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Why Luke Skywalker should be the villain in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

The next Star Wars installment comes out in less than three weeks. For the digital papertrail, here’s what I believe needs to happen in order to bring this saga back from the dead, as the title itself seems to promise us.

DISCLAIMER: My predictions don’t matter, of course. The film’s written, shot, and cut. In the can, no matter what I think. This entry is not about placing bets on what happens next; it’s just my opinion about which direction to take this story — if there even is such a direction — and why it should be taken. So let’s back up a few years, sit around the table, and shoot spitballs against the wall to see what sticks.

SPITBALL: How about if Luke Skywalker has fallen from grace in the last 30+ years since we saw him. After restoring balance to the galaxy, he’s succumbed to the lure that’s always been beckoning. He’s now a villain.

There are at least a couple ways to do this. You could put him under the guise of Kylo Ren, using a Vaderesque non-Hamill voiceover until the helmet’s removed. Or, even better, as an emperor of sorts. A mastermind driven by the Dark Side of the Force, with Kylo Ren simply being one of his minions.

A dark Luke is something that seemed obvious to me immediately after noticing Luke’s absence on the now-familiar poster, which has apparently caused much confusion for the fanboys and girls out there.

I also realize that I’m probably not the only one who’s going this way with it. I’d imagine there’s no shortage of related arguments on reddit. But I’m less interested in the what of it than the why of it.

Poster clues aside, I’ve got two fundamental reasons why Luke Skywalker not is, but should be the bad guy if the most cynical of us are ever going to reinvest in this thing.

1. A story is only as good as its villain.

And that villain must be capable. The most badassiest dude in the galaxy. If Luke Skywalker isn’t that dude, then who is? Are we really to believe that there was another dark lord(s) elsewhere in the galaxy at the end of Return of the Jedi? If so, why weren’t they involved?

A villain is weightless in a story unless we can believe he’s capable of evil. No threat equals no conflict; no conflict equals no story. This weightlessness is most evident in the laughable prequels, which, unlike the originals, lacked any primal sense of evil intentions by anybody. George Lucas’ intention was to create that sense of evil through our familiarity with Darth Vader, but it failed. Anakin came across as nothing more than a teen with angst staying out past his bedtime to ride his motorbike.

There was also an attempt to find that needed threat in the form of Darth Maul, but that failed as well. Primarily because we never had enough time to invest in the guy long enough to be threatened by him. He came out of nowhere, and his threat wasn’t earned. Darth Maul was nothing more than a tacked-on device that we were asked to accept in order for the story to work. It didn’t.

So, again, are we really going to be asked to accept that there was some other random antagonist in this galaxy that is only rearing his ugly head now? If so, do we care? Do we feel threatened? I don’t.

2. The story of the fall of the Jedi has yet to be properly told.

Back in 1997, when the prequels were announced, there was nobody more excited than me. I was a bigger fan of Star Wars than most of you ever thought you were. I read all the scripts in the mid-nineties, pulling them down from the web via telnet before you ever had your first modem. I even played timpani to the original soundtrack’s “The Throne Room” theme at my first wedding in 1993. You’ve got nothing on me when it comes to Star Wars fandom, no matter how many AT-AT bedsheets you soiled when you were six.

The first of the three prequels was set to be released in May 1999. During those couple years that preceded it, I was online 24/7 hosting websites. They called us, affectionately enough, webmasters. With my ego ruling my own private galaxy, I spent countless hours (seriously, go look at my Netscape history) following the day-by-day unfoldings of the project on starwars.com, which back then was nothing more than a table-based static HTML site. In my vintage www geekiness, I was thoroughly informed by George Lucas’ basic vision for the prequels, which were, in essence, the story of a FALLEN JEDI. The entity we knew as Darth Vader was once a powerful Jedi knight, seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, becoming the emperor’s most powerful henchman. How could this trilogy not be good? Darth Vader, the fallen angel? For those who don’t remember, the third episode was originally to be entitled, “The Fall of the Jedi”. Put me down for that.

That all failed in a big way. You know the details. The confusing trade federations, the senseless embargos, the midichlorians, the annoying kid, Jar Jar. But as bad as those movies were in so many areas, the thing that broke my heart most was that the core story of the fallen Jedi — the story I’d been looking forward to — was never properly told. I was left blueballed.

Episode VII presents the opportunity to take a mulligan on all that. To finally tell this thing effectively. It’s a story worth telling.

SPITBALL: Let’s burn the prequels. Forget about Anakin, and demote him to a trivia question. Reboot the whole thing. Tell that beautiful story of the fallen Jedi, but make our boy Luke the centerpiece.

This arguably makes the story even more powerful than originally envisioned, since we already know first-hand what Luke is capable of. Hell, the dude levitates spaceships and outwilled the emperor. We know Luke, we love Luke, we’re already invested in Luke. Not only as the ultimate master of the Force, but as a human, with emotions, dreams, and fears. There’s nothing Luke can’t do if he sets his mind to it. We also know that the potential to fall from grace runs in his family. Yoda warned of this.

Again, a story is as only as good as its villain. If that villain is Luke Skywalker, then Star Wars may very well have just been awakened from the dead. It actually might not suck. Imagine that.

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