A good villain is always important to an action film. What would the classic original Star Wars films have been without Darth Vader? Well, Star Wars: the Force Awakens has Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, but he’s not the mastermind. Ren is the lackey for Supreme Leader Snoke, leader of the First Order. We don’t know much about Snoke yet but if the theory is true, some speculate he could possibly be an aged Luke (Mark Hamill) who has turned to the Dark Side. (Even though Andy Serkis is playing Snoke.) I actually prefer the theory that Snoke is really Darth Plaguis (Palpatine’s old mentor, mentioned in the Revenge of the Sith) having brought himself back from the dead.
JJ Abrams has said that in this film, many people—including Finn (John Boyega)—will think of the old Jedi order as villains, because the bad guys have been spreading some nasty rumors. But could there be a kernel of truth to their slander? Could the eldest and greatest Jedi have done a Sinestro?
This rumor is given credence by the marketing we’ve seen. What’s the deal with Luke’s low profile in the promotional material for the new film? Why are they keeping the leading man of the original trilogy out of sight so much? Is it to hide the big twist? Could this be true? Would it work?
It isn’t so crazy. In the multi-media world of the Star Wars novels, there was a storyline called “the Dark Empire” where Luke went all Dark Phoenix on the galaxy. That story is well regarded but there’s a difference between doing something in the books and in the films. The books are only read by diehard Star Wars fans who love the franchise and will stick with it to see the completion of the Long Game strategy.
The films, however, can’t just rely on the loyal core fandom if Disney wants to do the same sort of numbers that the previous films did. They need to get the casual fans into the theaters if they hope to break box office records the way Star War films have done in the past. However, the casual fan isn’t in it for the long haul and will bail quicker if they don’t like what they’re seeing. Instead of saying “Let’s see how this ultimately plays out,” the casual fan says “That sounds stupid. I’m done with this!” That leads to the question…will the casual fans who only know the Star Wars Universe from what they recall of the old films they saw years ago accept the idea of the honorable hero they remember becoming the villain?
If Luke really is the bad guy, then how did this unexpected turn come about? Did he just submit finally to the Dark Side of the Force? Star Wars creator George Lucas has stated that, by the time the events of this film take place, Luke has become the most powerful Jedi ever. Does this massive power corrupt him beyond his ability to resist? Or is it something else? Did Luke decide he needed to be alone because he wanted to ‘test’ the power of the Dark Side he’d fought against for so long, to see if it really was stronger? If so, then that would play into Yoda’s warning that once you start down the path of the Dark Side, it will forever dominate your destiny. Or perhaps years of lonely isolation while living as a hermit caused Luke to go insane?
There’s another possibility that might placate those casual fans who don’t want to see Luke go all Harvey Two-Face on us. Perhaps Luke is not corrupted but rather possessed. When Emperor Palpatine went poof at the end of Star Wars 6: the Return of the Jedi, he possibly did a Lord Voldermort and put his spirit inside someone else. If this is the case, then we can surmise that, over the years, the Emperor has been poisoning Luke’s soul. Alone and without any support group, Luke would be more susceptible to the spiritual contamination, until he finally went total Magneto.
Whatever the reason for the turn to evil—if the rumor is true—it’s a risky proposition. While it will be an unexpected twist for most, it might alienate some. Film fans have definite expectations. Remember the backlash to seeing Superman kill someone in Man of Steel? It may work but it may not. To use a wrestling analogy, the Heel-turn worked great when wrestling icon Hulk Hogan went bad in WCW but it was a disaster when WWE tried it with the popular “Stone Cold” Steve Austin a few years later. It’s a two-edged sword and Disney has to be careful it doesn’t cut off its own fingers.
Certainly this film will make money, no matter what, but then again, so did the prequels and no one wants to repeat that. Will an evil Luke be the equivalent of turning the awesome Darth Vader into a petty, pouty, complaining teenager?
Should Luke be the villain of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Will it hurt the film? What do you think?