Happy Star Wars Day, Star Wars fans! What a year we’ve had since the last one. It’s also been somewhat decent of a week for leaks and news. This is the first time, that I can remember, that we’ve had multiple lines of evidence connecting around one singular item. Once we reach a critical mass of information about a Star Wars film, then the theories start flying fast and furious.
Over the past few days, we have reached that level of info on Episode VIII. That’s because Star Wars fans are getting some amazing shots of sets the sets being built for Episode VIII. This week, we got this gem:
We get this glimpse of what looks like a set reconstruction of Ahch-To. That said, we don’t know for sure. Given the stone steps going up a hill, it certainly looks that way. I just listened to the latest “Now this is podcasting”, and they had a pretty good discussion of this shot. They point out that this isn’t necessarily the same island or part of the island that we saw when Rey landed to find Luke.
There has been a lot of speculation that this tree in the image has some strong significance. There are a couple of cool theories circulating the web about this tree, so let’s consider a couple of them. Zooming in on the image, we can see some of the surrounding detail:
I could probably zoom in further, but I wanted to keep the ladder in the lower right hand corner for scale. This tree is HUGE. We can see a couple of other things. One thing I noticed was the steps seem to end right on the tree. Furthermore, there are two sides of the tree that look like there could be an entrance to something under the tree. Look to the lower right of the tree where it looks a little more shaded. Could that be something? It seems especially plausible because the steps end there, so maybe the steps lead to a cave entrance. We’ve also covered some of the rumors about caves in Episode VIII, so it wouldn’t be surprising if something like that happened.
Let’s consider a couple of theories out there about this tree.
The first theory out there is that this tree is seen in Rey’s Force vision/Forceback. There is a flash of lightning that reveals a structure in the background near the upper right. This is perhaps best illustrated by a GIF:
When I first read this theory, I got goosebumps. After the thrill settled down, I started to notice some big differences. For one, there is clearly an incline leading up the the tree in the set leak, as well as a large wall of rocks/cliffs surrounding it. The leak just doesn’t square with this structure seen during the Forceback. The “edges” of the Forceback structure are more vertically straight. The tree is more curved on its way up on the side branches. Furthermore, there is a quote from the novelization that suggests that this isn’t a tree in the Forceback:
As she turned, she found herself confronted by seven tall, cloaked figures, dark and foreboding, all armed. Soaked and shivering, she stumbled backward, turning half fell. Firelight illuminated her, firelight from a distant, burning Temple.
Furthermore, when we look at the sillouette of the structure in the background of the Forceback, it bears a lot of resemblance to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Check the profile with this shot:
Looking at it straight on would kind of look like the Forceback image.
So the chances are better that we see the burning Temple in the background, and not this tree. That said, the existence of a Temple in the background still raises all sorts of other questions that murky the waters even more…but that’s a story for another time.
The Force Tree
The second theory out there is the “Force Tree”. A lot of this idea comes from the comic book “Shattered Empire”, where Luke procures two trees that were planted at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and gives one to Poe Dameron’s mom, and takes the other. These trees are said to be imbued with Force powers. Here are two key panels:
Luke goes on to say that the Force is with these two trees. So we have to wonder, as many have, is this a Force tree in the leaked photo? It certainly looks a lot bigger and older than the trees depicted from the comic book, but you never know how fast trees grow in the GFFA. Even if this isn’t the same tree, we have to take seriously the idea that this old tree could be part of the same tradition as the two trees from Coruscant. If the Jedi keep these two special trees in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, then it could be based on an ancient tradition going back to the first Jedi Temple, making this tree way older than even the ones from Coruscant. It seems certainly plausible that this tree stands at the entrance to the first Jedi Temple, which would then be underground.
The Darkside Tree/Cave on Dagobah
There have been many comparisons to the “tree” on Dagobah. Yoda called the place on Dagobah “the cave”, but many people, such as Dave Filoni in this video refer to this scene as “the tree when Luke is on Dagobah”. Clearly, this location is both a cave and underneath the roots of a tree. Was this tree on Dagobah a Force-sensitive tree like the two that Luke saved from Coruscant? It makes you wonder if the Force-sensitive tree/cave motif is something that is seen throughout the galaxy. Maybe it’s not just on Dagobah, and maybe we’ll see a similar tree/cave scene with Rey on Ahch-To?
I’ve always liked the theory that one of the reason why Yoda was on Dagobah was that the Dark side cave/tree shielded his presence. It’s like the way from a distance a pair of charges, both positive and negative, start to look neutral. From a distance they cancel each other out. Under this theory, Yoda hides on Dagobah using the Darkside tree/cave to shield him from the Emperor. It’s definitely intriguing to wonder if Luke also takes advantage of this idea, as may have other Jedi before him on Ahch-To. Maybe Luke is using this tree/cave on Ahch-To to shield his presence from Snoke?
The notion that the tree in the leaked photo is some how a “dark side tree” would make some sense given its look. It’s one creepy-looking tree for sure. To me, the fact that they would go to all these lengths to build a physical tree means that this tree is important. If so, there seems to be a pretty good chance that this tree fits into the story with Rey on Ahch-To in a scene that mirrors the tree/cave on Dagobah in ESB. We’ve heard time and again that Rian Johnson is exploring new territory in Episode VIII, but I would take some major satisfaction if he tries to mirror some cool scenes of Empire Strikes Back. It’s also possible that this tree stands at the entrance of an underground Temple on Ahch-To. Time will tell how this plays out. Let me know what you think in the comments below.