How Did R2-D2 Wake Up in The Force Awakens?

So what made R2-D2 wake up in The Force Awakens? In the movie, both R2-D2 and C-3PO took a back seat to the wunderkind robot that is BB-8.

Introduced to us as Poe Dameron’s companion, BB-8 proved pivotal to the success of the movie. The little droid served as the new kid on the block to provide whimsical entertainment and also as the carrier of the “thing that needs to be found” requirement of the movie. This only left room for R2-D2 to make a cameo at the end of the movie.

So what then of R2-D2 being revealed to the audience as having been in some kind of “powered down mode” since, as advised by C-3PO, Luke Skywalker left? What turned him back on and how did it happen? Well, the movie never really reveals the answer explicitly.

Even when the proverbial appeared to be hitting the fan, he did nothing until the moment he was most needed. He was able to suddenly wake up and go through his files to find that he had part of a star map that showed Luke’s location. BB-8 was then able to sub in his part of the map to complete it, which provided the means for the Resistance and Rey to find Luke Skywalker – amazing.

Prior to this, BB-8 tried to have a conversation with R2-D2 but had no apparent reward. Did Rey turning up at the Resistance base have an effect on R2? Did R2 have some pre-programmed instructions from Luke to present himself when the time was right? Did Luke turn him on with some special Force connection? The answer actually comes from J.J. Abrams and the novelization of The Force Awakens.

It would appear that, as part of his low-power mode, R2 can actually keep track of the conversations around him. So, when BB-8 tried to converse with him, R2 chose to warm himself back up.

When Poe, Leia, and the others were chatting about how the First Order had the larger part of the map due to having control of the Imperial Archives, R2 realized he also had the archives cataloged (from when he engaged with the first Death Star), so he decided to search within himself for the map.

This part of the novel conveys the point as explained by C3-PO:

The protocol droid explained. “If the information you are seeking was in the Imperial archives, he believes he may have catalogued that data. He’s scanning through it now.”
Rey stared at the diminutive droid. “Artoo has the rest of the map?”
“He’s certainly implying the possibility!” C-3PO told her. “I’ve never heard him beep with this much energy before.”
So R2 had the data they needed the whole time! Thank the maker!
r2d2 bb8 tall
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

When he presented it to the group, BB-8 was able to quickly determine the information he held matched R2’s data and the map was able to be completed allowing the whereabouts of Luke to be determined.

It’s amusing to consider that the missing part of the map was supposedly uncharted territory, yet Lor San Tekka had the map so presumably it had been charted at some point – we presume Luke himself had given him the map so maybe Luke charted it. Who really knows?
J.J. Abrams has expanded on this plot point:
“…the idea was that in that scene where R2 plugged in [into the Death Star], he downloaded the archives of the Empire, which was referenced by Kylo Ren.”
“BB-8 comes up and says something to R2-D2, 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.”
It seems improbable that in his brief time on the Death Star, R2 was able to download the entire Imperial Archives, but there you go. It’s a poor storytelling device but they needed to get R2 involved somehow and that’s how it was done.

On-screen this was simply played for a dramatic moment, R2 is suddenly on! And he has the map! Amazing – we never doubted him at all!

So the answer to how and what wakes R2-D2 up comes in two parts; BB-8 stirs him and, when the right thing is said by the other characters, he is able to realize he has what they need.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.