The Sith are dead. Long live the Sith!
With every answer or piece of information we’ve gotten about The Force Awakens, a dozen questions take their place. We suppose that’s the worth of a carefully crafted strategy executed by an expert marketing team, but it’s both amazing and a little frustrating. Recently, we heard more about the Knights of Ren and speculated on their origins, but we still have a lot of to ponder.
Well, today we have even more. In an interview with Empire magazine, The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has given us a few morsels of information concerning the formation of the First Order, the Knights of Ren, and their mysterious figurehead Supreme Leader Snoke.
[Update 12/23/2015] We’ve added information from The Force Awakens novelization that sheds some light on Snoke and his role in the entire Star Wars saga.
So, what did J.J. Abrams say?
Well, first off he confirms something we already kinda knew: Kylo Ren is not a Sith… which means by extension the Knights of Ren are probably not a Sith affiliated organization. That follows our speculations on the Knights of Ren very closely, which makes us happy.
On the subject of Supreme Leader Snoke, Abrams says that Kylo Ren works under him and he “is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.”
What do we know about Snoke thus far?
Not much. We know that he’ll be a performance capture character played by the wonderfully talented Andy Serkis and he obviously knows more about the Force than the average person. There’s also a rumor he’ll be a lizard-type creature, though at this point it’s unconfirmed.
[Update 11/19/2015] In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Serkis discusses the physicality and personality of Snoke that could shed some light on the character:
“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”
“The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
Both the “damage” line and the description of him being tall lead credence to the going theory that Snoke is actually Darth Plagueis, a Munn who trained Palpatine only to have his apprentice electrocute him in his sleep.
However, the character is also reported dead in continuity and Serkis himself seems to confirm the character was created through collaboration than referencing older continuity:
“When we first started working on it, he had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance”
We wouldn’t be surprised if Snoke was based on the original concept art for Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, then iterated on that as the character was refined on set and with the input of Serkis and several effects artists:
So, expect the picture above to perhaps be a basis for the character rather than a final look. Still, it fits with the aesthetic of the rest of the film which has drawn heavily from concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s work for the original trilogy. The Force Awakens‘ X-Wings, for instance, are taken almost directly from that concept art.
[Update 12/23/15] In The Force Awakens novelization, quite a bit of information is revealed about Snoke that wasn’t in the film:
- Apparently Snoke has been working behind the scenes in galactic events for a while, even during the reign of the Empire.
- Snoke tells Kylo Ren that he’s had apprentices before him.
- Snoke finds Kylo Ren interesting because he is a fallen Jedi and thus has experience with the Light Side, something Snoke has never had in an apprentice before.
- Snoke knows Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
- The book emphasizes that Snoke has a major interest in the Skywalker family and was a major presence throughout the events of the previous films.
So, could he be a Sith?
As we speculated in the Knights of Ren article, the Sith line has seemingly died with Palpatine and Vader. However, the Dark Side still (and always) remains… and there will always be people willing to use it.
It’s possible that Palpatine had acolytes he trained in the ways of the Dark Side, as they also existed in the old expanded universe. Mara Jade, for example, was just one of the agents Palpatine had at his disposal. In the current continuity, Star Wars Rebels has set up the idea of the Inquisition: a corps of dark side users who hunt down hidden Jedi in the Empire. Perhaps one of them stepped up in Palpatine’s absence?
Either way, he can’t be a Sith. The old orders are seemingly dead, which is actually very exciting. With no Jedi or Sith around that means the slate is clean. New establishments with their own views of the Force can rise up and take the galaxy in new directions.
Unfortunately, one of those establishments seems to be The First Order.
Did Abrams say anything more about The First Order?
He did. He gave some idea behind the thought process that led to their creation, and it’s steeped in history:
“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”
Well, that certainly explains why Kylo Ren is obsessed with Vader. Indeed, the only person who knows the truth about his fate is Luke Skywalker. Does that mean he’ll be able to convince Kylo Ren to turn back to the light?