SPOILERS AHEAD: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you want to read our spoiler-free review, click here. The rest of you, read on… but know that you have been warned.
The first Star Wars movie involved chasing a droid with a vital piece of data. So does the new one. This time, however, it’s not the plans to the new battle station, it’s a piece of a map that will lead our heroes, or our villains, to the location of Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi in the galaxy. But what’s the map all about? It might be more important than we realized. Let’s break it down.
While the magical map that leads to Luke Skywalker is far from the first convenient coincidence in the history of the Star Wars franchise, this one feels a little too convenient. But what if it isn’t? What if it actually all makes perfect sense, but simply looks wrong because we’re all seeing it from a certain point of view? We think that we may have figured at least some of it out. It all starts with taking the initial premise about the map and throwing it out of the airlock…
It’s Not A Map To Luke SkywalkerKylo Ren tells Rey that the First Order already has most of the map, that they got it from the archives of the Empire. But how is that possible? While 30 years have passed since the last movie, Luke hasn’t been gone that whole time. Han and Leia had a child and Luke began to train him. He grew up and began to embrace the Dark Side. Only then did Luke Skywalker disappear. Whatever was left of the Empire after The Return of the Jedi was dust by this point, so how did they get any of the map? We think it's because they already had it. But for a different reason than "finding" the missing Luke Skywalker. Let's piece this together.
It’s A Map to The First Jedi TempleHan Solo tells Rey and Finn that that those who knew him best think Luke went looking for the first Jedi Temple. Han is certainly one of those people, so we can take this as the best available evidence for exactly what Luke did. So the map isn’t to a person, it’s to a place, but it’s simply a place where Luke is known/believed to be in hiding. If the Empire had been searching for the temple anyway for their own reasons, then it would make sense that they had acquired some of the map previously. Of course, what makes even more sense is that it was one particular person who had been looking for the temple.
The Map Is What Darth Vader 'Started'In a scene that will be long remembered in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren has a monologue with the disfigured mask of Darth Vader. In that scene, he says he plans to finish what Vader started. But what is that? Vader renounced the Dark Side at the end of his life (captured in Return of the Jedi). Surely Ben Solo learned that during his Jedi training. So what exactly is he trying to finish. The map. Kylo Ren wants to get to the temple. While the exact goal is unclear, surely there’s knowledge of The Force to be gained there. This also implies that his goal has been the temple the whole time, even before Skywalker went there. Which leads us to the conclusion…
Luke Left To Protect The TempleOne thing Obi Wan and Yoda taught Luke was that when the shit hits the fan, you go into hiding. While it appears that’s what Luke has done, the fact is he never truly subscribed to the old school Jedi way of doing things. He knew his pupil had his eye on the temple so he took off to get there in order to protect it if Kylo Ren ever came calling. He’s not hiding. He’s on guard. All of these answers fit, although we still have more than a few unanswered questions.
Where Did The Map Come From?According to the opening text crawl, Lor San Tekka is an "old ally" who has "discovered" this mysterious piece of the map. The where and how of the discovery are left unsaid (likely to be revealed in Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII). Of course, all this begs the question, how did the map come to exist at all? Was it left behind by some really old Jedi? Did San Tekka find the piece himself, or was it brought to him? We don’t know much about this old man which means there’s still a great deal we don’t know about the map.
Where Did R2 Get The Rest?At one point C-3PO specifically states that it is unlikely that R2-D2 has the map in his memory. Then, at the end, we discover not only does R2 have the data, he in fact has all of the data except the final piece that’s been chased around for the entire movie. How exactly does that work? R2 has been shut down since Luke disappeared. Did he have all of this data the whole time and just never told anybody? Or, was his receiving this data the thing that woke him up? If the latter, we’re again forced to ask, where did this data come from? While these seemed like gapping plot holes at the time, the fact that a lot more has started to fall into place tells us these are questions we will likely see answers to in future movies.
What do you think about the map?