With a new “Star Wars” film, “The Force Awakens,” coming to audiences so soon, people have been clamoring for information about the movie. It's been a long time since viewers have gone into a “Star Wars” film completely blind, and that's part of the fun for many people looking ahead to Dec. 18.
Others, though, are thirsty for more. With the release of so many trailers and TV spots, many questions have begun to bubble up that won't have answers until the film is screened. There are a few topics that have many more answers than one might have realized, though. One of those is the desert planet named Jakku.
Our first look at Jakku was the opening image seen from “The Force Awakens” in the very first trailer, released in November 2014. So little was known about the planet then that many viewers assumed it was Tatooine, the same desert setting used in virtually every other “Star Wars” movie. As the opening of the seventh film in the saga approaches, there's a lot more information about the planet, at least if you know where to look.
The first time the word “Jakku” was uttered in public was on April 16, 2015, at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. During opening ceremonies, where the second teaser trailer was released, J.J. Abrams revealed that the planet was actually called Jakku. It also was revealed that this is where the mysterious character Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, lived as a scavenger.
Watching the trailers, you can't tell a whole lot about the planet. It's a desert. There don't seem to be many permanent buildings; tents appear to be the standard structures. But scavenging on Jakku three decades after the events of “Return of the Jedi” looks like fruitful work with all the damaged military vehicles littered around. A battle quite obviously took place there.
The next clue dropped about Jakku came from Chuck Wendig's novel “Aftermath.” Wendig's is the first book to come from Lucasfilm and Disney that's set in the era after “Return of the Jedi” in their new canon. Although the book takes place largely on the remote planet of Akiva, it's interspersed with glimpses of the situation on other planets throughout the galaxy.
In one of these chapters, readers get another little taste of Jakku's story. A character named Corwin Ballast, a refugee escaping the war, describes the planet in this way:
Out there–it's nothing. Nowhere, stretched wide and made infinite. The dry crust of desert. The whipping tails of dust. Past that: dunes. Mounds of sand, red as fire. They seem to run on forever underneath the cloudless sky.
Behind him: raggedy, ratty tents. Propped up by scraps of rusted pole and rebar, some of it kinked with an arthritic bent. The wind threatens to pick it all up and carry it away, but it never does. These tents have been here for so long they're a part of the world. Just like the people.
There's only one conversation about Jakku in the chapter, between two characters with no real context. Ballast is one; the other, a bartender named Ergel:
Ergel: You brought your family here?
Ballast: I did. Wanted to take them as far away from the fighting as I could. A place where the war will never find us. The farthest-flung nowhere rock I could find on a star map.
Ergel: Well, you found it, buddy. You don't get more nowhere than here. War ain't got no reason to roll up on this rock.
That's how the planet of Jakku is characterized shortly after the Battle of Endor. In the “Star Wars” timeline, the Battle of Jakku began one year and four days after the destruction of the second Death Star.
In Claudia Gray's book, “Lost Stars,” the climax takes place over the atmosphere of Jakku aboard a star destroyer called the Inflictor. In the runup to that battle, the conflict is described in the narrative by military leader Grand Moff Randd as “the largest battle since Endor.” The planet, described as brown, russet and gold, is then described by Randd as, “worthless on its own but soon to live forever in history as the place where the Empire defeated the Rebellion once and for all."
Later, at a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con, Pablo Hidalgo, one of the minds in the Lucasfilm story group, confirmed that the wreckage of the star destroyer seen in both the trailer for the film and the impressive 360-degree immersive video on Facebook, is, indeed, the vessel that comes down and crashes onto the planet's sandy surface at the climax of “Lost Stars.”
More glimpses of what the situation is like for the boots on the surface of Jakku came when “Star Wars: Battlefront” released its exclusive game pack, which explains that the Imperials gathered their remaining forces over the planet to protect their weapons factories. Rebel spies discovered the location and sent in everything they had in an effort to smash the last vestiges of the Empire.
Players of “Battlefront” are able to immerse themselves in this new environment as members of the infantry of the New Republic or as stormtroopers in the remnants of the Galactic Empire. Though the game boasts no story mode, it offers gamers a window into what the battle would have been like, even though it will have been ancient history by the time the story of “The Force Awakens” begins.
Many other little details have been revealed as well, thanks to some of the toys, other merchandise and publicity for the film. We know that Rey's scavenging on Jakku is aided by her speeder. We know that The Millennium Falcon has a chase and escape from the planet. We know that scavengers scour the planet for droids, much like they do on Tatooine, and at one point a Jakku scavenger and a guy referred to as Unkar's thug will gain possession of the ball droid BB-8 on Jakku.
The book “Weapon of a Jedi” dropped the information that a scavenger character named Sarco Plank will also make his way to Jakku. Shortly after the events of “A New Hope,” Plank was the first foe Luke Skywalker faced off against using his lightsaber. That confrontation took place on Devaron in an abandoned Jedi temple. Plank's been touted on toys and marketing materials as being on Jakku, as has his mount, the happabore.
And who could forget constable Zuvio? The toy of this character has been out for a while, but Empire had the exclusive information from Lucasfilm about him:
He's apparently a “vigilant law officer on a mostly lawless world” who “keeps order in a frontier trading post.” He's also apparently “tough and humorless.”
Zuvio starred in a short story by Landry Q. Walker, released digitally on Dec. 1, 2015, by Lucasfilm called “High Noon on Jakku.” We learn that Zuvio is a member of the Kyuzo species and is the constable in charge of the Niima Outpost on Jakku.
In another short story in that series by Walker, “All Creatures Great and Small,” we learn that Zygerrian slave traders, who made their debut in the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” series, are still operating in the era of “The Force Awakens,” and occasionally scoop up settlements full of Jakku denizens. This story also features Bobbajo, a Nu-Cosian known as the Storyteller and the Crittermonger to locals. This is the creature that debuted with J.J. Abrams in his first video for the charity fundraising group Omaze.
But none of this information actually reveals much about the story of “The Force Awakens.” It's all just been small teases, but added together those tidbits equal quite a bit of fascinating information.
Lucasfilm has worked hard to weave this tapestry across almost every medium at its disposal to give us a look at what might have happened on Jakku after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” The company and all of its consumer-facing efforts have assured that, for those of us who care to pay attention, Jakku won't be such a new planet by the time “The Force Awakens” comes out after all.