There is just over a month until Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released, but like the American political circus there’s an absurd amount of attention to the future, particularly Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII in 2017. (The script was recently finished, according to J.J. Abrams). The film is shrouded in mystery with only tiny breadcrumbs to piece together that anyone would go nuts trying to figure out.
Unless you’ve played Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Released in 2008 and its sequel in 2010, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed were video games that were canon until the Disney acquisition. Taking place between the two trilogies, The Force Unleashed follows Starkiller, a secret apprentice of Darth Vader who ultimately turns on him and establishes the foundation of the Rebel Alliance in his death.
In the “Light” side ending of Force Unleashed II (because moral choices in games were all the rage), Starkiller’s clone survives and captures Darth Vader for interrogation on the Empire. Of course it wouldn’t be long; Boba Fett’s Slave 1 is seen following Starkiller’s ship at the end of Force Unleashed II, and his fate after that remains unknown.
Except for the cloning nonsense, Force Unleashed proposed a great premise that deserves to live on in Star Wars mythology. The games were undermined during its time because actually playing Force Unleashed was maybe two hours of fun at most. The games have been swept under the “Legends” rug, but thankfully the Star Wars EU isn’t totally abandoned. As per the April 25th statement, all of the EU is available to inspire and influence future main Star Wars canon.
Picking apart the vague clues based on Episode VIII rumors and hints at the status quo of Force Awakens, would it be too absurd to believe The Force Unleashed is coming back in a big way?
Clue 1: Benicio del Toro is reaaaally coy about his character.
Only Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron from The Force Awakens has gone on record to say he’ll reprise his role in Episode VIII, with only strong hints that Daisy Ridley is returning to play Rey.
But actor Benicio Del Toro is definitely on board, first reported by TheWrap, to portray an unnamed villain. But when Entertainment Tonight asked him about his character, Del Toro was ridiculously coy.
“I don’t know if he’s a villain,” he told ET. “People are saying that, but it’s like they read a different script than I read. It’s nice to keep people in the dark, a little bit of mystery is good. If they want to believe it’s the villain, then good.”
That kind of moral compass questioning was not unlike what Marton Csokas told the press at Comic-Con about his role as the antagonistic Quinn in Into the Badlands. Sure, you don’t think he’s evil, but he’s certainly the villain. And there are perhaps hundreds of Star Wars characters who qualify for that kind of blurry characterization.
But few are as interesting as Starkiller. Who else could be more morally wrecked than the apprentice of the galaxy’s most evil dictator? Assuming Starkiller survived Boba Fett’s rescue of Vader, it’s been over thirty years since. Del Toro, 48, is a real chameleon and could play older if he wanted to.
Clue 2: There is a “functional” Darth Vader costume on set.
In addition to the wild rumors about Hayden Christensen returning to reprise his role as Anakin/Darth Vader for Episode VIII (in what one can only assume is a flashback), Star Wars fansite Making Star Wars reported a “functional” Darth Vader chestpiece and helmet is in the film’s “creature shop” department:
The most I have heard at this juncture is that a fully operational Darth Vader chest piece along with the helmet made it to the creature shop for the next film. The lights on the chest piece work and everything. Here’s where I get hesitant about it: There were not several of them, just one seen by a source and mentioned by another. I believe that part of the info is correct that a suit made it to the props area. Does that mean it is in the film? Not entirely.
Even Making Star Wars admits how lofty this claim is. (A Star Wars-related costume is on the set of a Star Wars movie? It can’t be!) Still, if Vader were to return for Episode VIII, what purpose could he serve? Vader is dead. Is it flashbacks? If so, what is it flashbacks to?
Clue 3: The First Order HQ is named Starkiller Base.
Of course Starkiller was the original name of Luke in early drafts of Star Wars, but it was used officially in Force Unleashed. Now the name is used again as the new headquarters of the First Order in Force Awakens, established after the Battle of Endor.
Either Force Unleashed didn’t happen or Starkiller is some kind of martyr hero to the Empire and they’ve honored him with their new home. In Force Unleashed II, post-release downloadable content expanded the “Dark” ending which followed Starkiller during the Battle of Endor. In this alternate timeline, Leia took her brother’s place (who had been killed by Starkiller) and became a Jedi.
Clue 4: Kylo Ren’s lightsaber.
It wasn’t just the cross hilt that got a ton of Star Wars fans buzzing about Kylo Ren and his bizarre lightsaber. It was its unstable blade.
In Star Wars lore, unstable lightsabers indicate the blade has been constructed with synthetic crystals. More powerful and easily changeable, Sith and other Darksiders favor synthetic crystals while the Jedi strongly oppose them.
These lightsabers have been seen across all Star Wars media, including the movies. But they were never more prominent than in The Force Unleashed, one of the first times to allow fans to wield a truly unstable lightsaber in the hands of Starkiller.
It doesn’t matter much if Kylo Ren has a lightsaber of equal build to Starkiller’s, but there is a thematic resonance if Darth Vader’s fanboys wield similarly-constructed weapons. They both shared a master after all.
Star Wars: Episode VIII may very well not involve Starkiller or any secret apprentice of Darth Vader. But where the game failed to live up to its expectations, Episode VIII could succeed and finally give recognition to an incredible but forgotten corner of the Star Wars universe.