We Had Someone Try to Predict the ‘Star Wars’ Plot Months Ago; How’d They Do?
[Ed. note: ScreenCrush writer and Star Wars enthusiast Jacob Hall was going to be away on December 18 for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters. So in his absence, a few months ago after the final trailer debuted, we asked Jacob to send us a sealed envelope with his full prediction for what happens in The Force Awakens. He had no inside information and was privy only to the footage Disney and Lucasfilm had revealed to the public. So, was the mystery box successful or did the footage give away more than we’d like to think? Let’s see how he did…]
By the time you read this, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters and I will be in the middle of the ocean on a boat without internet or access to a movie theater. As the rest of the world watches the latest chapter of the most popular science fiction saga in cinematic history and discusses it online, I will be celebrating a honeymoon with my lovely wife. We’ll just see it when we get back. No big deal.
And yet, it can’t help but feel like a big deal. As a writer, I’ve spent the past few years fully immersed in all things Star Wars. I’ve covered hundreds of scraps of news, read every single rumor, and picked apart every single trailer frame-by-frame. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can tell you the entire basic plot of The Force Awakens beat-for-beat.
So that is what I’m going to do.
As I indulged my Star Wars fandom (which was all-but-required so I could write a regular Star Wars news column), I found myself treating every rumor and every spoiler as a puzzle piece. Eventually, the pieces began to connect, forming a larger picture. Some of those pieces obviously didn’t fit that larger picture at all and had to be discarded. I had fun playing this dumb little game. Ultimately, an outline of a story that actually made sense emerged.
Then the trailers began to quietly confirm certain rumors. Shots that meant nothing to non-obsessives meant everything to me. As we learned more, I watched my patchwork plot description get confirmed little by little. Nothing we saw in the footage, nothing J.J. Abrams said in any of his vague interviews, contradicted what the internet rumor mill had churned out.
All of this was happening as none of the actual trailers revealed any plot whatsoever. While most of the world, at the time of this writing, has no idea what the new Star Wars is remotely about, I feel like I know the whole thing.
And thus, this experiment was born. As I write this article, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still over a month away. Below, I’m going to write out the entire plot of the film in broad strokes. I have not read the screenplay and have no access to inside knowledge.
The way I look at it, there are three outcomes to this strange exercise:
- I predict the movie with beat-for-beat accuracy, proving that not even Disney can keep a major movie under wraps in the internet age.
- I get everything completely wrong and everyone has a really good laugh at how dumb I am.
- I get a little right and a little wrong and we can have a discussion about perception and surprise and how we sometimes miss the forest for the trees when it comes to predicting the plot of highly anticipated movies.
I will be printing a copy of this article and sending it to the ScreenCrush offices, where it will remain sealed until the day of publication. This way, you will know that I’m not cheating and writing this right after actually seeing the movie. I’m even asking my editor to include a picture of the letter being opened right under this paragraph.
And now, let’s dive in. By the time you read this, you should be able to tell me just how right or how wrong I am. But I won’t hear you. I’ll be on a boat.
As the title crawl fades into the darkness of outer space, the camera pans to reveal a lightsaber floating through the void. It heads toward a nearby desert planet, which we will soon know as Jakku. The long-lost Jedi weapon somehow manages to survive the atmosphere and it comes to be in the possession of Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow), the wizened elder of a small village. [Nope. There is no floating lightsaber and the movie instead starts with...]
Eventually, Resistance agent and ace X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his droid BB-8 arrive on Jakku on a secret mission from General Leia (Carrie Fisher) herself. He tracks down Lor San Tekka to retrieve the lightsaber, which used to belong to Luke Skywalker, aka, the galaxy’s last Jedi Knight, aka, Leia’s brother. However, Poe’s meeting with Lor is interrupted by the arrival of a squadron of First Order Stormtroopers led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). The troops burn the village to the ground and kill Lor San Tekka. Kylo Ren is here because Luke’s lightsaber was originally Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s lightsaber, and he wants it. [Not bad. Nailed pretty much everything minus the lightsaber. Off to a solid start.]
In the chaos of the scene, Poe hides the lightsaber with BB-8, who flees into the desert to keep the weapon from falling into enemy hands. Poe is captured by Kylo Ren, who transports him to the Star Destroyer in orbit around Jakku. [We’ll ignore the lightsaber comments from here on out, knowing that’s the one major bit he got wrong. Otherwise on the money.]
The next day, we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a lone scavenger living in the wastes of Jakku. We first see her exploring the remains of crashed Star Destroyer, which was brought down in a battle years earlier. She’s a scavenger, collecting scraps and old parts that she can sell. She lives in the wrecked husk of an AT-AT Walker. She is very lonely and sad so on. Naturally, she stumbles across BB-8 and the lightsaber she’s carrying. [So far, so good.]
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren tortures Poe Dameron in a vain attempt to force him to give up the location of the lightsaber (and maybe the Resistance base). In between interrogation sessions, Poe is visited by Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who has had enough violence and has become disillusioned with the First Order. They hatch an escape plan. Finn frees Poe and they steal a TIE Fighter, engaging in a brief battle in the docking bay. Their ship is damaged in the fight, sending them plummeting back to Jakku.
On the ground, Finn and Poe wake up in the wreckage. They decide to split up to increase their chances of eluding Kylo Ren and his forces. Finn swaps out his Stormtrooper armor for Poe’s jacket. Poe vanishes into the desert and Finn heads out to find civilization. Eventually, he meets up with Rey in a nearby city. Finn recognizes BB-8 and knows what she is carrying. Rey wants no part of it, wanting to stay out of galactic conflict of any kind, especially when lightsabers are involved. [The major beats are right — Kylo Ren tortures Poe, Finn frees him, they steal a TIE Fighter, etc. — but a few of the minor details are off. Finn wakes up without Poe and finds only his jacket. And it’s BB-8 who recognizes that Finn is wearing Poe’s jacket.]
Right on cue, the First Order arrives. TIE Fighters decimate the city as Rey, Finn, and BB-8 flee. Rey takes on a bunch of bad guys with her staff. These two new allies help each other out and bond through action and so on. They stumble into a nearby hangar looking for a method of escape and find the one and only Millennium Falcon! With no pilot in sight, they steal the ship and take off, TIE Fighters in pursuit. Thanks to some skillful piloting on the part of Rey (who leads the enemy pilots through the wreckage of that Star Destroyer she scavenged earlier) and skillful gunning on the part of Finn, they pull off a perfect getaway. [Yeah, sorta. The Millennium Falcon is not in a hangar, it’s just covered up on Jakku.]
In space, our heroes and their droid dock with a large freighter…and run into the one and only Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his companion, Chewbacca. It turns out they lost the Falcon some time ago in a scheme gone wrong and they’re happy to have found it again (“Chewie, we’re home”). Right on cue, a group of alien criminals show up to capture or kill Han for some past transgression. Han, Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn work together to defend themselves in another big action scene. The alien criminals know parkour. [If there was a parkour/fight scene it was cut from the film. There is a chase scene with the rathtars, but that’s about it.]
Once everyone is safe and back on board the Falcon, Han learns what’s up with his new buddies. He recognizes the lightsaber as Luke’s, who has been missing for quite some time. He confirms that the Force, the Jedi, and the tales of the original trilogy are all true. Finn is excited by all of this, especially the lightsaber. Rey is wary and just wants to stay out of the whole mess.
At some point, we meet General Hux (Domhnall Gleason), the commander of Starkiller Base, which is located on an ice planet of some kind. This installation houses the First Order’s secret weapon which will help turn the tide of the war. Also at some point, Kylo Ren has a sit-down with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who tells him that the Force has awakened and so on. Kylo Ren is obsessed with Darth Vader and is a big fan of the Sith, even though he’s only a talented amateur with no training and a poorly built lightsaber. [Kylo Ren may be influenced by his grandfather (he does keep his charred helmet around after all), but “obsessed” may be a bit of a stretch. Missing is also a major piece of information that Snoke drops during this conversation; that Kylo Ren is Han Solo’s son.]
Also, we soon learn that Captain Phasma has next-to-nothing to do in this whole movie, but her armor sure is cool. [TRUTH.]
With no clear plan for what to do next, Han decides to take everyone to visit an old friend, the pirate lord Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o). They land on a forested planet and approach her sprawling castle/bar/establishment, which is jam-packed with so many aliens that it makes the original Cantina scene look lazy. Maz, a tiny little alien, lords over everyone and they treat her with utmost respect.
Maz meets with our heroes in private and sees something special in Rey. Using her magical powers, she gives Rey series of visions, including glimpses of a hooded figure with a robotic hand saying farewell to R2-D2 after some kind of huge tragedy. This is Luke, obviously. More obviously, all of this must mean Rey is destined for big things. Rey is horrified by this and refuses the call, handing the lightsaber to the eager Finn. [It’s actually Luke’s lightsaber that gives Rey the visions, not Maz herself. Rey also does not hand the lightsaber to Finn, who is actively trying to leave with some other aliens.]
Then the First Order shows up to assault the planet. A battle ensues, during which the First Order activates their secret weapon and decimates Maz Kanata’s castle. In the chaos, Rey is captured by Kylo Ren. Han, Chewbacca, Finn, BB-8, and Maz all escape with their lives when Resistance Forces arrive to save the day, led by Poe Dameron in his X-Wing. When the smoke clears, everyone returns to the secret Resistance base. [Well, we don’t really know what happened to Maz after the assault on her castle. We assume she’s OK because she’s returning for Episode VIII, but she doesn’t head to the Resistance with the rest of the gang.]
Once they land, familiar faces start to show up. C-3PO and R2-D2 are still around. Leia is here and she has an emotional moment with Han, who walked away from their relationship some time ago. Finn reunites with with Poe Dameron and they continue their burgeoning bromance. Leia reveals that the Resistance knows all about the Starkiller base and that they have a massive super-weapon of their own to counter it. They plan to attack the base soon and our heroes get roped into the assault. Han, Finn, and Chewbacca seeing this as the perfect opportunity to rescue Rey. [Hmm, no massive super-weapon on the Resistance side, unless you consider a bunch of X-wings to be super-weapons.]
And thus begins the big climax. While Poe Dameron (assisted by BB-8) leads his squadron of fighters in the air above Starkiler Base and Leia (assisted by Admiral Ackbar) commands the fleet in orbit, Han, Finn and Chewie sneak into the base on foot to set explosive charges on the Starkiller weapon. Much action ensues, especially as Finn tries to get the hang of his lightsaber. Eventually, things get desperate – the Resistance super-weapon is destroyed and their fleet is decimated. Poe and his squadron are all alone in the air. Han and company are alone on the ground.
Eventually, our heroes rescue Rey and with the explosives primed and ready to go, they attempt an escape…only to be confronted on the edge of the base by Kylo Ren. Han puts his weapon away and confronts him. He only wants to talk – there’s a familiarity between the two of them. And then Kylo Ren removes his helmet and we learn that he is the son of Han Solo and Leia, which also makes him Luke Skywalker’s nephew and Darth Vader’s grandson. He became too obsessed with the wrong branch of the family tree and fell to the Dark Side. Han tries to reason with his son, to convince him to let them go and to join them…but Kylo Ren isn’t having any of it. He pulls out his lightsaber and murders his father in cold blood. Han Solo is dead. [Minus the fact that this reveal comes much earlier in the film, pretty much.]
And then the explosives go off, causing mass mayhem and hysteria. Kylo Ren flees into the nearby woods and Finn gives chase, ready to avenge Han. Kylo Ren and Finn duel in the snow, but the latter’s inexperience with his Jedi weapon leads to him getting his ass thoroughly kicked. Kylo Ren gravely wounds Finn. Rey, in tears over Finn’s body, picks up Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and leaps into action. She’s a natural warrior and they fight to a draw. With the Starkiller base destroyed and Poe’s force victorious in the air, Kylo Ren flees the planet to fight another day. [Minus some details, fairly accurate.]
Back at the Resistance base, Leia and Chewbacca mourn Han’s death. Finn lies unconscious in the infirmary. He’ll live, but he’s out of the fight for awhile. Rey, now realizing her destiny, collects her lightsaber and gets in the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca. They fly to an isolated planet, perhaps first glimpsed in the visions conjured by Maz Kanata, and touch down on an isolated island. There, she finds Luke Skywalker, who has been living in self-imposed exile. She presents him with his long lost lightsaber. She is here to begin her training.
[Overall, pretty well done! The major beats are all there, and only the details get a little muddy. The lightsaber/map confusion is the only real mistake here, and to be fair, many people thought BB-8 would have the lightsaber all along.
So, maybe, despite all their attempts, the Mystery Box may not have been as secure as they thought. It may be easy to keep secrets for some smaller movies, but when you have a film as hotly anticipated as Star Wars, it’s going to be very difficult to keep things like this secret, especially when you have fans poring over every little detail.]