J.J. Abrams Explains R2-D2's Role at the End of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
If you haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, then you probably don't want to read this. If you have, then you'll learn why director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Michael Arndt did what they did with R2-D2 near the end of the film.
When we see BB-8 and R2-D2 on screen together for the first time, it looks like R2-D2 isn't functioning, and BB-8 tries to wake him up. C-3PO then enters the scene and explains to BB-8 that R2 has been in low power mode since Luke Skywalker went into hiding after his student Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side and became Kylo Ren.
At the end of the movie, R2 conveniently woke up and has the final piece of the puzzle to help find Luke Skywalker. Why did it take so long for him to wake up from low power mode? How did he have the entire map to Luke's whereabouts, and not the piece of it that BB-8 was carrying around?
In an interview with EW, we learn the answers to these question from Abrams and Arndt. Arndt explains:
“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.”
Han Solo does tell Rey and Finn in the film that those who knew Luke best said he went to search for the first Jedi temple. So it makes sense that R2-D2 had a map of where Luke could go looking for it. That also explains why the First Order has the rest of the map since the villain mentions that they obtained it from the archives of the Empire.
Abrams explains that this was all referenced indirectly in the movie because he didn’t want the story to get bogged down in “how s–t happened 30 years ago.” The director went on to explain what BB-8 says to R2-D2 while he was still in low power mode.
“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?' 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.”
Abrams does acknowledge that the way he handled this was designed to be an "emotional storytelling utility," he says:
"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.”
So it basically just took a long ass time for R2-D2 to boot his system, and get up and running again. But in the end, they got the map and found Luke! It will be interesting to see how he's changed after all these years, after all the things that he went through. I can't wait to see him jump back into the fight! We all know it will happen, but I'm sure he'll have his reservations. After he finds out what Kylo Ren did to Han Solo, though, there's no doubt he is going to come face to face with his student eventually.