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Paths to the Dark Side: The Future and the Past

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Throughout his Star Wars films, George Lucas keeps returning to the idea that dwelling on the possibilities of the future is dangerous, and that instead one should try to live in the present moment. In The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan approach this idea from the opposite direction, which may give us some clues as to where Rey’s journey, in particular, might be going in Episodes VIII and IX.

The original trilogy

In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is at first reluctant to train Luke Skywalker, because “all his life has he looked away – to the future, to the horizon. Never, his mind on where he was! What he was doing!” Later in the film, while meditating, Luke sees a vision of the future: his friends Han and Leia in terrible danger. Yoda instructs him not to act on these images, and warns that “always in motion is the future”, but Luke defies him. The results are disastrous. Luke is unable to help his friends, who ultimately rescue themselves, and instead finds himself in a confrontation with Darth Vader that he isn’t ready for. The friends he goes to save end up having to save him.

In Return of the Jedi, it is Emperor Palpatine who fails due to his preoccupation with the future, this time fatally so. He confidently asserts that “everything is proceeding as I have foreseen”, constructing his plans around his own foresight. He even says, of Luke, “his compassion for you [Vader] will be his undoing,” and that it is Luke’s “destiny” to join the dark side. But Palpatine misses the truth that is right in front of him – the conflict in Vader. Luke sees this clearly, and in the end, it is Vader’s compassion for Luke that proves to be Palpatine’s undoing. Read More