Star Wars: The Force Awakens was always going to make money, but what we are experiencing right now is a outright cultural phenomenon, of the kind rarely seen since the original Star Wars. Nearly two weeks after the film’s release, it’s not only number one at the box office but it’s still the only thing that anybody wants to talk about. Go outside, immerse yourself in a crowd, open your ears and the odds are good that at least somebody is talking about how good Star Wars: The Force Awakens was, and speculating wildly about its secrets.
Whether you loved the film or liked the film or are part of the vocal minority who hated it, this is a major shift from the way that movies have been consumed lately. For many years now, the conversation and speculation about motion pictures has largely been about the act of anticipation. We wondered about Avengers: Age of Ultron until Avengers: Age of Ultron actually came out. Then we talked about whether or not it was actually good for about a week, and then we moved on to whatever else was in theaters, or coming out in the future.
As a culture we tend to move on quickly. Our relationships with movies have essentially been one night stands. But Star Wars isn’t going away now that we’ve finally sealed the deal. We want it to stick around. We want to see it more than once. Star Wars is an actual relationship, and we’re currently in the honeymoon period. It’s in all of our thoughts, and we want to know more about it. If anything, we want to know more about Star Wars than Star Wars is willing to tell us at the moment. We’re being nosy as hell.
J.J. Abrams was, we now know, basically the perfect filmmaker to tackle the first new Star Wars movie. As the master of the modern tease, he knows how to get us wondering. He took away important components of his characters’ backstories, and rather than cry foul that his movie feels incomplete, we are all intrigued. Withholding information has ignited the fan base, so that now we’re all stuck in an inferno of curiosity.
Who is Rey? Theories abound that she is Luke Skywalker’s daughter, or Kylo Ren’s sister, or the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Maybe he’s Darth Plagueis, or The Grand Inquisitor from Rebels. Is Poe Dameron the first openly gay Star Wars character? Maybe he would be if the film was actually open about it, but hey, that would be pretty cool. And is [REDACTED] still alive? Some people think he/she is, although that comes across a lot more like wishful thinking than an actual theory.
It’s fun to think about these things, but there’s a difference between speculating about a movie and getting too invested in these kinds of theories. Conspiracy theories are parasites that affect the brain, sucking up all our mental energy and forcing us to do cognitive gymnastics just to prove ourselves right.
Look at the enormous amount of effort that recently went into “proving” that Jar Jar Binks was really a Sith Lord. Again, it’s fun to think about but let’s not pretend for one moment that anything was actually proven by the continuity glitch that dropped Jar Jar down from one side of a walkway as opposed to another; he didn’t “Force Jump,” they fudged the geography to make a scene work. It happens all the time. Do you honestly believe that George Lucas put that much effort into subtly hinting that Jar Jar Binks was a Sith Lord, only to A) never get around to actually revealing it, and B) fail to plan out the rest of the trilogy in even remotely that much detail?
The difference right now is that we know more Star Wars movies are coming. Heck, we’re going to get one per year from now until the end of time. So we’re trying to stay ahead of the game. I get that. But the thing about these sorts of theories is, we sometimes blind ourselves to what’s right in front of us. We all wondered where Luke Skywalker was in all the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, until we found out that the solution to that mystery was we weren’t supposed to know.
So here’s a theory to tide you over. A theory that covers everything, and is pretty much impossible to dispute. Who is Rey? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Is [BLANK] alive?
THEORY: We’ll find out in a couple of years, when the sequels tell us the answers.
That’s what a lot of people are overlooking. The answers are right in front of us. Way out in front, a few years down the line, but obviously they’re going to be there. The point right now – assuming of course you even want to give into the film’s manipulations at all – is to simply enjoy the mystery. So enjoy it, but don’t get too invested in all of these theories. You’ll either be right, and you’ll be disappointed by the lack of surprise, or you’ll be wrong, and that will disappoint you too.
But if you go into these movies simply wanting to find out what happens next, whatever it is, you will have a lot more fun, and you will have a lot more free time in the interim. So take pleasure in Star Wars, and speculate all you want, but don’t forget that the only thing we know for sure right now is that we don’t know all the answers for a reason, and that reason is we’re going to get them later.
Photos: Disney / LucasFilm
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.