So, you’ve probably heard there’s a new Star Wars film in the works; The Force Awakens, first of a new trilogy slotted to open this Christmas. As befits a new Star Wars film this is a pretty big deal. Force Awakens will mark the beginning of Disney’s cinematic stewardship of the property and a major step in repairing some of the major tarnishing the franchise suffered throughout the ‘00s. This is also a pretty big step for director J.J. Abrams. Abrams has been brewing in Hollywood for a while now as a writer, director, and show runner. He was the mind behind Lost and Alias as well as the director of the abysmal Star Trek reboots, though to his credit the direction in those films was pretty spot on. He’s generally synonymous with an infuriating marketing gimmick known as the “mystery box” that involves teasing out very unimpressive reveals about his films via viral marketing and such.
Thankfully he’s decided to eschew all of his worst impulses when it comes to Star Wars, relying on a marketing campaign that’s preserved the film’s secrecy without making that mystery central to enticing audiences. Instead the trailers and teasers for Force Awakens have all worked through a unique blend of evocative tone and beautiful iconography. It’s a ballsy move that just grabs the viewer and says, “this is Star Wars, YOUR Star Wars,” and so far it’s worked like gangbusters. However info leaks still happen and I’m addressing one here today when a bunch of Force Awakens action figures & set photos leaked online.
The top 3 are Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac characters. We know from the trailers that Boyega’s Finn is playing one of the conscript troops that the empire brought in to supplement its forces after the clone factories were shuttered but this toy, along with some additional trailer footage, confirms he’ll be ditching his armor for a place in the rebellion. I like that Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is defined here as a pilot. As much as I like A New Hope it always struck me as a little much that Luke had to pull double duty as a fighter pilot and jedi warrior so splitting the roles seems like a good call. Finally there’s Daisy Ridley as Rey looks fantastic in what seem to be desert robes. It’s seemingly like a pretty safe bet that Ridley will end up this film’s new Jedi, probably the daughter or Han Solo & Leia in a nice reworking of the Mara Jade character from the extended universe.
The bulk of the figures are villains. Of these the clear stand out is Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, the cloaked chrome storm trooper bad ass. I’ve long maintained that Star Wars works because its universe provides fans with so many different avenues of imagination. In the world of Star Wars you can choose to be a Sith, a Jedi, a bounty hunter, a smuggler, whatever, and the best films have always broadened that choice. My hope is that Phantasm will continue the expanse that started with the prequel trilogy of giving more personality and depth the storm troopers. She honestly seems like a brilliant twist on Boyega’s Finn. If there was one thing I wish was different it’s that I honestly wish I didn’t know Gwendoline Christie was playing Phasma. The knock-out punch of having Phasma remove her helmet and reveal a kick-ass woman underneath would be a great mindblowing moment in the vein of the ending to Metroid. Still, we’ll see how the film handles it.
We’re also getting a very good look at the new generation of storm troopers and pilots. The main alterations are in the helmets, giving them a sleeker and more menacing look. I really hope we see the Flame trooper show up in the main film. Finally, there’s Kylo Ren, Adam Driver’s new Sith lord character. Kylo looks bad ass, an impressive blend of classical Sith designs from across the franchise with a kind of nomadic look that I like. I really like that the figure will include the cross guard light saber. Of all these figures this is the one I’d most like to get my hands on if only to see if there’s actually a face under the Sith mask. The other figures are a resistance fighter in the far right corner who has a nice binary color scheme going and jettisons the cartoony look of the previous rebel forces. I can’t make out the far left hand corner but I like the design regardless. The blade weapon and robes makes him look like a Tuskan raider of some sort but the helmet seems more suited to a classic rebel warrior.
The last major piece of leaked media is this set photo of Mark Hamill’s return as Luke Skywalker. Even though Hamill’s return was confirmed and he narrated the most popular trailer we haven’t seen what part he’s playing in the final film. There’s even been a lot of speculation that he’s been somehow corrupted by the time Force Awakens kicks off. I’m not totally convinced Luke will be taking a more villainous role given that we already have 3 villains between Phasma, Kylo Ren, & Supreme Leader Snoke but it could serve as a nice reveal somewhere near the end. Regardless this photo seems pretty anti those rumors. Hamill looks perfectly suited to the Jedi robes here and his overall look is deeply reminiscent of Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. Hamill’s a great actor but it’ll be interesting to see him slip back into the Luke character given how rarely he’s played roles similar to it. If the film does recast Luke as more of a mentor or even a villain that would actually be catering to Hamill’s skills as he’s much stronger as a character actor than a leading man.