Sunday, December 31, 2017

Finn: Rebel Scum

I was thinking about Star Trek recently (which happens often enough), specifically about how brilliant an idea it was to have McCoy and Spock represent opposite points of view for Kirk, like the devil and angel on his shoulders you see in cartoons. McCoy would argue the emotional, human side of a point while Spock would stump for dispassionate logic, with Kirk falling somewhere in the middle. It made for some great character dynamics and meaty drama.

I'm still thinking about Star Wars (which also happens often enough), specifically about The Last Jedi, which has proven to be a source of contention among some of the SW fan base. It had some high highs and some puzzling lows, but I liked it well enough anyway. One of my quibbles was the seemingly pointless detour into Canto Bight, the casino city. But reflecting back on it, through the lens of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate, I now see that it wasn't a complete waste of time at all, even if it dragged on too long and came dangerously close to some of the more terrible, cartoonish elements of the prequels.

The key lies in the line Finn utters when he finally defeats (or has he...?) Phasma, proudly declaring he's now "Rebel scum". Let's get this out of the way now: that's a terrible one-liner; it makes little sense for Finn to say that in context. (Maybe "Resistance scum" would be a shred better?) The line is purely there as a callback to Return of the Jedi, meant for the audience and not the characters. Words for fans to recognize.

Putting that catchphrase aside for the moment, the casino detour is the culmination Finn's character arc, stretching back to when we first met him in The Force Awakens. In that one, "Big Deal" Finn was out for himself, lying about being in the Resistance in order to save himself. Later on, he agrees to go to Starkiller Base, to help disable that battle station, sure, but mostly to rescue his new friend Rey, not for really for the greater good of the Resistance and the Republic.

In The Last Jedi, upon realizing that the Resistance is in dire straits, Finn takes off again in hopes of finding Rey and preventing her from returning to the fleet and near-certain death. Not really the "Resistance hero" Rose thinks he is. To help out his buddy Poe, Finn goes along with a plan to recruit a hacker to disable the tracking device that the First Order is using to find the Resistance fleet.

From the very first, Finn is out for himself and his friends, not a greater purpose. But, beginning with the adventure on Canto Bight, we get a turning point for his character.

There are a couple minor points brought up on Canto Bight (which could turn out major future SW works, we'll have to wait and see): the ideas that Force-sensitive people can be anywhere, and that the true villains are the upper crust profiting off war and misery. Where better to make that latter point than a decadent casino, far from the consequences of the struggle?

But in this movie, those points are minor compared to Finn's turnaround. And this is where my random Star Trek thoughts brought me. Much like Spock and McCoy represent dueling idealogies in classic Trek, Rose and the hacker DJ (although we never heard his name spoken in the movie itself) function in a similar capacity. Rose represents compassion, the emotional side of fight, while DJ (and his obvious, inevitable betrayal) represents self-interest, the good of the one over the many (a very un-Spock-like idea). Maybe Finn is a little slow on the uptake, but only after going through the casino journey, terminating with the confrontation against Phasma, does he realize which side he's going to pick. He finally chooses to put self-preservation aside, which was his defining trait from the moment we met him, and embrace being a hero of the Resistance.

I fully acknowledge that this particular B-plot could have been shorter and more subtle, but I realize now it definitely had a purpose: to turn Finn from an incidental hero into someone who is ready to sacrifice himself by flying into a superweapon, something he would have accomplished if not for the emotional Rose coming to the rescue. I expect Finn to be in full-on hero mode in this trilogy's final chapter.

But I still don't get why he says "Rebel scum" though.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Reject the Past: The Last Jedi in Bullet Points (Spoilers)

(Update at the end of the article, 20/12/2017)

Apparently I haven't posted in a year, since the last Star Wars movie came out. Well, another Christmas is here and with it, another trip to a galaxy far, far away.

In short, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (TLJ) wipes the slate clean, upending your expectations of a Star Wars movie and I'd say largely succeeds despite some flaws. The more I think about it, the more interesting it becomes.

I'm no film student, but here are my meandering thoughts on TLJ in (easily digestible?) bullet points! (I'm going off memory here so if I have some facts wrong, please cut me some slack.)

Spoilers abound, naturally.

What worked:
  • Rejection of your expectations, of legend-making...of fandom as it exists today? SW fans spent two long years theorizing and arguing about who Rey's parents would be. Is she a Skywalker? Is she some secret child of Obi-wan's? Two years of debating Snoke's origin. Is he a clone of Palpatine? Darth Plagueis risen from the dead? Is he that guy from Vader's castle in Rogue One? (Yes, that was a theory). Two years of what Luke would say upon taking his father's lightsaber. Guess what? TLJ doesn't care. At all.  It's like the movie's telling us "stop obsessing over details that make no difference in the long run. Stop deifying what's come before otherwise you'll never be happy with what's to come."

    This is where we see the grand theme the movie is trying to communicate: heroes (and villains) aren't as clear cut as they seem, and that heroes can come from unexpected places.
    • Rey's parents are nobody (or are they...?).
    • Snoke is dead, his backstory doesn't matter.
    • Luke tosses the laser sword (his words) over his shoulder.

    Other examples of this idea of rejection: Kylo's helmet being ridiculed and discarded, Phasma dispatched (again), and generally the idea of heroes not being as heroic as we make them out to be (Luke considering murdering his own nephew; "Resistance hero" Finn disappointing Rose's expectations of him at their first encounter; Yoda burning down the force tree.)
  • We're done with nostalgia. If The Force Awakens was about wallowing in classic Star Wars nostalgia, then TLJ is telling us that we had our fun one last time with the previous movie, now we're going into uncharted territories. I enjoyed TFA very much but that's behind us, and I'm on board with what's to come.
  • Musings about the Force. Any time Luke discussed the Force, the movie instantly became more interesting. TLJ wants to bring the Force back to its nebulous spiritual roots, which is a hard left turn from the dreaded midichlorians of the prequels. This is a mystical energy that permeates the universe again, not a quantifiable micro-organism.

    Furthermore, Luke finally acknowledging head-on what we've all thought for years now (namely that the Jedi were pompous, arrogant Force-appropriators) was a revelation. The Force doesn't belong to the Jedi. Top marks for that.
  • Long-distance. The telepathic conversational link between Rey and Kylo was a neat idea that I'm surprised hadn't been done before in Star Wars, not that I've seen at least. Nicely done.
  • Kylo Ren. When we first met Kylo Ren, he seemed like a Darth Vader surrogate. But as we go along, Adam Drive really drives (sorry!) home the character's inner conflict. I found myself sympathizing with him, or at the very least empathizing, which is a tough sell given that he frickin' killed Han Solo.
  • Yoda. I definitely was not expecting Frank Oz to reprise Yoda (in proper puppet form, no less). This scene felt truly "classic Star Wars" to me in a way I haven't felt in ages. Yoda was wise, silly, and mischievous, all in proper measure like he was way back when. Playing Yoda's Theme during this bit really lifted it (more on that below).
  • The music. This was a big one for me. There were a handful of moments where the use of old themes from the original trilogy triggered chills.
    1. Yoda's Theme (from ESB)
    2. Luke and Leia (from RotJ)
    3. Han Solo and the Princess (from ESB)
    4. Here They Come! (from Star Wars)

    And of course, the Force Theme was all over the place, but it felt most powerful when Luke looked out at the twin suns on Acht-to, like back on Tatooine, before he died.
  • Hyperspace through another ship. This was just awesome.
  • The final scene. Maybe it was a bit cheesy, a bit too on the nose, but that stable boy using the Force, holding his broom like a lightsaber kind of summed up the thesis of the movie: heroes can come from unlikely sources.

What didn't work:
  • The runtime. This is the longest Star Ward movie but it definitely didn't need to be. It could easily have been a half hour shorter and stronger for it (see next points).
  • Mutiny in the Resistance. The mutiny storyline was pretty pointless, just thrown in there to give Poe something to do, and inexplicably take Carrie Fisher out of the picture for a while. Maybe Poe should have been killed off at the start of TFA as originally planned? Why didn't the vice admiral just let Poe know of her plans from the start? It's contrived and could have been snipped.
  • Canto Bight. The casino sequence could have been promising in showing a corner of the Star Wars universe we hadn't seen before but also ended up being filler, meant to keep Finn busy in a movie where he really has no place. Sure, we got a decent new character like Rose out of the bargain but, by the end of the Canto Bight story, it felt like something out of the prequels. The war-profiteering message wasn't worth the detour. Cut it.
  • Finn lives. Speaking of Finn, near the end when it looked like he would sacrifice himself, I was actually hoping he would. It was clear in that moment I wouldn't really miss him, that he served his purpose and should be taken off the board. Nothing against the actor, maybe they'll give him something meaty to do in the next movie to justify his existence, but if he gets another busy-work B-story meant to run out the clock in the next one, it probably would have been wise to heroically off him here.
  • The Rebel base. Did I miss something or was it just dumb luck that there were right next to a planet with an abandoned Rebel base? A bit convenient.
  • Let the Wookiee win. If Finn and Poe can get time-filler subplots, why not Chewbacca? Chewie was virtually absent in this one and I didn't like that one bit! (The gag with the roasted porg was pretty good, though.) I'd have sooner forgiven an aimless Chewie subplot than what we did end up getting in the middle of this one.
  • Contractual obligations. Speaking of "put them in the movie just because": Maz Kanata. Why?

What I'm still thinking about:
  • Luke's fate. He was once a new hope and then at the end of his life, the spark. By the end, there's a great psych-out where we discover Luke was never really on Crait, fighting Kylo and the First Order. In retrospect, I guess it's kind of obvious, given that he fights Kylo in the most defensive way possible, to avoid touching him and giving away the ruse. But then this effort is too much for Luke and he disappears back on Ahch-To, presumably becoming a Force ghost in the process.

    That's all good and well but something kept nagging at me. There is a shot earlier in the movie when we see Luke's submerged X-Wing. Why place that shot there if not to sow the seed of his triumphant return in person to save the day, why couldn't he fly back and actually fight Kylo? The moment was perfect for Luke to put himself in Obi-wan's shoes from decades before, turn off his lightsaber and let himself go for the greater good. He even gives a variation on the "if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine" line.
    Everything was lined up for that, so it's a bit surprising they didn't go there, it would have been a stronger.
  • But maybe that was the point? Luke's virtual presence plays into the recurring theme of heroes not being as they appear, in a very literal sense. He said he went to Ahch-To to die, and die he did on his own terms. But when the remains of the Resistance needed him, he did show up, just not in the way they expected their hero.
  • Epic (?) end-of-movie lightsaber fight. Audiences now seem to crave that final lightsaber duel at the end of a SW movie, and from what I'm hearing, many were disappointed we didn't get to see Luke go all-out with his blade skills. But again, does that play into the movie's deliberate intentions of subverting expectations? "You wanted a duel? Well, here's your hero and your villain but their blades never touch!" It kind of thematically justifies Luke's tele-projection.
  • Porgs. Yes, porgs. Sure they serve no story purpose, but they're just so darn cute. C'mere, I can't stay mad at you, porgs. Awww...I bet they're delicious though.
    (Apparently, there's a practical reason for the porgs' creation.)

On the whole, there's quite a bit to like from the new Star Wars movie. Strong performances, nice visuals, refreshing humour, and countless curveballs all contributed to an entry that'll keep us talking in the two long years until the final chapter comes out. Sure, there were some glaring entries in the cons column but they don't detract enough in my book to turn the film sour.

TLJ a very different, very...strange SW movie, a challenging one that doesn't seem to follow any kind of formula or structure that I can tell after my initial viewing. But then, when Empire Strikes Back came out, it was met with perplexed reactions, only years later acquiring its "best of" label. I'm not arguing that TLJ is on par with ESB, but a little time to think about this one will definitely add some extra perspective.

And in that vein, it'll definitely be fun to revisit this post once the trilogy is complete. See you then!

Update (20/12/2017):

I've done some more thinking and I want to address a couple things.

  • At first glance, the casino planet adventure seemed pointless but now I see that it does fit in with the idea of the failure of heroes, just that the execution falters.

    Finn and Rose don't come out of that B-story with a win, but if you take a step back, they're making a point that the Resistance (and the Rebellion before it, I can only assume) aren't as heroic as we thought they were either. Both sides in this decades-long war are enriching arms dealers. As long as people are profiting from war, conflicts like these will continue. The Rebels won back in the day but that didn't stop anything, really, so if the Resistance ends up winning, will it even matter in the long run?

    It's a really interesting idea, shifting the villains of Star Wars from evil empire rehashes to something new, but it was touched so fleetingly in TLJ that it just didn't stick. Perhaps the military industrial complex will come into play in Rian Johnson's future trilogy?
  • Poe's story is still silly, but it could have meant more if they used an existing character in the antagonist role here instead of creating a new vice admiral who I feel no connection to when she sacrifices herself. You could have used Admiral Ackbar in that slot and sent him off in glory, instead of out through a window.

    Or if they absolutely wanted a woman in the role, why not get Mon Mothma back? She was the head of the Rebellion in RotJ, and the actress is still alive and working. That would have fit perfectly, and we have a pre-existing connection to her. It would have carried a lot more weight than vice admiral new person showing up and dying.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue Wonderful: Ranking the New Star Wars Story in the Pantheon

Another holiday season is upon us and we have another Star Wars movie, the second since Disney bought Lucasfilm. I've been seeing some rankings online lately, listing the SW movies from top to bottom, and I figured my hungry and adoring public wanted me to briefly chime in.

Rather than a simple list, I'm feel we can separate the eight movies (I'm not familiar enough with those Ewok movies, so they're not considered) into three distinct groups of quality:


  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars
For obvious reasons, these two are a cut above everything else. I don't have to get into it but I'm sure not many out there would argue too hard about this placement.

Solid Entries

  1. Return of the Jedi
  2. The Force Awakens
  3. Rogue One
Mind you, while the above three are numbered, at the moment they are very close together in my mind, just a hair away from each other. I know RotJ has dropped in favour with many fans over the years (Ewoks!), but there's just so much that's great about this one. The rescue of Han to start things off, the weird aliens in Jabba's palace, the sarlacc pit, the speeder bikes through the forests of Endor, and of course the space battle at the end (intercut with Luke/Vader/Emperor and the shield generator action) that still hasn't been surpassed by anything that has come since.

In the year since it's release, it's become cool to hate on The Force Awakens but I haven't jumped on that particular bandwagon. Rehashed plot notwithstanding, TFA has great pacing (barring a slight dip when they get to Maz's castle), and wonderful characters brought to life by instantly charismatic actors. For these reasons, it edges out the newest but still great entry, Rogue One.

Rogue One has one of the best last acts I've seen in a while, its space battle almost on par with RotJ. Gareth Edwards's sense of scope, imagery and direction of action is a revelation for a SW movie. The subtle ties to the original SW are great for observant fans, it even strengthens A New Hope. There's no denying any of this, and that's why I think it's a great and worth entry into the SW canon. But on the other hand, the first half is slow and the roster of characters aren't memorable, outside the droid and the villain Krennic. Sure, the blind guy has a cool gimmick and look, but we hardly know anything about him. And so it goes with the rest of the team. Perhaps that was the goal: to show that the mission was the important thing, and to demonstrate how tragic the life of the unknown rebel solider is. I'm not taking away anything from the actors, they all did fine jobs with what they were given.

I get it: both movies had different sets of goals and both succeeded in their respects. I can't wait to see Rogue One again, having loved it the first go-around. However, right now, if I want to be purely entertained, TFA gets the slightly higher ranking on my list.


  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
Notice the bullet points? That's because, on any given day of the week, my ranking for the prequel movies can change depending on my mood. Let's say the order in which they appear above is my usual ranking, though.

The less said about the prequels, the better. Sure, there are bits here and there I appreciate and actually like but on the whole, they're misfires. (Yes, I've read the exhaustive "ring theory" defense of the prequels but that doesn't change that they're failures just the same.)

I could go on about the prequels but I don't want to be here all day, or to think about them for too long.


So there you have it: my list as of this date. Over time, I might even change my mind about some of these, who knows? Be sure to check back this time next year when the oddly-still-unnamed Episode VIII comes out in order to find out where I think it fits.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Thoughts on "The Witch"

I've heard for a while now how great The Witch (sometimes stylized as "The VVitch") is, so I finally sat down to watch it on Netflix on Friday, and it was nothing like I expected it to be. At first I was ambivalent about the movie but as the hours passed, I couldn't shake it and gave it more thought.

Right away, I can say that it's guaranteed to divide opinions, despite the 91% score it holds on Rotten Tomatoes. The Witch is not a typical horror movie, but what I'd call art-house horror. There isn't much in the way of jump scares, rather relying on atmosphere and a sense of claustrophobia to unsettle the audience. That the characters speak in period-correct English also adds to the other-worldly ambiance.

On the surface, The Witch is about a Puritan family in 17th century New England who get kicked out of their settlement for being too religiously zealous...for Puritans. They settle outside of town on their own homestead and have a hard go at surviving. Oh, also, there's a witch out there in the neighbouring woods picking them off.

But the real story here is deeper than a simple witch tale. Spoilers follow.

So we have the father of the family, William, literally being holier-than-thou to the rest of the community, telling them he understands the faith more than they do. It's a kind of "you can't fire me because I quit" scenario, where William leaves, taking his family to the edge of a forest to build a new home. He thinks he knows best for his clan but it turns out he's kind of clueless. His religious fervour has put his family in jeopardy because he can't hunt and he can't grow food worth a damn. Even without the witches out there, this family was doomed, and he's too proud to make amends and go back to the community (even though pride is one of the deadly sins, something you'd figure William would be attuned to. Hypocrisy among extremists, you say?).

Now take his oldest daughter, Thomasin. She's approaching adulthood and her father is thinking of selling her off to another family, where surely a terrible life awaits. But after her younger twin siblings denounce her as a witch (blaming her for her brother's possession and death), her very life is now in jeopardy. So these are her two life options (both out of her control): either she's sold to someone as a wife/slave, or is murdered by her own family as a witch. There's no way to escape a miserable fate.

Except, that is, to become a witch. Yes, even though her entire family is slain by the end, this movie actually has what can only be seen as a happy ending for her character.

She sees a way out of this miserable life by calling forth Satan himself, in the form of the family's goat, in a desperate bid for survival. Only by joining the coven in the forest (and thus symbolically rejecting her family's rigid religious beliefs) does she escape the terrible paths guaranteed for her life.

A lot of witch mania in centuries past is related to the male fear and discomfort with girls becoming women. The Witch links those fears to the rigidity of thought and mental suppression of religious extremists. I'm by no means a film critic or an expert of women's issues, but I think it's apparent that The Witch is actually a feminist tale about how historically, the religious patriarchy subjugates women, and the only way out is for women to think freely.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Picard's reaction after watching season 7
I recently finished re-watching the entire run of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), and I must admit that our collective fond memories of that show are definitely viewed through rose-coloured glasses.

Don't get me wrong, TNG is a very important Trek show. It, along with the original cast's movie series, cemented Trek as a phenomenon, shepherding the franchise into its arguable peak period of the early to mid-90s. Its legacy is secure. However, when watching the individual episodes, especially backwards through the scope of the brilliant Deep Space Nine (DS9) that followed, TNG just doesn't hold up on the whole.

Yes, when TNG is firing on all cylinders, it's excellent. Every episode, with very few exceptions, Patrick Stewart delivers a nuanced performance that's unrivaled by any other actor in all of Trekdom, save perhaps Leonard Nimoy's Spock. The problem with TNG is the inconsistency. It could be great one week, then dreadful for the next few. (This pattern definitely continued with the TNG movies: for every one great entry, we get three bad ones.)

Trek fans will argue about which season of TNG is the best until they're as blue in the face as a Bolian (generally, seasons 3 to 5 are in that conversation, maybe 6), but I think we can all agree the final season is where they just threw their hands in the air and gave up.

Oh boy, season 7, where to begin? If you're not familiar with it, there's a great Twitter feed called TNG Season 8 that expertly mocks the increasingly ridiculous story lines from the end of TNG's run. The one-line synopses of fictional episodes sound absurd but after recently having seen season 7, they're shockingly plausible, a logical extension of where this show was going.

You know you're in for a rocky time on any TV show when a character's family member shows up out of nowhere every second episode; clearly the writers were grasping at straws.

To wit:
  • s7e1, "Descent, Part II": Data's brother Lore has a poorly thought-out and even more poorly explained plan of taking over the Federation using the Borg. Bad episode.
  • s7e3, "Interface": The VR specter of Geordi's mom appears to him after her ship goes missing. Bonus points: Geordi calls up his dad, too. Bad episode.
  • s7e7, "Dark Page": Troi mom comes back again (ugh) and we find out Troi had an older sister who died when she was young. Bad episode.
  • s7e10, "Inheritance": Data's "mom" shows up. Surprise, she's an android. Bad episode.
  • s7e13, "Homeward": Worf's foster brother shows up and tries to save a doomed village. An embarrassing hour of TNG.
  • s7e14, "Sub Rosa": Crusher has a romance with a ghost who was previously her grandmother's ghost lover. Another embarrassment.
  • s7e20, "Journey's End": Crusher's son Wesley comes back one last time to save Space-Native Americans. Decent episode if only for setting up some stories that get explored further in the subsequent Trek series.
  • s7e21, "Firstborn": Worf is concerned his son Alexander isn't growing up Klingon enough. Meh episode: Alexander remains stupid and Worf continues being an awful parent, but has a neat time travel element. Also, DS9's Quark appears.
  • s7e22, "Bloodlines": Bok (from season 1) returns, vowing to kill Picard's long lost son. Turns out it's not really his son. Oh well. Lame episode.
  • s7e23, "Emergence": The Enterprise essentially has a baby, plot holes and logic be damned. Awful episode.
As we can see, just under half the episodes of the final season had lame, we're-out-of-ideas family plots that did a disservice to the series as a whole. Perhaps the writers/producers were too busy making DS9 and prepping Voyager, as well as getting Generations made, I don't know. Yet, amid all this trash, they did manage to turn out some of the best episodes of the series, such as the back-to-back winners "Parallels" and "The Pegasus", as well as "Lower Decks" and, of course, the wonderful series finale, "All Good Things..."
You should be embarrassed!
But if you're still craving more episodic TNG after binge-watching season 7, there's a great Twitter feed you can check out...

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

I'm No One

Yesterday, the blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out and, naturally, I bought it and watched it that very night.

I saw the movie twice in theaters and after the second time, picked up on many clues to the secret backstory of some of these characters. (You can read my thoughts here.) However, after watching the movie again for a third time, I have to amend my initial theories about Rey's mysterious origins.

I'm now confident that Kylo Ren knows exactly who Rey is.

"What girl?"

I came to this realization when a cringing officer informs Kylo Ren that a girl helped Finn and BB-8 escape Jakku. Kylo immediately and pointedly asks, "What girl?" - but it's the way Adam Driver delivers the line that made something click. He's asking because he knows of a special person left behind on Jakku; he knows a powerful girl who, given the chance, would be drawn to a larger purpose by the Force.

Also, in the novelization of the movie, when Rey uses the Force to snatch the lightsaber away from Kylo, he says "it is you". Now I'm not one for putting too much stock into scraps of dialogue found in ancillary materials, but there you have it nonetheless.

Kylo's Restraint

A few times in the movie, we see Kylo Ren in a position to kill Rey but he doesn't even think of it.
  1. Captured for interrogation, Kylo never threatens Rey's life. Yes, he could have shown restraint because he wanted information out of her...but he doesn't seem like the most stable person. At no point do we get the feeling he's going to physically harm her. Something's up.
  2. In Rey's visions, we see some kind of warrior standing above Rey in the rain, about to kill her - until he is himself killed by Kylo (backed up by the Knights of Ren). This is either a flashback or perhaps a glimpse of the future, but either way, Kylo is saving her life.
  3. Kylo and Rey have a climactic lightsaber battle, but Kylo's goal is not to kill her, but to break and recruit her. When put in the position to go for the kill, he relents, instead offering to be her teacher.

So What's Going On?

From the above, I conclude that Kylo knows who she is and continually spares her life to some purpose. Why?

Some of my original theory still stands but instead of Luke sending Rey away after the debacle that was his Jedi school, perhaps it was young Kylo who deposited Rey on Jakku. Assuming Rey is his cousin, it's possible they grew up together and he has a soft spot for her. Instead of killing her, he drops her on a planet out at the edge of nowhere to get out of his hair. It might also explain why the Falcon was there: Kylo stole his dad's ship, left it and Rey on Jakku, then took off on the vessel we see in Rey's vision. Maybe he left her there as a backup plan, in case he needed extra help one day, he'd go get her to join forces with him.

But now that Rey's back in the picture, his hand is forced, so he tries to recruit her instead, with the aim of ruling the galaxy as a family, as Vader once tried with Luke.

There's another, nuttier version of this theory where Rey is Kylo's younger sister. Nowhere in the movie is it said that Kylo is Han and Leia's only child.

Who Else Knows?

I think everyone who knew Rey as a child thinks her dead.

Luke, Han, Leia, even Snoke: they all believe the Skywalker girl is dead, so nobody even thinks that she is who she is. At least not at first.

Imagine this: there's a great battle at the Jedi school, Kylo wrecking everything, killing students. But when it comes to Rey, he holds back, kidnapping her instead but making it appear as if she's dead so nobody goes after her. That's when he dumps her on this backwater (back-desert?) planet, out of the way and effectively dead to the galaxy. At the end of the movie, it appears that Luke is standing next to a tombstone. If it is, perhaps it's not for a long-lost wife, but maybe his daughter (or is she his niece?). That would explain the look on his face and the watering eyes: he just came face to face with a ghost, kin he thought killed long ago.

To that end, there's an interesting juxtaposition during the Maz's castle sequence. Han and Maz are alone at a table, and Maz asks "Who's the girl?"; we don't see Han's answer. Instead, it cuts to Finn telling Rey he was taken from a family he'll never know (much like Rey was intended to live out her days), and then the next scene is Rey walking into her vision. These two sequences act as the answer to Maz's question.

So what did Han actually say? I think at this stage, Han suspects Rey is his niece (daughter?) and tells Maz as much. I could only assume that Maz (knowledgeable in the ways of the Force) arranges for Rey to find her way to Luke's lightsaber, to see if it calls to her, to see what reaction she has. It's a kind of test to see if she truly does have Skywalker blood in her veins, a test intended to prove Han's hunch.

But What Do I Know?

But hey! I could be way off base. The fun with movies like this is in the speculation. Fan theories keep interest alive during the interminable wait between installments (I can only imagine the speculation back in the day during the torturous years between ANH and ESB, then especially between ESB and RotJ). Even if I'm completely off my rocker with these ideas, half the fun is in the guesswork.

We've never had flashbacks in a SW movie before, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how they handle all this backstory: break with tradition and have extended sequences in the past, or via exposition. The former is more interesting to me than the latter, chiefly because it would be an excuse to get Harrison Ford back into these pictures.