Our favorite Star Wars characters return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens right alongside a new generation of heroes of the new trilogy. Even though BB-8 might be the most talked-about robot in town, old droids including C-3PO and R2-D2 are still alive, although the latter robot exhibited some mysterious behavior throughout. Some of the questions fans walked out of theaters concern R2-D2, but there are some explanations for his actions – only proceed if you’ve seen the movie, as there are several spoilers ahead.
The old Star Wars characters are purposely scattered in the galaxy so that J.J. Abrams can offer viewers special introductory scenes for each of them, given how they’ve all been absent from our lives for years. The same goes for the droids and iconic ships.
R2-D2’s special moment comes near the end of the movie when it wakes up unexpectedly from a self-imposed ow-power mode. The droid went into a digital coma when Luke left to an unknown destination after Jedi trainee Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side and became Kylo Ren.
But R2-D2 hears what’s going on around him, and when he realizes that he might be in possession of crucial information that can be combined with the info BB-8 holds, he wakes up. BB-8 tries to wake R2-D2 earlier in the movie, but with no success.
R2-D2 has a detailed map of the galaxy, as obtained by the Empire, which fits with the critical section BB-8 brings with him. That’s why the droid wakes up all of a sudden, allowing the Resistance to figure out where Luke’s hiding planet is.
The series of events may not have been obvious in the movie, Business Insider reports, but in the official novelization for The Force Awakens, author Alan Dean Foster clearly explains why R2-D2 jumps out of low-power mode.
Rey tells members of the Resistance that the First Order has the rest of the map needed to understand BB-8’s map fragment, as they extracted it from the archives of the Empire. “The Empire would have been looking for the first Jedi temples,” Admiral Statura says. “In destroying all the Jedi sanctuaries they would have acquired a great deal of peripheral information.”
This is the moment R2-D2 wakes up, as he overhears the conversation, with C-3PO translating his gibberish. “If the information you are seeking was in the Imperial archives, he believes he may have cataloged that data,” C-3PO says about his droid friend. “He’s scanning through it now.”
Abrams and co-writters Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt took inspiration from the first Star Wars movie for this scene. In A New Hope, R2-D2 tapped into the Empire’s network while searching for Princess Leia. That’s when he may have downloaded all the available information about the known universe, including the same map the First Order now has.
“We had the idea about R2 plugging into the information base of the Death Star, and that’s how he was able to get the full map and find where the Jedi temples are,” Arndt explained in a Q&A session following the premiere, according to Entertainment Weekly.
But the writers did not to explain that in the film to avoid focusing on past events. Instead, it’s BB-8’s undecipherable dialog, combined with what other Resistance members are saying, that help R2-D2 figure out he’s got the data.
“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.”
Finally, R2-D2’s resurrection has a different purpose. The droid comes to life right after Han Solo’s death. “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,” Abrams said.
And the beloved droid does come back to life, realizing he might help out with finding Luke.