‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: What’s the Deal with R2-D2?

     December 20, 2015


Now that we’re done with endless speculation about what’s true and what’s not in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we can begin the endless arguments over the film itself, which is at least preferable since it’s based on a movie and not on rumors.



Image via Lucasfilm

One point of contention is the role of R2-D2 in the film. The movie sticks him underneath a sheet and then when he’s revealed, we’re told he’s been in “low-power mode”, which seems like a flimsy excuse for him to keep the character—and more specifically, the map that would lead to Luke—out of play until Starkiller Base has been conveniently destroyed. One could argue that was a tactical move by Artoo to makes sure that the plans couldn’t possibly fall into the First Order’s hands (he wouldn’t know they already had access to the same map), but I think when we look back on the film, “lower power mode” will be derisive shorthand.

So why is R2-D2 out of commission? At a post-screening Q&A for the movie on Saturday, director J.J. Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt tried to explain their thinking with Artoo.


Image via Lucasfilm

They wanted to make sure R2 had a big moment like the reemergence of the Millennium Falcon, but they also wanted him to play a pivotal role in the plot that also provided some delayed gratification. The answer was for R2 to have his own “awakening” says Abrams. EW reports:

“BB-8 comes up and says something to him, which is basically, ‘I’ve got this piece of a map, do you happen to have the rest?’” Abrams said. “The idea was, R2 who has been all over the galaxy, is still in his coma, but he hears this. And it triggers something that would ultimately wake him up.”

The director acknowledges that R2’s sudden “awakening” at the end was designed to be an emotional storytelling utility: “While it may seem, you know, completely lucky and an easy way out, at that point in the movie, when you’ve lost a person, desperately, and somebody you hopefully care about is unconscious, you want someone to return.”

Yes, Mr. Abrams, I do feel that it was “completely lucky and an easy way out,” but that’s just one of the things that fans will continue to argue over. Perhaps R2’s “awakening” was a big emotional moment, but it’s hard to respect “coming out of a coma” as a response for a droid, especially when you refer to that coma as “low power mode.”

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