By now, you've all seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment of the Skywalker family saga. If you haven't, run—don't walk—to a theater to see it before reading this column. Do not talk about it with people who haven't seen it, either. We're going to explore the most tantalizing threads we want and need to see continued through the installments to follow. So be warned: There will be spoilers ahead.
1. The Destruction of the Republic
The first question I want more information about is the political situation in the galaxy. It's not stated explicitly, but it seems as though the New Republic were hesitant to marshal a military force, for fear of being perceived as turning into a new Empire. Instead, it covertly sanctioned the Resistance, led by General Organa (aka Princess Leia), to resist the remnants of the Empire known as The First Order. But they got blown up. What happens next? What will the universe, subsumed in this new power vacuum, look like? We don't get even a hint in The Force Awakens. I'm dying to see what that political struggle is like.
2. Rey who?
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is our scavenger hero from the planet Jakku. She's resourceful, grew up in a desert wastelend, is a crack mechanic, and is stronger in The Force than she ever could have realized. Sounds like a recipe for a Skywalker to me, but we know next to nothing about who Rey was before she was left on Jakku under mysterious circumstances. She obviously has a destiny she's unaware of, and we've seen her already try to refuse that journey—just as Luke did in A New Hope, and how Anakin refused his journey toward the light in the prequel films.
3. The Shadow of Darth Vader
Rey might still be able to avoid it, but Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a character with the weight of that family legacy on him that I would not want to bear. He's conflicted and fascinating, and he is so clearly trying to rise up from the ashes to be the hero he saw his grandfather as when he was murdering the Jedi and "bringing balance to the Force." But, as Yoda said in Revenge of the Sith, this is a "prophecy that misread might have been." Seeing the burned helmet of Darth Vader—and watching Kylo Ren struggle to contain the light in him and embrace the dark—is compelling. But when Rey explains his fear to Ren, it's a perfect moment. Seeing more of this conflict play out will be good for all of us. Will it end with Ren's redemption, as it did with Vader? Or will he turn into a new emperor? Only time will tell.
4. Supreme Leader Snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke's (Andy Serkis) name is thrown around by Han and Organa with a venom of disgust to it. Kylo Ren and General Hux treat him like a deity. But all we know of him so far is that he is an oversized hologram people are afraid of, much like Darth Sidious' visage as the Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back. Who is he? What does he want for the galaxy? Why did he turn Kylo Ren? Why did he sabotage Luke Skywalker's new generation of Jedi? What drives him? Only future installments of this trilogy can tell us that because we got virtually no information in The Force Awakens.
5. Luke Skywalker
This should probably top every list of things we need to see more of in Rian Johnson's Episode VIII. The first words of the opening crawl were "Luke Skywalker has vanished," and the end of the movie fulfilled the promise to find him. His disappearance and exile raises so many questions, and we've received barely any hints as to what the answers might be. After Return of the Jedi, it's almost unimaginable that Skywalker could face a threat with any trepidation or fear, but something got to him. Was it the mysterious Wizard of Oz-like character Snoke? Was it simply the weight of his family legacy? Among fans, this thread is the one that provokes the most urgent desire for answers. We'll see how we end up getting them.
Perhaps we'll get some of these answers in the novelization of the film, which is coming out in hardcover January 2016 (an eBook version was released Dec. 18). Until then, we'll have to wait 15 months for Episode VIII to come out to see if these questions are answered.
Between now and then, I will debate these alarming events as endlessly as the Congress of the Republic debates the taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems. It's too bad I don't have Jedi I can secretly dispatch to settle the conflict.