NOTE: Possible spoilers for a segment of The Force Awakens based on speculation and deduction from the trailers and other official sources.
When Star Wars fans around the world gathered to view the final trailer for The Force Awakens, we, in grand tradition, soaked in each frame, trying to discern as much as we could about the highly anticipated film. After the awe of that initial viewing, many of us went back over the trailer frame-by-frame, analyzing each shot over and over and speculating on their potential meaning to the plot of the film.
That night on Twitter, Bethany Blanton, Co-Founder of The Star Wars Report, posted a still from the trailer featuring our heroes approaching a large stone building adorned with multiple banners. Above the entrance of this building was a design that Bethany thought resembled a Stormtrooper helmet. I tweeted back that I thought it looked like the mask of Darth Vader. In all likelihood, it is probably neither, but wild imaginations are part of the fun of fandom.
However, there was something else familiar about this design that puzzled me. At first I thought it might be an existing symbol within the Star Wars universe. Several of us had already spotted what turned out to be two logos associated with the Mandalorians and Boba Fett among the designs on the numerous flags.
After some minutes searching in vain online, it finally hit me. I had seen that same design in a previous The Force Awakens picture. That picture was in the Force Awakens issue of Vanity Fair and featured the menacing Captain Phasma standing among the charred ruins of a stone structure. The caption read: “First Order officer Captain Phasma… surveys the rubble following an attack.” I then realized that it was the same building.
I tweeted this find to Bethany, who then tweeted the two pictures on the Star Wars Report account. To my surprise, this caught on fast and many people found the implications intriguing.
While preparing to write this article, I started to piece together more clues from the trailers, official sources, and the Original Trilogy itself. With these, I found that a section of the plot was emerging.
The stone structure in the trailer had already brought to mind another picture in the Vanity Fair article that featured the denizens of Maz Kanata’s pirate castle. This menagerie of colorful and slimy characters brings to mind those of the Cantina in A New Hope, and Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi.
“A colorful array of galactic travelers, smugglers, and other assorted riffraff fill the main hall of pirate Maz Kanata’s castle.”
As you can see, the stone hall is very similar in design to the building in the trailer. It occurred to me that the flags could represent the different factions that frequent the castle (Fun fact: someone online found the symbol of the Ohnaka Gang among the banners).
Viewing this again, I remembered recent news regarding an upcoming anthology of short stories by author Landry Walker featuring some of the characters in the photo.
Descriptions of several of the stories caught my attention. One of these, The Face of Evil, features the jester-like female character.
“A notorious thief learns to be careful what she wishes for on Takodana.”
The name Takodana struck another cord. A quick search led to an entry on the official StarWars.com Databank. The entry is for a droid that will appear in the upcoming film.
“Known as Emmie by the unallied scoundrels on Takodana, ME-8D9 is a protocol droid that is often called upon to translate less-than-legal deals.”
I believe this is the female droid seen in the VF photo, though no picture is yet provided for ME-8D9 in the Databank entry.
From these two official sources, I think it is safe to assume that Maz Kanata’s castle is located on Takodana, a new planet in the Star Wars universe.
This brings us to Maz Kanata herself. We know very little about the character of Maz other than that she is a pirate leader who resides in a castle that is yet another hive of scum and villainy in the galaxy. Or is it?
Many have speculated that Maz is the alien character briefly glimpsed in the second teaser passing the lightsaber of Anakin and Luke Skywalker over to Leia. We also know that Maz will be a motion capture character portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o.
A close look at the recently released poster reveals a small alien figure next to R2-D2.
Given that the poster is so crowded with characters – more so than any previous Star Wars poster – this figure must be of some importance in the film. Note that General Hux is absent despite already having official depictions of him.
I firmly believe these two figures are the same character. The outfit is the same, and you can even see a glimpse of her goggles in the teaser, which I initially assumed were eyes.
If this is indeed Maz Kanata, it raises more questions. Why does she have the Skywalker lightsaber? Is she a secret ally of the Resistance? The poster shows a pleasant smile on her face and there doesn’t seem to be any hesitance in the handing over of the lightsaber to Leia. In fact, I get a gentle, Yoda-like, sage quality.
Another subject of discussion by fans is the identity of the female voice at the beginning and end of the new trailer. The voice asks Rey who she is, and at the end it tells someone that the Force is calling to them and they only need to let it in. Most people I have heard believe this to be Maz, though some believe the final lines are spoken by Leia. If it is Maz, that means she could be Force sensitive. Why is a Force sensitive being, seemingly on the side of good, living as a pirate who hangs around with “unallied scoundrels” who make “less-than-legal deals?”
Deeper and deeper we go.
Now we come back to the picture of Phasma standing in the blackened ruins. Clearly the film will feature some kind of attack that destroys the castle (I will assume from here on that this is indeed Maz’s castle).
Placing other shots in the trailer together, a story begins to emerge, one that should be familiar to fans.
Within the trailer are multiple shots of a battle between Resistance X-wings and First Order troops. This battle takes place on a planet of green hills and lakes. The amazing shots seen in each of the trailers of X-wings flying low over a body of water are a part of this battle.
We also see what looks like a Yavin 4 style Resistance base several times in the new trailer where pilots seem to be scrambling for a battle. Interestingly, the base looks to be on the same planet as the castle. Note the green hills and fog in both locations. We also see the First Order troopers standing in rubble that resembles that seen in the Phasma picture and Maz’s castle.
Now, a very rough outline of this section of the film can be pieced together.
Our heroes travel to the planet Takodana, perhaps to meet with Maz Kanata. Are they there to gain her help in the fight against the First Order? Han is the type who would know how to handle pirates. Are they there to find Luke Skywalker?
Something goes wrong (a traitor?) and the castle is attacked by the First Order. Han, Chewie, and Finn are captured. We see Rey in the approach to the castle (though not Chewie), but do not see her in the shot of our captured heroes (note that Chewie has returned to be captured and has a bandage around his right arm). Where is Rey? There is one shot in the trailer of an angry Rey firing a blaster in a green, wooded area. This could be on the same planet.
Then, shrouded by a wall of water, comes a squad of X-wings led by Poe Dameron. The cavalry has come to the rescue. The tide has turned.
While piecing this sequence together, I also became aware of similarities to the original trilogy.
In short, this theory suggests that Lucas crafted his saga in a way that each film, and each trilogy, mirror each other in complex ways. The theory is backed up by statements from Lucas himself. Lucas has said on many occasions that the films are structured like music and rhyming poetry. In behind the scenes footage for The Phantom Menace, Lucas said the following regarding the parallels between Anakin’s attack on the droid control ship and Luke’s Death Star run: “It’s like poetry. They rhyme. Every stanza rhymes with the last one.”
This tradition continues in The Force Awakens.
As I mentioned before, Maz’s castle and its denizens bring to mind both the Cantina and Jabba’s palace. We even see a familiar face from the Cantina. Could he even be the same character?
The parallels between the Cantina, Jabba’s palace, and Maz’s castle make me wonder what kind of welcome our heroes receive? Something tells me it won’t be a warm one; at least not at first.
Like both the Cantina and Jabba’s palace scenes there seems to be a future, or hidden, ally within that may provide help to our heroes. In the Cantina it was Han, himself a shifty scoundrel, and his intimidating alien co-pilot, Chewbacca. These two would soon become trusted friends and heroes in their own right who are now guiding our new heroes. In Jabba’s palace it was Lando, disguised as a palace guard and working to free Han from the inside. In The Force Awakens, it looks to be the pirate leader herself that may be such an ally.
If Maz is indeed a Force user, then we may find an echo of Yoda’s introduction in The Empire Strikes Back.
Yoda was found in an unlikely place for a Jedi Master, and he acted like a crazy little creature before revealing himself fully to Luke. Perhaps Maz is also hiding who she is by taking on the role of a pirate leader. Could she be a student of Luke? Is the castle a temple in disguise to fool the First Order?
The shots of Han, Chewie and Finn with their arms held up in surrender to First Order troops are reminiscent of the scene in Return of the Jedi where our heroes have been captured on Endor by Imperial troops.
Similar to Jedi, our gang is saved by allies and the tide is turned.
I’m sure I could find similarities to the Prequel Trilogy, and there are certainly other shots in the trailer that echo the throughout the saga, but those I’ll leave for others to ponder.
It seems the poetic, rhyming style of storytelling set into place by George Lucas will continue in this new era. This is a refreshing assurance that the structure that made Star Wars a complex modern mythology hasn’t been abandoned by the new guard. We can look forward to new twists and turns to these familiar themes and images. And we can continue the fun of sifting through all the pieces of the puzzle, making connections and speculating on what the future has in store for us in a galaxy far, far away.
May the Force be with you. Always!
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