky) title of Episode I, the beginning of the prequel trilogy, was purposefully chosen in that it follows the exact same formatArticle, adjective, noun: “The Phantom Menace.”  (This game can be played across each of the six titles of the two trilogies.)

Episode VII, “The Force Awakens,” was a slight variation on the theme – article, noun, verb – but it was still a three-word title.  Close enough in my book.

Confirming Recurring Themes in the Sequel Trilogy

Now, take something more central to the plot.  One of the coolest plot symmetry moments between the original and prequel trilogies (to me) was symmetry between Luke and Obi-Wan.

In Episode I, young Obi-Wan Kenobi, then a Jedi apprentice, is separated from his master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn while facing a red-lightsaber-wielding Sith. Unable to come to his mentor’s aid, Obi-Wan screams, “No!” as he watches Darth Maul strike him down:

4b_obi-wan_reacts_to_darth_maul_killing_qui-gon_jinn

And then, we zoom a generation later to Episode IV.  Sure enough, we find young Luke Skywalker – a Jedi apprentice to an aged Obi-Wan – separated from the master Jedi while facing a red-lightsaber-wielding Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Unable to come to his mentor’s aid, Luke screams, “No!” as he watches the Sith strike down his former teacher and friend:

4a_luke_reacts_to_dart_vader_killing_obi-wan

Now, you may see where this is going.  Because these symmetries are some of my favorite aspects of the films, as the release of Episode VII neared, my wife had to suffer me rambling with nervous anticipation.

Did J.J. Abrams “get it”?  Would he continue these many symmetries as he should as a continuation of perhaps the world’s first visual symphony?  

I specifically called out the above moments (and others) to my wife, imploring her to understand the importance of these plot themes, declaring, “If this new Star Wars is going to be worth anything, then the new Jedi apprentice has to be separated from a mentor figure, who yells, ‘Nooo!’ as the mentor is struck down by a bad guy with a red lightsaber.”

Well, for anyone who’s seen it (and to my very pleasant surprise), we skip forward yet another generation in Episode VII to find young Rey, a force-sensitive Jedi-apprentice-to-be, separated from her mentor Han Solo while facing a red-lightsaber-wielding Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. Unable to come to her mentor’s aid, Rey screams, “No!” as she watches the dark Jedi strike down his own father:

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 10.12.21 PM

Yes!  Symmetry across three trilogies confirmed! And bonus points for reversing the father/son conflict twist in the process!

Thematic Forecasting in Episode VIII

So, by the same token, if Rian Johnson “gets it” with Episode VIII, there are several things (or variations thereof) that we really should see in the upcoming Star Wars episode in order to preserve thematic continuity.  These beats include:

  1. The title of Episode VIII must be four words. (See: Ep. II, Attack of the Clones; Ep. V, The Empire Strikes Back.)
  2. Rey must have force visions of someone dear to her in pain. (See: Ep. II, Anakin of his mother being tortured by Tusken Raiders; Ep. V, Luke of Han Solo and Leia being tortured by Darth Vader.)
  3. Rey will be admonished by her Jedi Master (presumably Luke). (See: Ep. II, Obi-Wan to Anakin after losing his lightsaber; Ep. V, Yoda to Luke after failing to extract his X-Wing.)
  4. Rey’s visions must propel her to an ill-advised rescue attempt. (See: Ep. II, Anakin to Tatooine and then to Geonosis where he is captured; Ep. V, Luke to Bespin where he is lured into a trap by Darth Vader.)
  5. The rescue attempt will be against the explicit wishes of her Jedi Master. (See: Ep. II, Obi-Wan orders Anakin not to leave Tatooine; Ep. V, Yoda and Obi-Wan implore Luke not to leave Dagobah.)
  6. This rescue attempt will not be completely successful. (See: Ep. II, Shmi Skywalker dies shortly after being freed; Ep. V, Boba Fett escapes with Han Solo aboard the Slave 1.)
  7. As an ultimate price for her impulsiveness, Rey must finally have a hand cut off by a red-lightsaber-wielding baddie (presumably Kylo). (See: Ep. II, Anakin by Count Dooku; Ep. V, Luke by Darth Vader.)
  8. There will be a temptation moment while Rey is physically vulnerable, where Kylo reveals a surprising truth in an attempt to seduce her to join forces with him to destroy a greater evil (i.e., Snoke). She will reply, “I’ll never join you.” (See: Ep. II, Obi-Wan immobilized in a forcefield, where Count Dooku reveals Darth Sidious leading the Senate and offers to join forces to destroy the Sith; Ep. V, Luke’s hand having been severed, Darth Vader reveals his true identity and offers to join forces to destroy the Emperor.)
  9. After the confrontation, Rey herself will require rescue. (See: Ep. II, Anakin by Yoda; Ep. V, Luke by Leia/Lando/Chewbacca.)
  10. Rey must have a cybernetic hand installed by the final scene. (See: Ep. II, Anakin marriage ceremony on Naboo; Ep. V, Luke aboard medical freighter.)
  11. There will be cybernetic hand-holding/hugging at an overlook in the final scene between Rey and another main character. (See: Ep. II, Anakin and Padme overlooking a Naboo lake; Ep. V, Luke and Leia overlooking a distant galaxy.)
  12. Oh, and there should be a bounty hunter in there somewhere, and somehow, ideally a Fett. (See: Ep. II, Jango Fett; Ep. V, Boba Fett.)

This is by no means a limiting list, and there could be other symmetries – perhaps even broader symmetries across the trilogies.  For instance, if some rumors are to be believed, Episode VIII more closely recalls Episode II, mirroring across Episode V with a new sort of trans-trilogy symmetry.  According to the rumblings, Episode VIII begins with [[POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT]] an assassination attempt followed by an investigation, where one main character attempts to follow clues to track down the assassin, uncovering a larger plot. (See: Ep. II, attempt on Senator Amidala’s life that leads Obi-Wan on an increasingly-murky investigation.)

Star_Wars_Episode_VIII_numeral_logo

So… I suppose only time will tell whether or not the above forecast holds true.  However, considering all of the time, pain, and effort that went in to establishing these symmetries – (you absolutely cannot create them by accident!) – I for one will be supremely disappointed should the above not appear in some way in Episode VIII.

J.J. set the bar pretty high for recapitulating these themes.  Can you carry a tune, Rian?