About a month after the trailer for The Force Awakens broke the Internet and some low-level nobody at Fandango got fired for inability to handle the ticket preorder landslide there exists one common thread through media in response:
Where is Luke Skywalker?
Some speculate he won’t be in the movie very much at all. This movie, in their theories, focuses more on Han Solo than the rest of the returning cast from the Original Trilogy. The prevailing Geek opinion appears to be Luke will have precious little screen time since he’s gone into hiding but will play a major role in the sequels. The lack of Luke in the trailers, the merchandising, the one sheet, the commercial, and anything leaked indicates participation slightly above cameo or his role is being held as as closely guarded secret. Smart money is on the latter because this is the main saga. Anything outside of the Anthology series focuses on the Skywalker line, and who other than George Lucas would make a saga picture without a Skywalker as the main story?1
This is reminiscent of the period between 1980 and 1983 when the entire world, and perhaps aliens watching Earth broadcasts to determine whether we as a species are worth contacting2, wondered whether Darth Vader lied to Luke at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Is he Luke’s father? Did Obi-Wan lie? What does it mean if Vader is the father? How will the truth be told? While Vader’s reveal could easily fit into Days of Our Lives if one were to simply remove his costume the “I am your father” provided three full years of suspense, and here we are, wondering whether Luke has anything to do with The Force Awakens when he is Luke Freaking Skywalker.
Star Wars is more exciting now than it has been since the waning months of Spring 1983. Luke has to be in there somewhere and there are no clues other than one on-set photograph and a mechanical hand touching R2-D2 indicating his participation at all. The nature of Star Wars fandom means dozens, if not hundreds, of viewings of even the bad movies, so there is only one chance to be surprised. Luke is in the movie, and he is not a minor character. He cannot be a minor character, and it’s just one short month before we see him again on the big screen.
As for the trailer itself? Cautious optimism as it feels more like Star Wars up to 1983, but over-the-top anticipation ran rampant in 1998 and 1999 and look what happened there. We should have been prepared for it from a filmmaker who, between Jedi and The Phantom Menace, was involved with made-for-TV Ewok movies, Howard the Duck, Radioland Murders, Young Indy, and the Special Editions, but we let down our guard as a fandom despite overwhelming evidence lightning only struck twice.3 Here is where J.J. Abrams deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to executing something relevant to modern audiences because no matter the knocks on him, and many of them he deserves, Abrams understands what is wanted and provides.4
1Guten Tag, Dead Horse. You need a pounding: The Phantom Menace connects to the entire saga arc only with Anakin being introduced to Obi-Wan and the ascension of whomever would become Emperor. Those two points could have been the opening scroll to Attack of the Clones to allow the events of Revenge of the Sith two movies to breathe.
3George Lucas came up with two insanely popular ideas. Better directors (Kershner and Young Spielberg) and better writers (Kasdan) took those ideas from popular to transcendent. My biggest problem with Lucas in the Prequel Trilogy is his insistence writing and directing are like riding a bike when they most certainly are not.
4Manage expectations. Do not go into it expecting to see what you want because it will not be there. Go in and try to enjoy what is there.