Over the course of seven instalments spanning four decades, the Star Wars movies have brought us thrilling space battles, family melodrama and some of the most beloved characters in pop culture. They've also created some pretty gaping plot holes too. But the Star Wars canon exists beyond just the big screen. The 'Extended Universe' spans comics, novels, video games, and much more, allowing writers to plug some of the holes and fill in blanks between each movie. In this list, we'll go through some of the biggest unanswered questions the Star Wars films left us with and use the comics (and a couple of the books) to finally answer them.
Since Disney's acquisition of the franchise in 2012 knocked a lot of the EU material out of the Star Wars canon, we'll only be pulling from canonical sources like the Marvel Star Wars comics. That means all of these explanations will still be within the official Star Wars continuity.
15 WHY DIDN'T DARTH VADER RECOGNISE C-3PO?
Throughout the original series there are a few occasions where Darth Vader crosses paths with C-3PO. More specifically, in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back in Cloud City where Lando Calrissian betrays Luke, Han, Leia, Chewy and the droids, and hands them over to Darth Vader. The plot hole was created by the prequel series, in which its established in Episode I: The Phantom Menace that, before he donned the infamous black helmet, Anakin actually built C-3PO as a child. This left fans wondering why it was that, as Vader, Anakin wouldn't clock that the C-3PO unit in Luke's service wasn't the very same one he built with his own hands.
Well, the answer is - he does recognise it. This was solved in the 9-page comic featured in Star Wars Tales #6 titled, "Thank The Maker." While C-3PO is dismantled, Vader - in a rare moment of nostalgia - picks up the droid's head and touches it to his own as he recalls memories of his mother and building the unit on his home planet. The mushy moment quickly passes though.
14 WHY DIDN'T CHEWBACCA GET A MEDAL?
After their victory over the Empire at the end of A New Hope, heroes Luke and Han are presented with medals by Princess Leia to commemorate their gallant contributions to the Rebel's cause. But, despite also being present at the ceremony and playing his part in the mission to blow the Death Star up, eagle-eyed fans noticed that poor Chewy never received one.
Thankfully, this injustice has recently been rectified in issue #5 of Marvel's Chewbacca solo miniseries. Following the destruction of the Death Star, Chewy befriends a little human girl, Zarro, on an Outer Rim world in danger of being taken over by the Empire. After saving Zarro's father from some local thugs, the pair have to go their separate ways. Disheartened, Zarro asks for a momento of their time together, and Chewy offers her a medal that looks very similar to the ones Leia presented to Han and Luke. Chewy explains to Zarro that he doesn't want it as it doesn't really fit his "warrior" look.
13 WHEN DID DARTH VADER LEARN THAT LUKE WAS HIS SON?
During the Rebel Alliance's attack on the Death Star (The Battle Of Yavin) at the climix of A New Hope, Vader seems unaware of his son's presence. He does sense that one of the Rebels' pilots is "strong with the Force," but not a familiar connection with him. Fast-forward to the start of the next film, The Empire Strikes Back, and Vader is suddenly fully aware of Luke and his role in the Rebel Alliance. "That is the system, and I'm sure Skywalker is with them."
So, what happened in between that time? The answer was finally given to us in #2 of Marvel's monthly Star Wars comic series. During Luke and Vader's new, official 'first' confrontation, Vader takes Luke's lightsaber and recognises it as his own. This isn't enough to convince him, so he enlists Boba Fett to gather further intel. In #6, the bounty hunter returns to Vader with a name - 'Skywalker.' Unsurprisingly, Vader isn't thrilled at the news.
12 WHY WAS FINN SO GOOD AT USING A LIGHTSABER IF IT WAS HIS FIRST TIME?
In Episode VII: The Force Awakens - the first of the new trilogy - both Rey and Finn try their hand at battling at Kylo Ren on the imploding Starkiller Base. Considering Kylo Ren has had years of training under Snoke and Rey and Finn are total novices, the pair manage to hold their own well. A little too well. Particularly Finn, who doesn't appear to be Force Aware or even Force Sensitive up to this point.
So, what gives? Well, while we don't have an exact answer for this yet, Marvel's Star Wars comics have dropped clues that wielding a lightsaber isn't quite as hard as you might think. Set during the original trilogy, #12 sees Han, Leia and Chewy use the staple Jedi weapon to get out of a sticky situation while on a mission to rescue Luke from a deathly gladiator arena. Chewy is even a duel-wielder! Apparently, pretty much any plucky hero can pick a lightsaber up and do an okay job with it.
11 HOW CAN REY UNDERSTAND WOOKIES?
At the start of The Force Awakens, we meet Rey, a lone, human woman who eeks out a living salvaging and selling scrap parts of crashed ships for a living on Jakku. As well as her impressive bread-growing skills, we learn that Rey seems to be surprisingly fluent in a few different languages. She's able to understand BB-8, but even more surprisingly - she's also able to interpret Chewy for Finn after they reunite on Starkiller Base.
How is it that Rey can speak Shyriiwook? The answer can be found in the illustrated book, "Rey's Survival Guide," which serves as a kind of diary of Rey's solitary time on Jakku. "I practice alien languages and droidspeak so I can talk to people in Niima," she explains. She then goes on to heavily imply that she learnt Wookieespeak from some Wookiee traders in Niima. "I'd heard of Chewbacca from some Wookiee traders who'd stopped off at Jakku. They said he was an amazing hyperspace scout and smart smuggler, with a reckless human first mate who was always getting him in trouble."
10 WHY WOULD VADER AND THE EMPEROR TRY TO RECRUIT LUKE IF THERE CAN ONLY BE TWO SITHS AT A TIME?
In The Phantom Menace, Yoda tells Obi Wan that, in regards to the Sith, "Always two there are, no more, no less: a master and an apprentice." This line lead to a lot of confusion from fans, specifically around Darth Vader and the Emperor's plans for Luke in the original trilogy. After discovering the existence of huge potential of Anakin Skywalker's son, the Emperor tells Vader that Luke can categorically never become a Jedi. Rather, he should be turned to the Dark Side and become a Sith. By the climax of Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, the Emperor reveals his fiendish plan to turn Luke - by forcing him to kill his father and take his place as the Sith Lord's apprentice. But, wouldn't Darth Vader - knowing the 'Rule Of Two' - be wise to this plan already? Or did he really expect all three of them to live as one, happy (evil) family?
The answer to this is that the 'Rule Of Two' is far less literal than some have interpreted it as. Yoda makes it sound as if it's an inherent law of nature, when really it was manmade. In the 2008 novel, "Darth Bane: Rule Of Two", it's revealed that Darth Bane - sole-survivor of the Jedi-Sith War that took place a century before The Clone Wars - created the doctrine."Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it." This means that three Siths at one time is entirely possibly, but forbidden by Sith laws.
9 DID OBI-WAN EVER MEET LUKE BEFORE A NEW HOPE?
After smuggling baby Luke Skywalker into the care his Aunt and Uncle on Tatooine, Obi Wan then chooses to also stay on the desert planet and keep on eye on him. In Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke seems to be aware of the Jedi Master's presence, referring to him as 'Old Ben' (great alter ego, Obi...) but knows little else about him. This lead fans to speculate for years as to how much contact Obi-Wan and Luke had in the time leading up to the first instalment of the series.
The answer to this has finally been chronicled in the officially licensed Star Wars webtoon, which retells parts of the original trilogy from Luke's POV. In the first chapter, "An Old Friend," we're shown the moment that Luke learns the name 'Old Ben.' After an adolescent Luke gets caught in a sandstorm and nearly eaten by a hungry alien beast, the old Jedi is forced to come to his aid. Luke asks who he is, Obi-Wan replies: "Ben Kenobi. You can call me Ben. I'm an old friend of your father's."
8 HOW IS LEIA ABLE TO REMEMBER HER MOTHER?
In a scene near the end of Return Of The Jedi, Leia reveals some vague memories of their mother, Padme. "She was so beautiful and kind, but always sad." George Lucas also made it clear in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays that he always intended for Leia to remember her mother. However, the ending of Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith retconned the exact circumstances to make this pretty difficult to believe, as Padme dies after giving birth. How could a newborn baby commit those kinds of details about her late mother to memory?
While this plot hole is hard to fix, the Princess Leia solo miniseries of comics at one point hinted that Leia’s strong Force Sensitivity could be the answer. In #2, while on her mother’s home planet Naboo, Leia passes an archway bearing the image of Queen Amidala, and for a second, think she sees the Queen’s face turn to look at her. Spooky.
7 WHY DIDN'T OBI-WAN EVER VISIT LUKE ON TATOOINE?
Growing up on his aunt and uncle’s ranch on Tatooine, Luke is completely clueless to the fact that the old, cloaked man he knows as 'Old Ben Kenobi' is secretly one of the last Jedi Masters. It seems that after handing Luke over to his relatives, Obi-Wan kept his distance. But why is this? Clearly his presence isn’t alerting Darth Vader or The Emperor to Luke’s existence or he would have left the planet entirely. So why doesn’t he have a relationship with the son of his former padawan?
In A New Hope, there’s a hint that Uncle Owen and Obi-Wan have a sour relationship, but it wasn’t until the release of Marvel's Star Wars #15 and #20 that we got to find out why. Using Obi-Wan’s journal entries chronicling his time on Tatooine, we’re shown a flashback to a fierce argument between the two, in which Owen blames Obi-Wan for Anakin’s death. “Haven’t you killed enough Skywalkers, Kenobi?” After this blowout, it’s not surprising that Obi-Wan stayed away.
6 HOW WAS REY SUCH A GOOD PILOT IF SHE'S NEVER LEFT JAKKU?
For a girl who’s never left the planet that she grew up on, Rey seems strangely adept at flying spaceships like the Millennium Falcon. We know she’s got first-time jitters too because she has to verbally calm herself down as she sits in the cockpit. Incredibly, not only is Rey able to fly the fastest ship in the galaxy with ease, but she also knows some impressive evasive maneuvers, too.
Where did all this knowledge come from, though? In the Young Adult novel, Star Wars: Before The Awakening, we’re given a lot more information about what Rey got up to on Jakku. Apparently her skills as a pilot come from years practising on a flight simulator she cobbled together from computer parts salvaged from crashed ships.
5 WHY DID VADER SUDDENLY BETRAY THE EMPEROR?
After being the Emperor’s loyal servant all the way through the original trilogy, Darth Vader suddenly has a huge change of heart during the end of Return Of The Jedi, and kills his master to save his son’s life. It’s one of the biggest shocks of the series. But, as great an ending as this is, how is it that such an obedient apprentice could switch his loyalties so quickly?
The answer lies in the Darth Vader solo comic series. The 25-issue story arc takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and reveals that Vader is a lot more duplicitous than the films lead us to believe. Over the course of the series, Vader engages in all kinds of ‘off the books’ activities behind the Emperor’s back, and even succumbs to recalling tender moments from his life as Anakin. Writer Kieran Gillen said the seed for all this was sewn after Vader discovers the Emperor kept Luke’s existence a secret from him.
4 WHAT'S WITH C-3PO's RED ARM?
This is less of a plot hole and more of a burning question that the films left frustratingly unanswered. Merchandise released prior to the release of The Force Awakens showed that C-3PO had undergone a significant design change since the end of the original trilogy – a red arm. Fans hoping for an explanation for this in Episode VII were left sorely disappointed.
The mystery behind the new arm was finally broken in a one-shot comic, "C-3PO: The Phantom Limb." The explanation is surprisingly sad, too. Set before The Force Awakens, we learn that Threepio was part of a droid rescue mission for Admiral Ackbar – who had been captured by The First Order. In a scene reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, every droid is destroyed in a brutal battle, save for C-3PO (minus one arm). The replacement was salvaged from the droid who died to save him, as a tribute to his sacrifice.
3 HOW DID FINN DEFECT SO EASILY?
We first meet Finn as stormtrooper FN-1287 and soon discover that he’s having a crisis of conscious. Considering The First Order’s army are brainwashed into becoming loyal soldiers from childhood, his defection is shocking, and something we’ve never seen before in the franchise.
The Force Awakens make it seem as though his changing loyalty happens very quickly, the first signs made apparent during the assault on a village on Jakku in the film’s opening act. But in the Star Wars: Before The Awakening novel, details of Finn’s earlier life as a stormtrooper make his eventual betrayal of The First Order seem inevitable. Despite marking in the “top one percent” of troopers and receiving praise from Captain Phasma, his superiors noticed that he had one huge flaw – compassion. Also very telling is the revelation that Finn was the only member of his squadron to not get a nickname from his peers. This further emphasizes the idea of him never truly belonging within The First Order’s ranks.
2 HOW DID POE SURVIVE AND GET OFF JAKKU?
This is one of the biggest plot holes in The Force Awakens. How on earth did Poe manage to escape the fiery blaze of the X-Wing crash on Jakku? And not only that, but how did he then manage to get all the way back the Resistance’s base in time to greet Finn with that hearty hug?
The novelisation of "The Force Awakens" fills in the very important blanks. His escape relies on help from the Jakku locals.
“Flat in front and bulging at the stern, the speeder was an unlovely construct, but to Poe at that moment it had lines as sweet as those of the fastest fighter in the Resistance fleet. Standing in the middle of the salt flat, he began jumping up and down and waving his arms.”
After that, an alien called Naka assists him on actually getting offworld and back to the Resistance base.
As for his survival, that’s really down to a change of heart from director J.J Abrams. Abrams has implied in interviews that Poe was originally destined to die in previous versions of the script, making his survival something of a contrivance we just have to accept. His future significance to the new trilogy has since been emphasised by the introduction of his parents in the comic, Star Wars: Shattered Earth. It’s unlikely we’d get that kind of backstory if Poe didn’t have a bigger role to play.
1 HOW DID REY BECOME SUCH A STRONG FORCE USER SO FAST?
This has been one of the most hotly debated questions since The Force Awakens came out. We know that potential Jedis have to first be made aware of their Force abilities, and then trained to master that usage. Obi-Wan had Qui-Gon, Luke had Obi-Wan, but Rey had… no-one. So, how did she manage to resist Kylo Ren’s mind probing, talk a stormtrooper into freeing her and then make Anakin’s lightsaber come to her during her battle with Kylo?
The first clue is in the title of film. The Force is “awakened” within Rey. The answer to when this happens is heavily implied in the film’s novelisation. In the book, during the scene in which Kylo Ren tortuously tries to break into Rey’s mind, the description suggests that he unwittingly unlocks her Force potential. This is backed up when Rey suddenly goes from struggling in pain to being able to resist and even fight back against him, as if a switch has been flicked on.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will arrive in theaters on December 15th, 2017. Let us know in the comments if you plan on seeing it!