Analysis of The Force Awakens — Droids: Faithful Companions Old and New

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Droids

BB-8:
BB-8 is a great achievement in conveying emotion in a non-humanoid droid. It is hard to match R2, but I believe BB-8 lived up to the challenge. BB is immediately likable with an almost childlike personality. The emotion he shows at Poe’s apparent death; the hesitation to lie for Finn; the thumbs up; the sad, questioning bump into R2 (which nearly made me tear up); all of these make BB-8 an instant classic in the Star Wars universe.

C-3PO:
3PO interrupting the reunion of Han and Leia was a perfect introduction and a wonderful callback to The Empire Strikes Back. While he is in most ways the same old 3PO, he has had some changes over the last thirty years.

According to expanded canon material, 3PO has received a promotion as the “spymaster” of the Resistance’s droid spy network. In the novelization, 3PO made the mistake of not activating BB-8’s tracking signal before his mission to Jakku. His solution is to send a message to every active spy droid, stationed around the galaxy, to search for BB-8. The droid in Maz’s castle in one of these spies.

There is, unfortunately, one single criticism I have for 3PO. The oddly dull finish of the costume makes it look more plastic than metal. I have to wonder what the reason for this is. Is it supposed to be another mark of his age, or is it just a design mistake? Either way, I found it slightly distracting on repeat viewings.

One small mystery is the origin of 3PO’s red left arm. In the film, it simply serves to show the passage of time on the character. The Visual Dictionary mentions that his arm is a memento of another droid’s sacrifice. The novel reveals that he has the ability to replace it at any time but has some sentimental attachment to it; however, he does go back to a golden arm by the end of the film. The full story of his red arm will be told in an upcoming comic book on March 30, 2016. Hopefully, it will be worth the rather long wait.

R2-D2:
Almost as sad as Luke’s absence from the film was the revelation that R2 has been in low power mode since Luke’s disappearance, in what is essentially a coma. While it was a sad reveal, accentuated by being hidden beneath a dusty old cloth, it is also a perfect storytelling device that shows the impact Luke’s absence has had on our old heroes. R2 is a touchstone to Luke as his faithful companion, and his inactive status removes us even further from Luke, while also acting as the frustratingly inaccessible key to the final piece of the puzzle to Luke’s location.

An interesting reveal from an Entertainment Weekly article is the original source of the map pieces that R2 and BB-8 are carrying. According to co-writer Michael Arndt, the backstory of the map can be found in the original film. When R2 plugged into the Death Star to find the location of Leia’s cell, he also found a map in the archives leading to various Jedi temples. Luke later used this map, along with the help of Lor San Tekka, to explore these temples.

Arndt acknowledges that the timing of R2’s awakening was convenient, though he explains that when BB-8 first tried communicating with R2 his boot cycle was triggered, which took time due to his deep coma-like state. But in the end, they simply wanted an emotional return for R2 rather than a logical one.

Until next time: May the Force be with you. Always.

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

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  • Zarm

    If only it had come off as an emotional return instead of an emotional bellyflop, a false attempt to inject the much-needed spirit-boost after Han’s death that came off instead as ticking off a checkbox of the way that everyone could see the film was going to end from the halfway-mark onward.

    …Yeah, I hate the ending of TFA almost as much as I love everything that comes before that catwalk scene shoots the emotional balance all to Hades… 😉

    • Corina Borsuk

      Glad to know that I’m not the only one who liked the new characters but hated the ending to TFA.

      • Zarm

        Glad to know I’m not the only one, either! :-)

        • Corina Borsuk

          I personally think that there was a lot of lazy storytelling going on in TFA. It holds up okay in the moment, but look too hard and you see the cracks in the story, things that just don’t add up. The map to Luke Skywalker is one of the biggest issues for me, not to mention the writers totally lost the emotional pacing established in the other two trilogies. It goes back to what you said about emotional balance.