Tag Archives: Sith

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Kylo Ren: A Villain’s Journey

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Kylo is tied with Rey as my favorite new character. Having searched out spoilers, his characterization was actually one of the few surprises of the film for me. I suspected long before seeing the film that he was Han and Leia’s son and knew that he was a Vader fanatic, but his volatile and emotional nature were new to me.

Kylo could have easily been a carbon copy of Vader, but he is nothing like the focused and confident Sith Lord of New Hope and Empire and is much more like the Anakin of the prequels. In fact, I like his characterization and performance more than that of Anakin. He is less pouty and whiny while still conveying a conflicted and emotionally damaged person. Adam Driver gave an incredible and nuanced performance, even when hidden behind the mask.

While Kylo is trying to be like Vader through his appearance and actions, it is all a facade. One of my favorite moments showing this is when he has an unguarded moment with Snoke while out of his helmet. When Hux, a rival for Snoke’s approval, comes into the room, Kylo immediately straightens and puts on a stoic face. He is embarrassed by his show of weakness to someone he sees as an inferior and competitor. Continue reading

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

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

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Poe Dameron: Loyal Hero of the Resistance

Poe

Though he doesn’t get as much screentime as the other young newcomers, Poe has great impact on the plot of The Force Awakens. He is quickly established as a very skilled and heroic character, someone who is willing to risk his life for the Resistance, yet he is not without humor, even in the menacing presence of Kylo Ren.

Though he has been compared to a young Han Solo, Poe believes absolutely in the ideals of the Resistance, being the proud son of two former Rebel fighters (who can both be seen in the comic miniseries Star Wars: Shattered Empire). He is not the reluctant hero that Han was for much of the original trilogy, but is more like a combination of the idealism of Luke and the cocky confidence of Han.

Poe, taking after his mother, began his career as a pilot for the New Republic, but he soon became frustrated by their lack of concern over the First Order. After his superiors denied his request that an attack by TIE fighters on a freighter be investigated, Poe broke from a mission in order to perform reconnaissance on the First Order, which led to Poe engaging and escaping from two dozen TIE fighters. This insubordinate move, as recounted in the anthology novel Before the Awakening, gained the attention of Leia, who recruited him into the Resistance.

Poe’s escape with Finn from the First Order felt like classic Star Wars, both humorous and thrilling. The filmmakers could have created a more antagonistic relationship between Poe and the defecting stormtrooper, but I like Poe’s almost immediate acceptance of Finn, with Poe acting as Finn’s early mentor and role model. I also liked that it was Poe who named him Finn, refusing to call him by his dehumanizing trooper designation, and that he immediately embraced Finn as a friend when they saw each other again at the Resistance base.

While more ambiguous in the film, the story of how Poe escaped from Jakku is detailed in the novelization: after the TIE fighter was hit by the Destroyer, Poe lost consciousness. Finn, not able to help Poe, made the decision to eject before they crashed. Poe regained consciousness in time to gain some control over the ship and landed it as best he could. Though suffering from a concussion, Poe escaped form the TIE, his jacket becoming pinned in the cockpit. Poe then left the crash site before collapsing. When Poe awoke, he had temporary amnesia and began wandering aimlessly. He eventually remembered who he was and what had happened. Poe came across a local and was able to persuade the alien to give him a ride to the nearest town. After a brief encounter with brigands, Poe was able to get to a town and make his way offworld with the help of a merchant.

According to an Entertainment Weekly article, Poe was originally going to die in the crash, but by the time Oscar Issac accepted the role, thinking it would be a small but key cameo, Abrams had already changed the story so that he lived and was instrumental in destroying Starkiller Base.

Intriguingly, the novelization hints at possible love triangle between Rey, Finn, and Poe. In the novel, Rey first meets Poe at the Resistance base as R2 brings up his half of the map. As the crowd celebrates, they randomly hug each other, then both awkwardly introduce themselves, Poe “mumbling” his name and Rey searching his face and finding she “likes” it. I have to wonder if this idea will come into play in Episode 8 or 9, though there would have to be a new setup. It would certainly create some interesting tension between Finn and Poe, possibly even a more dark version of Han and Luke’s early rivalry over Leia.

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

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Lor San Tekka: A New Link to the Past

LOR

Played by legendary actor Max von Sydow, Lor is an intriguing new character who has little screentime, yet the casting of such an iconic and brilliant actor works to immediately convey the importance and gravity of this character. He brings with him a dignity that also gives greater emotional weight to Lor’s death. It feels as if he is someone we should already know, which gives us the sensation of a serialized adventure that the original film captured.

Lor’s purpose in the plot is to convey the current state of the galaxy, the necessity of the Jedi to keep balance in the Force (a concept I will discuss further in an article for Luke), to deliver the map of Luke Skywalker’s location into the hands of the Resistance, and to give us our first hint at who Kylo Ren really is. Though he is a new character, Lor represents our first connection to the previous generations of the prequel and original trilogies. He is a living link to the “myths” and “legends” of the past, someone who still thinks of General Leia as “royalty.”

When he is confronted by Kylo Ren, we discover that Lor knew him before he took that name. Lor reminds Kylo that he did not come from the dark side and cannot deny his family. The ruthless Kylo agrees – likely thinking of his grandfather, Darth Vader – and then coldly cuts down the unarmed Lor. His death at the hands of Kylo Ren is an important step on Kylo’s path. He so easily cuts down this link to his past, mirroring the ruthless evil of Vader.

More information about Lor can be found in the Visual Dictionary and Lor’s Databank entry on StarWars.com. During the days of the Empire, Lor, though not Force-sensitive, was a member of the underground “Church of the Force,” a loosely connected group that believed in the ideals of the Jedi and awaited their return. Though I still think the name seems a little out of place, I am very intrigued by the idea of an underground religion of non-Force users who still believe in the Force despite the destruction of the Jedi and the suppression of their beliefs. It brings to mind characters such as General Dodonna and Admiral Ackbar using the Jedi phrase “may the Force be with you.”

We also learn that Lor was a “legendary traveler and explorer” who helped Luke recover Jedi lore that was suppressed by the Empire, including the locations of lost Jedi temples, which perhaps explains how Lor came into possession of the map.

Lor retired from his adventures to Tuanul village on the desert planet Jakku, which was home to other members of the Church of the Force. Some fans wonder if Lor knew of Rey, possibly watching over her in some way. I see no real evidence of this, but it is a curious coincidence that they are on the same planet. And he would certainly have been a better caretaker than Unkar Plutt.

I look forward to learning more about Lor San Tekka and his connection to the prequel and original trilogy eras and would love to see novels from his perspective. It is also possible that he could make an appearance in one or more of the stand-alone films.

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

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller

Analysis of The Force Awakens — Prologue: Examining the Opening Crawl

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Spoiler Warning for The Force Awakens and tie-in material

NOTE: This is Part 1 of a Multi-Part Series

Things have changed drastically in the thirty years since the end of The Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker is missing, and in his absence a new threat has risen in the form of the First Order, an organization formed from the remnants of the Old Empire. The First Order knows that the greatest threat to their power would be the return of Luke Skywalker to rebuild the Jedi Order.

General Leia Organa now leads a Resistance against the First Order with support from the New Republic. However, the truth of this alliance is more complicated than the film makes it seem.

We find in the novelization, and other expanded material, that the New Republic signed a peace treaty, the Galactic Concordance, with the defeated remnant of the Empire one year after the Battle of Endor. This treaty limited the Imperials in territory and military capability. Along with this treaty, the New Republic also passed a law limiting their own military to pre-Clone War levels to show their commitment to peace, though they still maintained the largest fleet in the galaxy.

However, at least some Imperials, rather than facing these limitations, chose to retreat from the known galaxy into the Unknown Regions, where they regrouped to form the First Order. This move was foreshadowed in the novel Aftermath: Yupe Tashu, a non-Force sensitive dark side historian and close adviser to the Emperor, proposed to the Imperial Future Council that the fragmented Imperial remnant move beyond the known galaxy. It was in this unexplored space that the Emperor had funded expeditions searching for the “source” of the dark side. Tashu believed that the Imperials should seek out this source as a means of restoring their power, hiding in the shadows until the time was right to strike back. His advice was ignored at the time, however, which ultimately led to the full defeat of the Empire and the signing of the treaty.

Unfortunately, the New Republic did not view the First Order as a real threat as long as they held to the terms of the Galactic Concordance. But the Order was indeed violating the treaty by rebuilding their forces in secret.

It was in the Unknown Regions that the Order established Starkiller, a planetary base and superweapon. According to the Visual Dictionary, the First Order chose this ice planet due to its “unique energy-transmitting crystalline deposits.” This description, and its location on canon maps, hints at the tantalizing possibility that this was once the planet Ilum, the main source of the Jedi for Force resonating kyber crystals, the key component in constructing lightsabers. Giant kyber crystals were also the source of power for the Imperial Death Stars, a technology expanding on ancient Sith superweapons.

Leia, knowing the First Order could not be trusted, and seeing that there was corruption forming in the New Republic, created her own private military force to act as a watchdog group against the First Order, bringing with her veterans of the Rebel Alliance such as Grand Admiral Ackbar and pilot Nien Nunb. While the New Republic tolerates the Resistance, it does not fully support it, with many seeing Leia as an alarmist and warmonger. There are, however, some senators who secretly support the Resistance and provide funding for their operations.

With hopes of restoring peace and justice to the galaxy, Leia sends her best pilot, Poe Dameron, to Jakku in order to recover a map that may lead to Luke Skywalker. This map is in the hands of an old ally, Lor San Tekka….

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In the coming days, I will be publishing articles exploring individual characters in The Force Awakens. First up will be legendary explorer and “Church of the Force” member Lor San Tekka.

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

Chris “Darth Hound” Miller