This weekend coming is Disney’s D23 Expo, the House of Mouse’s exclusive event to show off all their properties. And since one of their biggest properties, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, never actually showed off any new footage or shared any new details at Comic-Con last month, we can probably expect a big reveal at D23’s scheduled Star Wars presentation, right? Wrong! Writer/director JJ Abrams actually confirmed yesterday afternoon that nothing new will be shown at this week’s expo, which left many fans bummed.
But who needs D23 when you have Entertainment Weekly?! The magazine will be featuring The Force Awakens as their cover story with an in-depth article on the film, and last night they decided to spill the beans early with a quartet of articles (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE) that boasted new in-film and behind-the-scenes images which offer up new plot details, as well as to confirm one of the biggest rumours surrounding the film’s story and shed light on the new film’s main villain Kylo Ren.
We’ll start with the least exciting of the bunch (well, as “least exciting” as Star Wars can get), as EW revealed a series of new images, some of which offer up teasing new details about certain characters and their place in this unfamiliar post-Return of the Jedi world.[Just a warning, while these pics don’t really give away anything, what follows them could be considered SPOILER territory if you wanted to go into this movie completely clean, as some suspected plot/character details are completely confirmed/revealed. Abrams and co are too sly to reveal anything that gives away the actual plot, but if you’re afraid of SPOILERS then look at the pics and then get out of dodge] [SPOILER WARNING!]
Abrams went on to elaborate on that tease about Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, revealing that much like the “Darth” in Darth Vader, “Ren” is actually a title and not his last name (which is hinted at may be one we’re familiar with). Specifically in this case, it marks him as a member of the Knights of Ren. This is the first time we’re hearing about this group and just who they are and what their objectives will be was not divulged, but Abrams did go on to explain that the connection between Kylo Ren and Darth Vader didn’t stop there: Ren is described as a “Vader obsessive” and has even modeled his appearance on the dead Sith Lord.
“The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it’s from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask. [Ren] is well aware of what’s come before, and that’s very much a part of the story of the film.”
Abrams also confirmed what many fans suspected about Ren’s now infamous crossguard lightsaber, which is that it’s “something that he built himself, and is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character”.
“He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy. He is a little bit more complex than that, and it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way.”
Co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the original trilogy movies, also added his opinion about Kylo Ren.
“I’ve written four Star Wars movies now, and there’s never been a character quite like the one that Adam plays. I think you’re going to see something that’s brand new to the saga.”
“He’s full of emotion. No matter how we express ourselves in the world, whether we hide it and act very calm or whether we’re very out there and demonstrative, everybody’s roiling with emotion. And you want your characters to be that way, too. Then they have to deal with their emotions as best they can, with what they are.”
Ren is also seen almost as a quasi Dark Side equivalent of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, having also come up from very humble beginnings to become a major player on this galactic stage, as Abrams explains.
“As you see in the best of storytelling, and no doubt the best of Star Wars, these are tales in which an everyperson has to step up. And I think that what makes Ren so unique is that he isn’t as fully formed as when we meet a character such as Darth Vader. And I think that there are two sides to the Force. Both sides, arguably, would see themselves as the hero of their story, and I think that applies here.”
Both Abrams and Kasdan wouldn’t share much more about the character though, with Kasdan quipping “that is as far as I’d go”, but that didn’t mean that all the reveals were done though!
Remember that rumour from way, way back that somehow the story in The Force Awakens would get kickstarted when a character – at the time believed to be either Daisy Ridley’s Rey or John Boyega’s Finn – found Luke Skywalker’s severed hand, still holding his old lightsaber, which he lost in the climactic battle with Darth Vader in Bespin’s Cloud City during The Empire Strikes Back? Well it would seem that rumour was actually mostly true. It turns out that Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia is in fact the one that has now somehow come into possession of her brother’s long-lost lightsaber – which of course originally belonged to their father Darth Vader back when he was still the (relatively) innocent Anakin Skywalker.
That would certainly explain the shot seen in The Force Awakens trailer where we see Leia’s hand as she hands a lightsaber over to another character, presumably Rey. This admission will also go a long way to fueling suspicions that Rey is in fact the daughter of Princess Leia and Han Solo, and is now discovering her heritage. Especially since Abrams has now admitted that when it comes to both Rey and Finn’s last names “it is completely intentional that their last names aren’t public record”. Very interesting!
Abrams also went on to discuss the importance of the meaning of names in the Star Wars universe and gave a rundown of the origins of some of the new names:
- Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) – Mainly named after Abrams’ assistant Morgan Dameron, “because it was, obviously, a name that I know, and it just musically felt right. There was no sort of deep reasoning behind it, and I also knew it would make Morgan blush if we named a character that. So she had this giant smile on her face.” It wasn’t intended to be the final name, but it just stuck. The “Poe” part also came from a source close to Abrams: “Someone reminded me recently that my daughter had had a polar bear named Poe [or Po’ — short for “polar”], and that might’ve been why it felt right. There was a kind of sweetness to, and a charm to that name.”
- BB-8 – Despite the rumours, the little rolling droid is not named after Abrams’ producing partner Bryan Burk, but rather its distinctive body was the main inspiration here: “I named him BB-8 because it was almost onomatopoeia. It was sort of how he looked to me, with the 8, obviously, and then the 2 B’s.”
- General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) – This one is a bit unclear, even to Abrams: “Larry [Kasdan] and I would walk all over the place when we were breaking the story, and we would record our conversations. We were walking through a cemetery that’s near the Bad Robot offices, and we would often, as we were talking about characters, sort of just be glancing at names to see if any of them stuck. I don’t believe that Hux came from there, but it may have.”
- Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) – This actually has its origin in another movie, 1979 horror flick Phantasm which features a giant terrifying figure and a shiny silver sphere which would bore through its victims: “Phasma I named because of the amazing chrome design that came from Michael Kaplan’s wardrobe team. It reminded me of the ball in Phantasm, and I just thought, Phasma sounds really cool.”
On a bigger scope, Abrams wasn’t ready to divulge exactly who will be doing/going after what in this post-Return of the Jedi galaxy, but he did share a very basic rundown of the political makeup: Besides for the mysterious Knights of Ren, “the Empire has morphed into a junta known as The First Order, while X-Wing pilots like Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron now fly for a splinter group known as the Resistance”. Is that a splinter group of the old Empire or the old Rebellion? Abrams isn’t telling, except that they’re all at each other’s throats it would seem.
“Any good story has conflict. And if all were rosy 30-some years post-Jedi, we would be hard-pressed to find an interesting story to tell.”
And speaking of how things look differently three decades later in this galaxy, Kasdan also explained that it was the chance to catch up with these beloved characters at this point in their lives that appealed to him so much.
“I thought, ‘Wow, okay, these people have lived — they’re in a different place in their lives, Han and Leia and so on. They’ve lived the same 30 years I have. What would that be like? How would you see things differently?’ And I was trying to figure out how I saw things differently, and one of the surprises is that you don’t learn all that much. You haven’t become much wiser than you were, and things are not clearer to you, and the world is just as confusing as it always was — and that’s a kind of lovely thing to get to write about again. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom; it just brings experience.”
If there’s one experience that Abrams will not have though, it’s directing another Star Wars movie in this new trilogy as he has confirmed that he will not be returning for Episode IX, saying that “I am deeply envious of anyone who gets to work with this group of people on the future movies”. That doesn’t mean that his influence ends with The Force Awakens though, as it was Abrams, Kasdan, original Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story) and producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men franchise, Sherlock Holmes) who hashed out the roadmap of this trilogy – a process that wasn’t always easy.
“[They] had just been hypothesizing and throwing out a bunch of what-ifs, but there was no story in place. It was, without doubt, a formidable assignment. There were so many options and so many paths that could be taken. Even when we were in debate — and sometimes it was frustrating and heated — it was always thrilling, because it seemed almost everywhere you looked there was something potentially extraordinary, which felt very much like the DNA of Star Wars itself.”
That DNA will next be picked up by Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) who has been previously confirmed to be writing and directing Episode VIII. But as Kathleen Kennedy explains, just because that DNA already exists, doesn’t mean that we won’t be a proper Rian Johnson movie.
“We know where we’re going, but only in the broadest sense. When Rian came in and started writing his script, he started from scratch, other than knowing what we had done in Episode VII and projecting out where it was going. He then sat down and put pen to paper, and it’s 100 percent him.”
There’s no word on exactly who will be directing Episode IX or if the reports were true that Johnson will just stick around for another. That’s not Abrams’ current concern though, as right now he is is still busy in the editing booth, getting The Force Awakens ready for release. But when will it actually be ready?
“I will let you know when we get there.”
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.
Last Updated: August 13, 2015