Ways The New Characters Could've Ruined The Force Awakens

The return of many original Star Wars cast members was a big part of the draw for longtime fans when J.J. Abrams took the helm for The Force Awakens. But like any long-running story, this is a saga that's poised to make some major changes over the next few films, and they'll be brought to life by an array of new actors playing characters who do a ton of heavy lifting in this new episode. Even still, things could have turned out very differently. Here are a few of the ways the latest additions to the Star Wars universe could have ruined The Force Awakens. Major spoilers follow, of course.


Three-dimensional female characters are unfortunately a rarity in Hollywood, and—Princess Leia's butt-kicking arc in A New Hope notwithstanding—that's been very much the case in the Star Wars universe. We suffered through three prequels full of Natalie Portman delivering some of the silliest dialogue in the saga, so we were admittedly worried about whether The Force Awakens would truly be able to do justice to its central female protagonist. We even entertained a few nightmare visions of our new hero becoming a damsel in distress or winding up trapped in some sort of vitality-sapping love story, especially given that Daisy Ridley is a relative newcomer.

Fortunately, Rey is a thoroughly intriguing and utterly identifiable character from the first moments we spend with her. She makes her lonely way across the ruins of wrecked Empire starships on the desert planet of Jakku, and her command of the canvas only increases throughout the movie's running time. We can just imagine Portman watching all the great material Ridley was given to work with and dejectedly shaking her head at what could have been.


Although we obviously don't really know where the plotline for the new Star Wars trilogy is headed, it seems fairly obvious that Rey is our main hero. But even with Rey edging toward center stage during The Force Awakens, there's still an awful lot going on, including the return of an array of beloved characters from the original films. There's so much going on, in fact, that John Boyega's Finn is more or less carried along by the plot alone after his major entrance in the opening act. As such, Finn could have felt like a largely superfluous addition to the story.

Fortunately, J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan's script tosses plenty of laugh-out-loud lines Finn's way, and Boyega's finely calibrated portrayal of the renegade Stormtrooper with a mysterious past adds much-needed depth to a character who starts the movie thinly characterized by design. This is a guy who's kidnapped by First Order goons as a child, given a number instead of a name, and essentially brainwashed into being part of a fascist army. And early on, Finn's inner conflict is merely expressed with a lot of sweating and bug-eyed panting. In the saga's weakest installments, that kind of emoting was allowed to stand as a substitute for actual acting. But here, it's just the beginning of an evolution that offers the audience crucial insight into the reconstituted Empire, while promising the start of Finn's crucial character arc for the new trilogy.

Kylo Ren

A powerful Jedi torn between good and evil, and seduced by the Dark Side. Sound familiar? Kylo Ren's central conflict is one we've seen played out repeatedly throughout the Star Wars saga. And that's definitely not a bad thing in and of itself, since George Lucas' creations have always thrived on the callbacks, archetypical characters, and plot outlines that run throughout Western mythology. But its success heavily depends upon the right script, not to mention the right actor for the job.

Fortunately for The Force Awakens (not to mention long-suffering Star Wars fans), Adam Driver brings his character thrillingly to life, embodying not only the heartless menace of Ren's more aggressive moments, but convincingly portraying a man who's genuinely conflicted over whether the path he's chosen is really the one that's right. Unlike Hayden Christiansen's performance in the prequels, which rather woodenly depicts Anakin Skywalker straying to the Dark Side, The Force Awakens promises the start of a truly heart-wrenching journey for its main villain.

Poe Dameron

A space pilot with a swashbuckling demeanor and a well-timed quip always at the ready, Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron could easily have amounted to little more than a vain attempt to offer the new trilogy its own updated version Han Solo. That's an annoying prospect that would have fallen doubly flat, since The Force Awakens treats us to the long-awaited return of the actual Solo himself. But where Han is a cynical outsider drawn begrudgingly into a conflict he would have preferred to avoid, Poe takes joy in being a member of the Resistance, and the almost childlike thrill he seems to derive from going toe-to-toe with the First Order is a breath of fresh air from a franchise whose heroes have always tended toward the serious. Han 2.0 he is not—and that's a good thing.

Poe's dashing antics are arguably the best part of the movie's opening act. So we can't help but feel like we dodged another potentially fatal Force Awakens flaw after reading the GQ interview in which Isaac reveals Dameron was supposed to die in an earlier draft. He was prepared to accept his character's unfairly speedy demise, but fortunately, J.J. Abrams quickly realized the value of a character we can't wait to see more of over subsequent Star Wars installments, and although Poe recedes into the background a bit after that gangbusters opening act, we see many thrilling battles in his future.

Captain Phasma

Captain Phasma's cool chrome-plated Stormtrooper uniform was one of the first things touted by Disney during the run-up to The Force Awakens, but she barely rates a mention in the movie; aside from a brief battlefield appearance and a quick sequence in which her character is subjected to a rather undignified inconvenience, Gwendoline Christie's highly anticipated First Order officer is something of a footnote in Episode VII's story.

Yet as longtime Star Wars fans can attest, it could have been a lot worse for Phasma. From Boba Fett being accidentally knocked into a Sarlacc pit by a blind Han Solo, to Darth Maul being sliced in half before audiences even really had a chance to appreciate his horn-headed menace, some of the franchise's most fearsome villains have ultimately ended up being played for laughs or meeting disappointingly undignified ends. Even if Phasma is largely sidelined throughout The Force Awakens, the visual menace of her appearance—not to mention the sheer novelty of hearing a woman's voice coming crackling out of a Stormtrooper's helmet—is enough to keep us on tenterhooks waiting for her inevitable emergence as a truly viable threat later in the new trilogy. If she winds up killing Poe, though, we're going to be well and truly ticked off.

Supreme Leader Snoke

For true Star Wars fans, the abundance of narrative parallels that run throughout the saga is part of its inherent appeal. That's sort of a fancy way of saying that although we've definitely seen the master-apprentice relationship play out on the Dark Side of the Force before, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with Kylo Ren bearing allegiance to the shadowy, sinister Supreme Master Snoke, no matter how similar that dynamic might seem to the bond between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

On the other hand, if Snoke had merely been some dude sneering out from underneath a black cloak, we might have been inclined to take his menace a little less seriously. For all of the creepy-eyed mojo Emperor Palpatine displays in the original trilogy, the prequels ultimately reveal him to be little more than a particularly evil politician—and one with a knack for getting his more interesting buddies killed while he lurks in the shadows. It's all George Lucas' way of showing how the Dark Side uses fear and anger to corrupt—but it's also not all that satisfying. So it's to The Force Awakens' distinct advantage that when we get our first look at the mysterious Snoke, he ends up being a disfigured alien whose decrees are issued from a holographic apparatus that makes him look like a Wookiee-dwarfing giant. His list of bad deeds is still a little Palpatine-esque for our liking: by turning Ren against Luke, he repeats the history that already played out with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the prequels, and his Starkiller Base is basically a Death Star redux. But we have faith Snoke's wicked machinations will come snarling satisfyingly to the foreground in time for Episode IX.

Maz Kanata

If there's one thing that truly got longtime Star Wars fans excited for The Force Awakens, aside from the original cast's return, it was the news that Abrams intended to rely heavily on practical sets and effects. It was a thoroughly welcome return to the grungy aesthetic that made the original trilogy feel so wonderfully grounded, while marking an overdue about-face from the heaps of dated CGI that helps harpoon the sequels. Of course, you can't really make a movie these days without employing digital effects, and Maz Kanata, a diminutive alien pirate played by the Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong'o, offers a wonderful case in point.

Fortunately, while Kanata is a digital creation, she doesn't feel fake—which says as much about Nyong'o's performance and advancements in technology as much as it is a testament to a screenplay that manages to pause for a few moments of genuine character development when it isn't zipping all over a galaxy far, far away. Kanata's bar really just serves as the way station for a crucial plot point in the movie, but we'd be perfectly okay with seeing her again. And that's something we were never able to say about Jar Jar Binks.