[Updated with more info from Jedi News]
So how about that Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer? I’m sure that some of you have watched it over and again (maybe 17 times in a row like some people!), scouring every frame for clues as writer/director JJ Abrams have been very clever in giving us our first look at all the new main characters in the franchise, but also not really telling us who they were. There are of course plenty of new supporting characters that we never saw revealed in the trailer’s 88-second running time – like whomever Gwendoline Christie or Lupita Nyong’o is playing, for example – but one of them is rather special as we actually got to hear him speak.
The trailer is of course narrated – rather ominously – by somebody who gives us the first major clues as to what this movie’s story is about. Some assumed this narrator is the darkly cloaked character with cross-guard lightsaber, and since it’s been all but officially confirmed that this villainous character is played by Adam Driver, that would mean that we’re hearing his voice. Except that it sounds nothing like his voice.
There were a few other possibilities in the cast, like Max Von Sydow, and apparently even a few possibilities not in the cast, as several websites claimed it was Benedict Cumberbatch’s distinctly sonorous pipes we were hearing, even though he wasn’t even in this movie. But now we know exactly who the owner of that gravelly voice was: Andy Serkis.
Collider were the first to reveal that it was Serkis, and their claim was soon backed up by HitFix. So why so much fuss about who’s doing all the talking? Well, firstly let’s just see what HitFix had to say in their article:
For the record, that is Andy Serkis you hear in the trailer. I was able to verify this, although I was not able to uncover any further information about the role he plays. Here’s what I do know, though. He’s playing a pivotal role in the film, although he will not have a lot of screen time.
And now, let’s look at the actual dialogue of the voice-over:
“There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?”
“The dark side… and the light.”
So a pivotal role, one that clearly has some serious connection to the Force, allowing him to feel this “awakening”, but very little screen time. Could it be that JJ Abrams and co are pulling a Phantom Menace here? And before you start involuntarily punching your monitor at the mention of that title, hear me out. In Episode I, the main bad guy is actually Palpatine aka Darth Sidious, but he has very little screen time, with most of the antagonistic actions falling onto the red and black shoulders of Darth Maul. Could Adam Driver’s villain, whomever he may be, also be just be the villainous muscle in this movie – he does share Maul’s predilection for black hooded capes and funny-shaped lightsabers – while it’s actually Serkis’ baddie that’s pulling all the strings from behind the scenes.
Everything we’ve seen and heard from Lucasfilm and all the people involved in The Force Awakens seems to indicate that they’re trying their damndest to wipe the bantha poodoo that is the Prequel Trilogy off their shoe, so the chances of them borrowing a very similar dynamic for their villains would admittedly be out of character. But it could also be argued that Maul was the most successful aspect of Episode I and recapturing that success certainly isn’t a bad thing, and it’s not as if there isn’t precedent in the Star Wars mythology as the Sith traditionally operated under “The Rule of Two”, with their only ever being a Master and an Apprentice at any given time.
[UPDATE:] Jedi News has subsequently added some rumoured info on Serkis’ roles. Yes, roles. Plural. They their sources have informed them that the actor is both part of a “group of unbelievably athletic and acrobatic motion capture characters,” which includes parkour expert Pip Anderson and Crystal Clarke, as well as playing a “pivotal role in the first act story arc that entwines with Daisy Ridley’s backstory, [and which] may have more to it than it seems in the first instance.”
Serkis is widely recognized as the master of motion-capture performances, with his filmography boasting the likes of The Lord of the Rings, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, King Kong and The Adventures of Tintin, so him lending his mo-cap expertise is certainly not unexpected, especially since it doesn’t mean that he will be appearing on-screen in the flesh. The second role is obviously the most intriguing, as it fits in perfectly with my earlier hypothesis, and may even be referring to a particular mysterious character seen interacting with Ridley in those leaked Force Awakens concept art images from the a few months back. If that is the case, then we could see Serkis as perhaps some sort of Yoda-like character, some great Master that’s been hiding out ever since Order 66.[END UPDATE]
And for those of you that are still holding onto the belief that all of this is wrong and that it was actually Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice and that they’re just holding him back for a secret cameo, /Film‘s Dave Chen took a clip of the British actor’s voice and spliced it back to back with the voice in the trailer to compare, and it’s definitely not Cumberbatch.
Last Updated: December 1, 2014