The biggest clue that “The Force Awakens” fits neatly in the world of the Skywalker Saga is that it rhymes so beautifully with “The Phantom Menace” and “A New Hope.” In all three films, we’re taken to a desert planet where a whizkid mechanic strong in the Force is adopted by a wise mentor. At the end of the film, that mentor succumbs to death at the end of a red lightsaber. Each film also gets a progressively larger ending, with the explosion of a spherical object in space, starting with the Droid Control Ship, then the Death Star, and finally Starkiller base. Those complaining that they’d strayed from the vision of George Lucas because it was a rehash failed to realize that was a feature, not a bug.
But the modulation in “The Force Awakens” comes directly from the idea of George Lucas that Luke would be there to take off. Luke should have been the mentor in this era of his life, but he’s unavailable and Han is forced to make the sacrifice. This is why the central question of “The Force Awakens” isn’t about Rey’s identity — it tells us from the very beginning that Luke’s disappearance is the real mystery to solve. It’s a beautiful and stunning reversal of the common elements that make up the first chapter of each trilogy and the way “The Last Jedi” pays it off is nothing short of perfect.
“It’s poetry,” George Lucas once said in “The Beginning,” the documentary about the making of the first of the prequel trilogy, “it rhymes.”