Before Rogue One came out, a helpful explanatory video from Anthony Breznican of EW indicated something extremely intriguing – Rogue One directly links into Episode VIII.
Now I have seen Rogue One (twice!) I wanted to indulge in some speculation about which element of it I believe will feed into Episode VIII. This discussion will obviously touch upon Rogue One spoilers, so please don’t read on if you have yet to see the film for yourself.
Because of the nature of the topic I also touch upon Episode VIII spoilers, so keep this in mind too!
The short answer to what I think will appear in both Rogue One and Episode VIII is simple – I reckon it’s going to be Vader’s castle.
Now, this is not simply a prediction based on the fact that said castle is wicked cool and fills my heart with joy (though it does). It’s a prediction based primarily on the fact that the castle – as a concept – existed long before Rogue One did. The castle has a long and illustrious history, both in and out of universe.
We have very early concept art of Vader’s castle by Ralph McQuarrie (originally produced for The Empire Strikes Back), the concept artist behind the original trilogy. McQuarrie pieces depicting the castle include the ones shown below:
The castle that we have in Rogue One essentially combines these concepts for Vader’s castle with early concepts for Palpatine’s throne room from Return of the Jedi:
While this essentially sums up where the castle in Rogue One emerged from, I haven’t yet covered why/how it could fit into the future. Well, a key reason why I feel it’s likely to be revisited is because – lo and behold! – concepts evidently inspired by the McQuarrie pieces for the castle and Palpatine’s throne room were produced for The Force Awakens:
While some of these concepts with Kira (the character who would become Rey) and the Jedi Killer (the character who would become Kylo Ren) appear in The Art of the Force Awakens, that’s not the case for all of them. The first concept piece here – the one showing the Jedi Killer embracing Kira from behind – was never officially released, and was instead part of a big leak of Force Awakens concept art that emerged when the film was still in production. These pieces are all very intriguing and suggest a very different movie – the first has a weirdo Phantom of the Opera vibe, the second suggests that Rey may have been meant to confront Snoke himself at some stage, and the third indicates that the climactic confrontation between Rey and Kylo might have originally had a very different setting.
My theory is that some of the settings and scenarios shown in these concept pieces – instead of being scrapped completely – will be re-used for Episode VIII. This is extremely common, and courtesy of Star Wars News Net we already have compelling evidence indicating that TFA concept art for the Exotic City (the location that would become Takodana) is being re-purposed for the planet to be represented by Dubrovnik in Episode VIII:
This is also supported by what the castle concepts for Force Awakens actually show. In the concepts, it seems that the Jedi Killer is disfigured in some way – and while Kylo Ren wasn’t disfigured in Force Awakens, we know – on the basis of how TFA ended – that he will bear a scar in Episode VIII. Equally, while there’s no room in Force Awakens for Rey to come face to face with Snoke, that would seem like a natural progression for the character in Episode VIII – she has already defeated Kylo Ren in combat, so it’s inevitable that she will eventually confront his master.
To top all of this off, we also have a very interesting explanation of the nature of the castle courtesy of The Art of Rogue One:
Staged atop an unseen, cavernous Sith sanctuary amid the fire and brimstone of Mustafar’s infernal lava flow, the foreboding setting is a place of refuge for Vader – the violence and turmoil of the roiling purgatory outside the castle walls providing scenery appropriate for a Dark Lord, while also illustrating the evil of his own twisted soul.
(n.b. Note that the mysterious cave the castle is built upon would match very well with the middle piece of Force Awakens concept art, which shows the Rey figure approaching a figure on a throne.)
With all of this in mind, how do we think Vader’s castle – if it does indeed feature in the film – might play into the plot of Episode VIII? We already know that Kylo will be travelling to Ahch-To in Episode VIII, but the big question mark has long been what happens after his arrival.
If you think of Ahch-To as a kind of Eden – it’s a green, natural landscape that’s supposedly central to the origins of the Jedi – then Vader’s castle would make the perfect dark counterpoint to it. Vader’s castle is on Mustafar, a lava planet that would be right at home in Dante’s Inferno. Just as Ahch-To is central to the history of the Jedi, Mustafar is clearly key to the origins of the Siith. And I think it would be fascinating for Episode VIII to present both heaven and hell, with Rey experiencing the two different aspects of the Force – the light side and the dark – through two strikingly contrasting settings. If Kylo tempts Rey away from Luke and Ahch-To, it would make a great deal of sense for him to show her the other side of the Force by taking her to a place that is inextricably tied to both the grandfather he worships and the dark side itself.
But what do you think? Do you reckon I’m thinking along the right lines with this theory, or do you have other ideas about what the link-up might be? Let me know!