I’ve come to a slow realization over the past few days regarding the characters in the Prequels, the Original Trilogy, and now the Sequel Trilogy (is that what we’re still calling it? I don’t even know).
I feel like the further away we get from the Original Trilogy, the more superfluous characters have become.
In the Original Trilogy, it felt like every character had a purpose. From the bartender (Wuher) in the Cantina to Lobot in ESB and the Bib Fortuna in ROTJ, the smaller characters had a job to relay to the audience. Using the above examples, Wuher was meant to show how green Luke was, along with many of the other Cantina characters who had speaking roles. Lobot helped Lando save our heroes. Bib Fortuna showed us how Luke’s power as a Jedi had grown as he is the first character we see Luke successfully use a Jedi Mind Trick on.
As I think back on the Original Trilogy, it’s hard for me to think about someone who did not have a purpose within the Star Wars universe. (Please note, I’m not referring to extras like the gangsters at Jabba’s palace, the characters on Coruscant, etc.)
When we moved into the Prequel Trilogy, we were introduced to a whole new set of characters, many more than in the “simple” Original Trilogy. If we look at the consistent characters, there was Padmé, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Shmi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Palpatine, Threepio, Artoo, Count Dooku, Jango Fett, Grievous.
Out of these characters, it seems like some of them could have been cut (yes, seriously). Of them, perhaps Count Dooku and Grievous could have been combined to create one nemesis under the shadow of Sidious. Jango Fett, while interesting, was mainly there for fan pleasure as a backstory for Boba Fett. We could have had a clone army without Jango Fett: the Kaminoans could have picked anyone. Did we need Jocasta Nu? What was her purpose? To show that there are grumpy librarians even in libraries in alternate galaxies? Don’t get me started on the entire meeting of Separatists in AOTC, or the way they got bustled around in ROTS. Some of me wonders if Mace Windu was even a necessary character in how large of a role he played.
We are in the Sequel Trilogy stage now, and the amount of extra, needless characters are starting to get on my nerves. The whole inspiration and backstory for this post was the pondering I did about Captain Phasma a few days ago. She was/is the most irrelevant, useless character. After all the buildup for her and trust me – I’m happy we have a female stormtrooper antagonist – her role was gratuitous. It didn’t move the story along at all, in both TFA and TLJ. The hatred between her and Finn was yawn-worthy and battle scene between them both could have been cut from TLJ.
There is also Poe, who as much as I enjoy as a character, he does not have a lot of depth to him. I understand he was supposed to die in TLJ at the crash, and some of me wishes he did. I think it would have been more interesting to see Finn evolve with the Resistance and become Leia’s go-to man instead of Poe. Of course, I understand that the entire trilogy is not complete yet so there may be a lot more in store for Poe than we have seen (I’m thinking maybe he takes Leia’s place and if so, this could be enjoyable, and my argument is moot).
I won’t go into Rogue One. Not worth my time as it will probably end with a rant completely off-topic from this.
With Disney at the helm of Star Wars, we are faced with an interesting predicament. We seem to be sacrificing character depth for either a) breaking the mold, or b) wanting to connect too many story lines.
With Point A, I argue that though I love what they are doing with characters and creating roles that break away from the traditional white male Hollywood storyline, we are instead left with characters who don’t have much to do. Why did we need Rose? I wrote about her purpose within TLJ, but could she have been cut out so that Finn has a stronger role within the Resistance? Finn was a solid, necessary character in TFA, but then his role became questionable in TLJ as he was lumped in with Rose. Was Holdo needed? I’m on the fence about that one as I want to see where we go with Poe’s character development in IX. Captain Phasma is the worst waste of a character and she was in there to “break the mold”. We could have General Hux (in any “break the mold” type of way they want) replace Phasma entirely to understand the way the First Order operates. Now Phasma’s dead (maybe, you never know with Star Wars) and I’m left to wonder why we had her character if she’s easily thrown into a trash compactor or defeated in hand-to-hand combat by someone who works in sanitation.
Which leads me to Point B. With the introduction of Disney and the Story Group, they want to keep everything within one canon. I applaud this effort and I was in strong favor of it. I still am, for the most part, but it seems that when they create these unnecessary characters, they also do it so that they can expand upon them in books, comics, or the TV shows. This is good and bad. It’s good because as a rabid fan, you can see the connections between all mediums of Star Wars and it satiates your need to know more about everyone and everything. It’s bad because it could potentially create weaker characters in the movie or characters that may not mirror well with their movie counterpart (see: Phasma).
Because Star Wars is, at its heart, based on the movies, I would argue for less characters and stronger ones. I do not think we have to sacrifice originality of plot or “breaking the mold” characters to achieve this goal. When I watch Star Wars, I want to understand the depth of the universe and relate to why characters have their own motivations. The more characters there are, the more plotlines there are to follow (generally) and then we have less time to spend with each one, which leads to a lack of complexity in the characters and wasted time within the story.