Some people are completely convinced that in Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens it will be revealed that Luke Skywalker has turned to the dark side and become a Sith Lord. This is emphatically, absolutely, and completely not true. Luke has not become a Sith Lord. Luke remains a Jedi.
How can I be so sure? Because this story is now being told by JJ Abrams. He knows how to tell a story. He knows that characters in a story have a path, and they must follow that path. LOST ended the way it did because it needed to end that way: the island needed Hurley. In Star Wars, we have already seen the character arc that takes a promising young hero through temptation, into loss and then to redemption. Telling that story with the same loss and redemption would just be a waste of everyone’s time. Remember the howls of outrage at Episode II? Nothing compared to this.
Vader’s story told in episodes II and III is an echo of Luke’s story, not the other way around: the loss of the hand, the lightning. Vader echoes Luke so that we can see Luke pick another path. Luke is saved not because he chooses not to strike down the Emperor but because he sees Vader do so. Vader gives his last to save his son and defeat the true evil. Luke knew there was some good left in Vader, and it is seeing this good that allows him to turn away from the path to the dark side. But in this ordeal Luke does give in to his anger, like Anakin before him. Of course he does: the hero’s journey is the journey of a human. Humans are flawed, complex and nuanced. This is what we’re seeing in Luke, which is in contrast to Yoda’s absolutism. There’s a reason Yoda is Little Green Man.
But then why isn’t Luke in the trailer or poster?
If we look at the cycle of all eight Star Wars movies, the hero’s journey tells us why. This is a cycle of movies about Luke. At the end of Episode VI we’re half-way through his story. He’s faced his ordeal, and now he needs to begin his road home, starting with his time in the desert.
With Yoda and Obi Wan gone, Vader and the Emperor dead, Luke is now the sole surviving wielder of the Force who had any contact with the Jedi Order, and its traditions stretching back over a 1,000 years. He’s seen what destruction that power causes. He doesn’t want to become the Emperor. He’s already explicitly rejected that. He has taken the power he alone has and hidden with it. Episode VII will be the search for Luke. Episode VIII will be convincing Luke to rejoin the battle. Episode IX will resolve the conflict. Kylo Ren and Rey are both chasing a legend. At the end of Episode VII one of them will find it: Luke. A big reveal.
And that’s why he’s not in the trailer or the poster.