Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Potential Deaths of 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

After Han Solo's death in The Force Awakens and, uh, the last 30 minutes of Rogue One, Star Wars has shown in recent years that it's not afraid to kill off major characters. Add that to the persistent reports of The Last Jedi being an unpredictable game-changer for the saga, and you'll want to be ready for some of our heroes and villains to not make it through the film.
Unlike Rogue One, The Last Jedi has a definitive sequel and thus can't shock the audience by offing most of its main cast, but we can still expect at least a few notable deaths. We're taking a look at each of the characters in the film and how likely they are to survive it.

Luke Skywalker

We'll start with the big one. Luke is guaranteed to have a huge role in The Last Jedi – director Rian Johnson has said the title directly refers to him and him alone – and given the First Order's determination to kill him and Luke's own Jedi selflessness, it's not hard to imagine him pulling a Ben Kenobi and sacrificing himself while his apprentice (Rey) looks on in anguish.
Furthermore, the Vanity Fair cover story in May revealed that Leia was intended to be the star of Episode IX in the same way that Han Solo dominated The Force Awakens and Luke leads The Last Jedi. Aside from what that means for Leia's fate (more on that later), this may have been a hint that her brother won't survive the movie; Leia's always been tertiary to Han and Luke in terms of on-screen attention, so one could argue that only both of their deaths would let her truly take the spotlight.

But Rey already got her mentor-death, "Noooo!" moment when she watched Han Solo die. And after his infamously minuscule part in The Force Awakens, fans would be pretty unhappy if Luke died only shortly after re-entering the franchise. Wouldn't it be satisfying to see him finally accept a lightsaber again – either his father's or his green Return of the Jedi blade – alongside his twin sister in the film's final scene?
Clearly there's strong evidence on both side, but ultimately this comes back to Luke's own words from the trailer: "This is not going to go the way you think," a not-so-subtle reference to the film's own plot. Luke's death is so predictable that – for the more cynical fans, at least – it would be a bigger surprise if he made it through the movie. So let's not count on him dying just yet.


Don't let the whole "two halves of our protagonist" thing fool you; Rey is the quintessential hero of the Sequel Trilogy, and she's not going anywhere. By the end of the movie, she may very well fall to the Dark Side – the marketing definitely wants us to think that could happen – but she'll still very much be alive. 
Moreover, Rey's significance to female Star Wars fans cannot be understated. We finally have a young woman at the center of Star Wars, and there's no way that there wouldn't be outrage if Rey died and left Kylo – a sulking, emo man-child – as the protagonist of Episode IX.

Kylo Ren

Like Rey, Kylo is one of the most important characters who would seem to naturally survive The Last Jedi so that his arc could be fulfilled in Episode IX. Whether or not he ultimately redeems himself and returns to the Light Side, he's a key part of the Sequel Trilogy that can't be discarded easily. 
But at the same time, Kylo's sudden death would be a true shock to audiences. What if Rey or Luke killed him in the movie's climax, simultaneously revealing their own shocking descent to the Dark Side? Both of them have a nasty history with him; Rey attacked Kylo with fury in The Force Awakens, seemingly taking pleasure in his anguish, and Luke must feel responsible for all the horrors his former student committed (burning Luke's Jedi temple, murdering Han, etc.). 

While we're at it, Leia killing Kylo (maybe with her A New Hope blaster that she'll be using in the film) is an intriguing possibility as well. Her relationship with him is more conflicted and personal than anyone else's; he's her son and she'll always love him, but he killed his father, and by the end of The Last Jedi, she might come to believe that there's no saving him from the Dark Side. It would be a tearjerking moment for everyone if Leia chose to put down her son to stop him from turning into her monstrous father.
Kylo's still more likely to survive the movie than not, but the filmmakers want to deliver a truly shocking death that changes everything for Episode IX, then he's their guy. 

Leia Organa

The tensest moment in the trailer was a tease of Leia's death as Kylo Ren targeted the command bridge of her ship, finger hovering over the trigger, while Leia seemed to sense him in the Force. Everyone knows Kylo's not afraid to kill a parent to further his path to the Dark Side, and taking out Leia would be a massive strategic victory for the First Order as well. Add that to Carrie Fisher's real-life passing last December, and on the surface, Leia's death seems pretty likely.
However, every report has indicated that Leia was meant to survive The Last Jedi and, as previously mentioned, have an even larger role in Episode IX. We also know that Leia's part in the film was untouched after Fisher's death in order to preserve her final performance, and that the filmmakers instead rewrote a now-Leia-less Episode IX script from scratch.
Unless they secretly reversed their decision and gave Leia an awkward death scene in the postproduction process, she's guaranteed to survive The Last Jedi. The responsibility of handling Fisher's death and the future of the character will be left to Episode IX.


Finn's role in The Last Jedi has been downplayed so far. While the marketing for The Force Awakens made some attempt to convey that he and Rey were equal in terms of significance to the plot, The Last Jedi's promotional campaign has almost entirely ignored his Canto Bight subplot with Rose, choosing instead to hype up his fight with Captain Phasma, which he'll almost definitely escape with his life (much more on that later).
There's still a chance that Kylo and/or Snoke could kill Finn to bring out Rey's Dark Side, in the same way that Vader tortured Han in The Empire Strikes Back. But as a much-loved protagonist who helps to ground heroes like Rey and Poe ("Why does everyone want to go back to Jakku?"), Finn has very good chances of living on. 

Poe Dameron

As a supporting character who wasn't even supposed to live through The Force Awakens, Poe would normally stand a certain chance of dying. However, Oscar Isaac pretty much confirmed that he's not going anywhere. Unless he's mistaken or intentionally throwing us off, case closed.

As with The Force Awakens, Chewie falls in that sweet spot in terms of characters who are likely to die. He's almost as beloved as Luke and Leia, so his death would absolutely crush the audience, but the plot could easily move on without him. 
Think about it. We don't need him to fly the Falcon; Rey, Luke, or even Kylo could do that. It's great to see him step out of Han's shadow and attach himself to Rey, as well as explore his old friendships with Luke and Leia, but it's easy to imagine him pulling a K-2SO (or a Chirrut Îmwe) and sacrificing himself to save his friends. And if this was a suicide flight in the Falcon that destroys the iconic ship in the process, then you've got an emotionally devastating scene that proves The Last Jedi is willing to take big risks.

The filmmakers also might feel particularly comfortable killing off Sequel Trilogy-era Chewbacca because unlike any of these other characters, this would by no means be his last live-action appearance; he'll have a huge role in next May's Solo: A Star Wars Story


This one's easy. We've heard that while Rey's parentage will definitely be revealed in The Last Jedi, Snoke's past will remain pretty murky, suggesting that they're saving that particular Sequel Trilogy mystery for later. He'll almost certainly return in Episode IX to sit on more thrones, concoct more evil plans, and deliver more bone-chilling lines of dialogue.
Captain Phasma

Phasma and Finn's showdown is shaping up to be one of the movie's most anticipated moments. The captain has let us down before, but now she'll finally be showing off her warrior skill as she whips out her spear and goes toe-to-toe with her former trooper in a fiery First Order hangar.
Phasma's more experienced and logically should be the better warrior. She's also motivated by pure revenge after Finn betrayed and humiliated her, while Finn's grudge against her isn't nearly as personal. But even if Finn dies in this film, there's no way it's gonna be in this fight. He's also unlikely to make the mistake of sparing her life again, so does that mean he'll use some trick to kill his old captain just when her victory seems most assured?
We can be sure that some plot device will allow Finn to escape while still proving that Phasma is technically the superior combatant. However, one badass fight scene wouldn't be enough to redeem her, and considering the Marvel Comics miniseries and self-titled novel she's received in the past few months, it's clear that Lucasfilm is invested in her character.
What we can predict is that Finn will somehow incapacitate Phasma and make a quick getaway (probably with help from Rose and/or Poe), and both will live on, albeit with fresh wounds. After all, we need someone to prove that women can be merciless, despicable, authoritative fascists, too.

General Hux

Kylo has the lightsaber, Force sensitivity, and serious character development. Phasma has the awesome armor that shrouds her in mystery. And Hux, well, Hux just has that one spittle-producing, Nazi-esque speech in The Force Awakens, as well as a fanfiction-inspiring rivalry with Kylo. (Sorry, Kylo/Hux shippers, but it seems like the general already has a true love: galactic genocide.)
He's the most boring of the First Order's leaders, so his death wouldn't have much of an impact on audiences. Still, Hux doesn't seem like the type to get on the front lines, so if he were to die, it would most likely be at the hands of Snoke as he demonstrates his great Force power and punishes his subordinate for a particularly unforgivable failure.

Rose Tico

Ask anyone in The Last Jedi's marketing department, and you'll find that Rose is already dead to them. At least, that's the only explanation for why Kelly Marie Tran's new character has been missing from almost all of the trailers and TV spots. (The posters, at least, have been gracious enough to marginalize Rose, rather than exclude her entirely.)
But every sign points to Rose emerging as The Last Jedi's breakout character. As a lowly mechanic, she's more relatable to the audience than other heroes, and she's already a huge hit among Asian and Asian-American fans who are eager for representation in Star Wars. She'll be joining Finn on his mission to Canto Bight and aboard a Star Destroyer, and a recent training featurette revealed that she'll get the chance to kick some ass.
All of this means that Rose is pretty unlikely to die. And given how positive the fan response has been to her character based on only images and interviews with Tran, she's sure to become a true Star Wars icon once we actually see her in action. Rose's role is only getting bigger from here.

Amilyn Holdo

From everything we've heard about her, Holdo seems like an intriguing sum of dichotomies. She's an oddball with the pink hair to match, but she's also a professional military leader with her own, seemingly-strict way of doing things. We've seen her wear a long gown and all kinds of jewelry, but Laura Dern has repeatedly said that her character will be handling a blaster in the film. Most importantly, she'll be clashing with Poe, but she's old friends with Leia and (like Poe) has learned much from her.
"Vice Admiral" is a bit of a confounding title (Does she actually command ships? Who's the official "admiral" that ranks above her?), but make no mistake, Holdo must intend to be at the very top of the Resistance's leadership. And with Leia missing from Episode IXHoldo may very well end up taking her place in the storyline as the Resistance's experienced female leader. 
Would Lucasfilm hire an actress like Laura Dern for only one movie, in an arguably superfluous role that mostly just serves to create tension within the Resistance and give Poe more dramatic scenes? Yeah, they might; just ask fellow Hollywood veterans like Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka) or Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera). But chances are Holdo will return in Episode IX, after establishing in The Last Jedi that she's ultimately worthy of Poe's (and the audience's) trust.


Benicio Del Toro's character will lend a hand to Finn and Rose and even journey behind enemy lines with them, but he still considers himself a neutral party in the war. Like Holdo, we aren't meant to initially know whether or not we can trust him. 
But unlike Holdo, he's a third party with no personal connections to any of the characters, so his death wouldn't have much of an impact on the plot or the audience. And no matter his fate in the movie, he's bound to show up again in a novel or comic book in the next few years. Instead of asking whether or not he'll die, the better question is whether it would even matter to us either way.

Maz Kanata

Did you even know Maz was in this movie? No? Well, that's a good sign that she's not gonna die. Making Star Wars has reported that she has a small role as the intermediary between the Resistance and DJ, meaning that she won't be on-screen long enough to give us anything close to a satisfying death for this fan favorite. 
Lupita Nyong'o (who's still one of the top-billed actors in The Last Jedi's credits, because that's what happens when you win an Oscar) will hopefully return in Episode IX with a part equal or greater to her first appearance in The Force Awakens.

Who do you think will die in The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Chewie and Phasma Shine in Thanksgiving TV Spot

Lucasfilm aired a 15-second The Last Jedi TV spot today during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. While the previous spots have given attention to the most important characters – Rey, Finn, Poe, etc. – this one is dominated by two of the movie's most popular (and tallest) supporting characters: Chewbacca and Captain Phasma.
"So good to have you back," Phasma says as she brings up the rear of a squad of stormtroopers. This line could apply to any of the film's returning characters – in particular Luke, whose return to the Millennium Falcon kicks off the ad – but based on her own history and the position of her troopers' blasters (not to mention the design of the wall behind them), it seems like she's sarcastically greeting Finn as he's apprehended aboard the First Order Dreadnaught. 
It's a nice surprise to hear Gwendoline Christie's voice, since Phasma's dialogue has never made it into the marketing before. She's displaying a level of sass that the character never really demonstrated before, which will make her showdown with Finn – presumably after he escapes from her clutches – all the more entertaining.

What follows is the classic Rebel Alliance theme paired with familiar footage. The TV spot ends with a shot of the Falcon evading TIE fighters in Crait's crystal caverns once again, and then Chewie growling as he knocks over a squawking porg in the ship's cockpit.
Chewie's relationship with the porgs is as mysterious as it is adorable. We know that he'll bond with them and that the one next to him in the cockpit is his pet, but fans have also noticed a behind-the-scenes shot of the Wookiee with a feather hilariously sticking out of his mouth:
Are they his friends or his food? Will he install a tiny seat on the dashboard for his adopted porglet? And would there be anything cuter than Chewie naming his new pet Han? This TV spot brings us ever closer to the answers to those questions, and today, we should be eternally thankful for that.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Finn Takes the Spotlight in 'Heroes' TV Spot

The Last Jedi's marketing hasn't paid much attention to Finn so far. The teaser had a single shot of him unconscious in a medical tube, and his most notable appearance in last month's full trailer was his face-off with Captain Phasma (which generated more excitement for Phasma than him). Now, a new TV spot is giving Finn some serious attention:
A breakdown of all the new footage in the TV spot:
  1. "Rey!" Finn yells as he wakes up from his coma. The last thing he remembers must be Kylo Ren brutally wounding him with a seemingly-defenseless Rey nearby, so it's no surprise that his first thought would be her. 
  2. "You must have a thousand questions," Poe says. "Where's Rey?" Finn anxiously replies. Just imagine Finn's expression when he hears that his scavenger friend used the Force to defeat Kylo and is now visiting Luke Skywalker himself. Her absence will make Finn seriously consider whether he wants to stick around the Resistance.
  3. The Resistance fleet squares off against the First Order. That big Star Destroyer in the middle is the Dreadnought—not to be confused with Snoke's even bigger flagship, the Supremacy. The ships facing them are Resistance bombers, with ball turrets on the bottom (one of which will probably be manned by Paige Tico, Rose's sister).
  4. "I was raised to fight," Finn explains. "For the first time I had something to fight for." This echoes his voiceover from The Force Awakens' trailer ("I was raised to do one thing, but I've got nothing to fight for,") which only partially made it into the final cut of the film. Rey was the only reason why he joined the Resistance, so now with help from Poe and Rose, he'll have to decide whether he wants to commit.
  5. Some new shots of his battle with Phasma. These reveal little about the context for this fight or its eventual victor, but they're still cool nevertheless. Despite its lack of importance in the grand scheme of the narrative, this fight still emerged as one of the most exciting trailer moments (as demonstrated by the poll), a testament to how eager fans are to see Phasma kick this traitor's ass.
What did you think of this TV spot? What are you hoping to see from Finn in The Last Jedi? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Rian Johnson is Making a New 'Star Wars' Trilogy

Everyone loves Rian Johnson. The fans are overall ecstatic with how The Last Jedi is turning out. A recent behind-the-scenes look at the film focused on his direction, with footage of the cast repeatedly praising his approach to the Star Wars universe. Our eternal sage Carrie Fisher even spoke from beyond the grave to join in: "He has flaws in other areas. I just don't know about them."
As it turns out, Lucasfilm loves him, too. And not just in the sense that he's the only Star Wars director of the past few years who hasn't had some kind of falling out with president Kathleen Kennedy. They love him so much that tonight they announced that they're giving him the reigns on an all-new Star Wars trilogy, the first of which he will write and direct.

No details have been given about the topic of these films, but the announcement promises that they'll be "separate from the episodic Skywalker saga" and they'll "introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored." 
In a recent interview on "The Star Wars Show," Kennedy suggested that new and beloved heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe could reappear in stories beyond Episode IX. However, it's clear that this new trilogy will be very different, and not just a money-grab extension on the Sequel Trilogy.

The best way for these movies to venture into truly uncharted waters would be to explore a new time period; specifically, the many, many years before The Phantom Menace. There's huge potential for epic stories involving the Jedi, Sith, and Mandalorians in the Old Republic era. They would be able to show us a whole new side of Star Wars without relying on nostalgia.

In a much quieter announcement, Disney CEO Bob Iger also confirmed that Star Wars will be getting a live-action television series on Disney's new streaming service. The main precedent for this is Star Wars: Underworld, a proposed live-action TV series that was first announced by George Lucas in 2005, put on hold in 2010, and then effectively dead in the water after Disney bought Lucasfilm.

It's hard for us to get excited for this trilogy when we know next to nothing about it. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from this announcement is that Lucasfilm is very confident in The Last Jedi. They're not waiting until after it premieres to make sure that Johnson can direct a film that wows fans, impresses critics, and rakes in tons of money; they're already pretty darn sure that he can. 
The short story? Star Wars: The Last Jedi may very well be as good as it looks.

What do you think of this announcement? Who or what do you want this new trilogy to focus on? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Meet Taris, the WOC-Led Planet that 'Star Wars' Needs

You've probably never heard of Taris. It has a pretty rich history in the Expanded Universe involving various ancient wars with the Mandalorians, the Jedi, and the Sith. But in the new canon, there are only a few things we know about it: it's an urban planet (like Coruscant), it's heavily polluted, and it's exclusively led by black women.
First: Star Wars is in desperate need of women of color representation

In the past few years, Star Wars has done wonders for its women and its men of color. The Force Awakens and Rogue One both centered on female protagonists and included multiple black, Latino, and Asian men in their supporting casts. But women of color have still been massively underrepresented.
Rogue One was led by a woman and its supporting cast included a Mexican man, two Chinese men, and a British Pakistani man
Last November, Just Add Color examined the history of women of color in Star Wars, pointing out that Lupita Nyong'o, the first black woman with any real part in the movies, is coincidentally buried under CGI as Maz Kanata. What's even more troublesome is that in the past, women of color have often been cast as scantily-clad, defenseless Twi'lek sex slaves. 

Other stories in the new canon have struggled far less with racial diversity among their female characters. Recent books and graphic novels have introduced tough women of color like Rae Sloane, Korr Sella (whose role was mostly cut from The Force Awakens), Sana Starros, and Doctor Aphra. The singleplayer campaign in the massively-anticipated Battlefront II will also be led by Imperial soldier Iden Versio, played by Janina Gavankar, an American actress of Indian descent.
Rae Sloane, Doctor Aphra, and Iden Versio
These women are beloved by WOC fans who can finally see characters who look like them in Star Wars stories, but the core of Star Wars has always been the movies; that's where representation is most important.

The cinematic side of the franchise has been moving in the right direction, just not in the roles that matter the most. The enormously talented Thandie Newton will be playing one of Star Wars' first on-screen black women in Solo: A Star Wars Story (assuming that her performance won't be motion-captured like Nyong'o's), and Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran is joining The Last Jedi as Rose Tico, but both actresses only have supporting roles.
It's worth noting that when casting the female lead for Solo, Lucasfilm were considering a slew of talented actresses of color, including Tessa Thompson, Zoë Kravitz, and Jessica Henwick. They ended up choosing Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke instead, making her just the latest in a long line of white brunettes at the forefront of Star Wars movies. (At least Thompson went on to star as Valkyrie in the MCU, another mega-franchise in need of WOC representation.)

The galaxy of Star Wars is supposed to be a diverse one, for both aliens and humans. Earth and its continents don't exist there, but we can still recognize different racial groups in the characters that we see and, most importantly, identify with them (as well as describe them with real-world labels such as "black" and "Asian," either because those are the races of the actors portraying them, or because those are clearly the races that they are modeled after).

Simply put, Lucasfilm is constantly designing new aliens, creatures, and droids to add to its mythos; it shouldn't be that hard to include women of color, too.

Now, back to Taris...

In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Kin Robb frequently appeared in the background of Senate meetings, generally associating with political powerhouses like Padmé, Satine, and Onaconda Farr. The series' character encyclopedia identifies her as a representative of the "faded city-world" of Taris. 
At the time of Rogue One, Tynnra Pamlo (Sharon Duncan-Brewster) of Taris was one of many senators who were reluctant to strike against the Empire, prompting Jyn's speech. ("You're asking us to invade an Imperial installation based on nothing but hope," Pamlo said, to which Jyn famously replied, "Rebellions are built on hope.") Though her voice was a pessimistic one, Pamlo nevertheless drew attention from fans as the sole black woman speaking her mind at a major Rebel Alliance conference.
As pointed out to me by Chris Werms on Twitter, Taris' history of well-dressed black female leaders doesn't end there. Star Wars: The Force Awakens' visual dictionary includes Andrithal Robb-Voti, Taris' senator in the New Republic (and a probable relative of Kin Robb's) who was killed when Starkiller Base destroyed Hosnian Prime in the film:
No, none of these women are portrayed in a positive light. Kin Robb is essentially mute when it comes to sharing her own opinions. Pamlo is only used as a plot device to make Jyn look more inspiring (when it would have been so powerful to see her take a stand with Jyn against space Nazis). And to the best of my knowledge, Andrithal Robb-Voti has literally no on-screen presence whatsoever.

But this can't be a coincidence. Someone in the Lucasfilm Story Group must have decided at some point that Taris is a world in which fashionable black women – and as far as we know, only fashionable black women – are in charge. And the best part? All of this is canon.
(Well, actually, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars character encyclopedia is filed under "Legends" on Wookieepedia, so Kin Robb's association with Taris is not confirmed to be canon. But considering her apparent connection to Robb-Voti and the lack of any evidence to the contrary, it's fairly safe to assume that Robb is canonically from Taris. Either way, Pamlo and Robb-Voti are 100% Tarisian.)

In both the real world and the Star Wars franchise, women of color have a long history of being marginalized. Taris is a place where they're empowered, where black women seem to have risen to the highest political ranks not because racism and sexism were gradually overcome by their society, but because they never existed in the first place. Is this not a world that we need to see more of?
Ursa Wren and her daughter Sabine, both Asian women, in Star Wars Rebels
Truthfully, Taris probably won't be expanded on anytime soon. It's too much to hope that we'll ever learn more about its culture that seems to favor females. And obviously "black women" and "women of color" are not interchangeable terms; a whole movie centered on Taris still wouldn't rectify the lack of representation for other non-white women.

But if a place like Taris can exist, couldn't there be worlds out there exclusively ruled by Asian, Hispanic, Latina, Middle-Eastern, or indigenous women as well? Maybe they, too, have been lurking just below the surface, waiting for fans to discover them. Maybe they haven't even been imagined yet. What Taris represents is a glimmer of hope that in five years, or 10 years, or even 20, planets like these will be at the forefront of Star Wars stories.
Steela Gerrera, a young rebel leader who was introduced in The Clone Wars before her death
Kin Robb. Tynnra Pamlo. Andrithal Robb-Voti. Remember these women, even if the franchise itself doesn't. Remember Taris, not as a mostly-discarded piece of the Star Wars continuity, but as one tiny corner of the galaxy where women of color get the representation they deserve. 

With any luck, they won't be in the background much longer.