Analysis of The Force Awakens — Chewbacca: Mighty and Loyal Friend to the End

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chewie-social

Chewie is the same old lovable Wookiee in The Force Awakens, with his grumpy reactions to Finn’s attempts at first aid, his complaints about the cold on Starkiller, and his childish assertions to the Resistance doctor that he acted very bravely. He also remains a loyal and fierce ally.

When Han returned to his old life as a smuggler after the fall of his son, Ben, Chewie left his family on Kashyyyk to rejoin his old friend. Chewie’s wife, Malla, who was first established in the much maligned Holiday Special, has been made canon in the young reader book A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy. According to the Visual Dictionary, his long absences from home are not unreasonable due to the long-lived nature of Wookiees.

In a deleted scene that made it into the novelization, Chewie makes good on an old warning of Han’s. Unkar Plutt, having followed Rey to Maz’s castle, threatens her for taking the Falcon. Rey pulls the blaster Han gave her, but Unkar takes it from her, pointing out that the safety is on (which is the reason she remembers it later in the film). Chewie takes the gun from Unkar, who pokes Chewie in his injured arm saying, “Half a Wookiee ain’t much to worry about.” Chewie then proceeds to rip Unkar’s arm off and throw it across the room.

Chewie’s reaction to Han’s death was quite emotional, with his blaster shot to Kylo – whom he no doubt had a familial bond with at one time – and igniting the explosives without regard to his own life. Yet I feel he could have gone even more berserk. I would have liked to see him throw a few First Order troops into the chasm or pull off an arm or two.

One criticism I had with the film was the lack of acknowledgment between Chewie and Leia after Han’s death. They pass each other by at the base without a glance, but Leia has an emotional moment with Rey, who she has never met before.

At the end, Chewie travels with Rey as they go in search of Luke. There is a touching moment in the novelization where Chewie prevents Rey from taking the co-pilot seat. Rey thinks Chewie doesn’t believe she can handle the job and she makes her case that he needs a co-pilot, but the Wookiee takes the seat himself, giving over the captain’s seat to her.

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

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

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  • Ali1966

    This is a really good point. I would have liked to have seen some sort of interaction between Chewie and Leia after Han’s death as well. I mean, no one really knew Han as well as they did. There was hardly an acknowledgement of it. Great article!

  • Zarm

    This is where I completely disagree with you; Chewie in this movie was a buffoon, whining about the cold, being talked to like a child by the doctor, generally acting childishly throughout. I assume JJ and co were channeling the ‘I don’t care what you smell/cowering fromt he compactor/always thinking with your stomach’ moments, but for me, they made it his entire character- Chewie was as poorly served as… well, pretty much any returning character that wasn’t Han or 3PO in this movie- though he’s the only one where the reason was ‘mischaracterization’ rather than ‘complete lack of screen time and impact in the film.’

    And one of the glaring flaws in this film series, which you reference, is that every time I see Kylo Ren in future movies, I will be reminded of the fact that there’s no good reason that he’s still alive; Chewie, having just seen the man to whom he owed a life debt murdered in front of him, would and should have pulled that trigger multiple times. In the scenario the movie crafted, Kylo Ren was a dead man. But again, for no good reason, Chewie shoots once and then… stops, showing a lack of the same protective, furious rage that we saw in the carbon freezing chamber; the rage that would be true to his character.

    Nope, TFA got Chewie completely wrong.

    • Darth Hound

      I thought his portrayal was a bit off too on first viewing, but on repeated viewings it clicked with me. The OT examples you gave are why I feel they got him right for the most part. There is only so much you can do with Chewie anyway.
      I do think there was a lack of payoff though that may have made for a better portrayal, as would the deleted scene of him ripping off Unkar’s arm (though I understand why it had to be cut).
      I read into his shooting of Kylo an almost obligatory response and an outburst of feeling betrayed by a family member. I assume that he had a familial relationship with Ben and didn’t actually want to kill him, but only wound him. I think it would have been a wrong choice for Chewie to try to kill Kylo, especially given Han’s obvious moment of forgiveness to his son. It would be hard to portray that hesitation, but there is a nice online comic someone made of Chewie remembering a moment with young Ben. That is what I imagined he was thinking. He should have taken out that rage all the more on the First Order troops, however.

      • Zarm

        I think for me, it just felt like we never got the other side of Chewie, the stalwart warrior- only the goof. But then, I’ve only seen it once, and everybody in the whole dang world is always talking about how it gets better on repeat viewings. :-) (Really helpful for the parents of a one-year-old who have to call in favors for babysitting every time they want to go to the theater…) 😉 So, after TFA comes out on DVD, I may revise my opinion of Chewie’s handling.

        I do get the idea of a potential familial connection- I just don’t think the bowcaster should be weak enough to wound rather than killing, and I do think that family bond, years-sundered, would be absolutely trumped by the death of his decades-old life-debt and the failure of that debt. I’ll still maintain- that Kylo didn’t die there is an absolute failure of writing. (If they wanted him alive, something should’ve prevented Chewie from taking follow-up shots). But at least we can agree that there should have been far more range against SOME target. 😉

        • Corina Borsuk

          I think Chewie got the same shaft that the other Death Star team, as I call them, got. Here’s a little peek at my thoughts on the matter.

          Okay, let me start by saying that I was actually looking forward to a Star Wars reboot of sorts. While there are lots of EU/Legends stories that I love, I have to admit that due to a variety of circumstances, the universe needed a bit of cleaning up. So, I was as eager as anyone to start reading and watching the new canon. And, while I was watching The Force Awakens (TFA), I was blown away by a lot of things. I immediately liked Finn, Poe, Rey, and BB-8. I was so happy to see my favorite ship (the Millennium Falcon, of course) in action again and my favorite smuggler (even old, Han Solo looks good) that I just let the story take me along for the ride. And, what a ride it was. At least, until Kylo Ren killed his father. That broke my heart, and by the time TFA was over, I was sad and a bit depressed. I thought it was just losing Han, and I tried to remind myself that he died trying to save his son, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the spectacle of TFA hid some very weak points in the story. I think Han and Leia suffered the most from this, but all of the big guns and even the droids, got a bit of the shaft. Yes, TFA was always meant to bring in the new guard: new heroes and a new villain. I’m okay with that. In fact, I might have liked the movie better if there was more Finn, Poe, and Rey and less of the Death Star team if only because I would rather have spent the time developing new, interesting characters and less time abusing existing characters.

          Yes, I have actual examples, if anyone is interested, but I doubt anyone is. ^_^;

          • Zarm

            I am! :-)

          • Corina Borsuk

            Sorry it took so long to get to this, and I’m not sure it’s the right place for it, but here goes.

            Luke: From Hero to Zero

            It’s true Luke isn’t actually in TFA much at all, but there are plenty of little clues to what type of man/Jedi he’s become, and it doesn’t add up to anything very heroic. Just based on what Han told Rey and Finn, what Leia told Han, and where Han and Leia are in their lives, in relation to each other and their son, Luke is a terrible brother, friend, uncle, and hero.

            The implication in TFA is that Luke was training Ben Solo, along with other Force sensitives. Ben went to the Dark Side and became Kylo Ren, killing all or most of Luke’s other students. Luke took off, leaving his sister and best friend to deal with the grief and consequences on their own. I can understand Luke being upset and maybe blaming himself. And, there is a Jedi precedent for becoming a hermit when times are tough and waiting for the younger generation to fix things. But, at least Obi-Wan was looking out for Luke, trying to protect him until the time was right. Luke certainly wasn’t being much of a protector or mentor for Rey or any other potential Jedi. But, the really infuriating and sad part is that Luke didn’t just leave. He gave up on his nephew, who still had good in him, if Leia is to be believed. Apparently, Luke’s father, Vader, was worth saving because “there’s still good in him” even though the guy killed Jedi, including younglings, and tortured his own daughter. But, I guess Kylo Ren doesn’t deserve the same consideration. On top of that, Luke leaves a secret map to his location. At first glance, that may seem good, but it’s really a bad idea that makes everything worse. Now, instead of just having to worry about saving or stopping her son and ending the threat of the First Order, Leia has to send out her best people to hunt down this map so the First Order doesn’t find Luke first. Thanks, brother mine, for giving are more to worry about. On top of that, the map isn’t even complete. Yes, it turns out Artoo had the rest of the map. But, that leads us to the fact that Artoo has been shut down all this time hiding this map. So, Luke denies his sister and the Resistance access to a valuable droid resource (and a sort-of friend that Leia might need right now) because he needs Artoo to hide the rest of the map until the right time. Luke’s a Jedi. Why not just stay in hiding and tell everybody you’ll be back when the time is right, so they don’t have to spend time, resources, and mental and emotional energy worrying about your stupid map?

            In reality, of course, the fault lies with the writers, who clearly wanted something similar to the Death Star plans that Leia had in A New Hope to spark the coming together of her, Luke, Han, Vader, and the rest of the players so they could bring together Poe, Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren. The way the writers stole so much from the original trilogy they might as well just have made them the Starkiller base plans and saved us the lame plot point of Luke leaving a secret map to his hidden hideout.

          • The Star Wars Report

            Corina, while you have a great point about Luke leaving (likely in part due to guilt) and thus leaving many other people to try to deal with the consequences of Ben’s turn is probably not the best course for trying to help people, he does leave for a far more specific reason. He leaves to find the first Jedi Temple. He very likely has a good reason to find the Jedi Temple. Perhaps there is secret/ancient information there that could help him in fighting the dark side/Snoke, and thus save Ben. I also didn’t get the impression that Luke left a map with anyone, but that the map led to the first Jedi Temple (where people know Luke has gone). Since no one else cares about that temple, the map is just being used to find Luke (and thus called the map to Luke Skywalker). Artoo has the Empire’s incomplete version of the map because he had infiltrated the Empire’s info when they were on the Death Star back in the OT. In fact, it may have been Artoo/the Rebellion/the Resistance who corrupted the Empire’s records so that they didn’t have the full version of the map to the Jedi Temple (as no one would want the Empire to have access to important Jedi teachings and info). It seems as though Artoo has gone into ‘low power mode’ because Luke left, and not necessarily because Luke told him to.

            I suppose my point is that while we have lots of clues, those clues can be interpreted to paint a number of different pictures. What if it was someone else Luke was training who fell to the dark side, and Ben killed him, but then fell to the dark side himself? After all, in Rey’s vision we see Kylo Ren kill what looks like a darksider attacking Rey.

            For me, I’ll reserve any judgement/sadness that Luke wasn’t really in the film that much until I can see more of the story (hopefully) in Episode 8. ~Bethany

          • Corina Borsuk

            Okay, I admit it never crossed my mind that it was one of Luke’s other students who initially fell and Ben fell when he killed him/her. You’ve given me something to think about, as any good discussion should. And, if that ends up being the case, I’ll hate Kylo Ren/Ben Solo just a little less.

            I’m a less convinced with your version of Artoo having the map and being in low power mode. Mind you, I know canon says that Artoo got the location of the Jedi Temple when he was on the Death Star, and I have no trouble believing that. But, why did Luke never tell his sister or anyone else about this temple before? If he did, and that’s why they know the map to the temple is also a map to Luke, why wouldn’t they have tried to wake Artoo up to get his part of the map or ask him if he knows where Luke is? The only explanation I could come up with is that someone (most likely Luke) told Artoo to go into low power mode and not communicate until the rest of the map was found.

            Still, I would like to think Luke cared enough about his sister and best friend to at least give them some hope, to let them know he had a plan, that he wasn’t just abandoning them and Ben. And, I just did not get that feeling from anything that happened in TFA.

            Regardless of our difference of opinion, thanks for responding. It’s always nice to have a good discussion and get a feel for other people’s perspective. It gives any story more meaning.

          • Zarm

            Interesting! Well, you make some good points. The only thing I wasn’t sure about- I got the impression that Luke didn’t leave that map, but that he went to a previously ‘unknown’ place to which a map pre-existed. But I could have misunderstood.

            But, yeah- Luke definitely seems to have handled this all very poorly.