Star Wars-mania is back in full swing and sweeping the nation. Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues to break new records with each passing day. It is highly probable that the film will soon become the No. 1 grossing film at the domestic box office. The Force Awakens is not merely doing well commercially; it has also garnered exceptional critical acclaim. The Rotten Tomatoes meter for sequel currently sits at 94%, with an average rating of 8.2/10. That is pretty fantastic for any movie release, not just a big Hollywood blockbuster. Plain and simple, everyone is high on Star Wars again. The Prequel Trilogy was popular, and it did introduce Star Wars to a new generation of fans. However, the prequels were vilified by audiences. The Force Awakens appears to have given the franchise a fresh start. More than that, the sequel has provided a fresh set of new characters in which to invest. With the new characters, fans will now grow up with their own favorites. But how did the new characters stack up? Here are my own personal rankings for the best new characters introduced by The Force Awakens. Obviously, this article contains spoilers and some plot discussion from the film, so please read at your own risk.
HONORABLE MENTION: General Hux
There is something quite interesting about General Hux. In the previous Star Wars trilogy, the officers in the Imperial army were very nondescript. Other than Grand Moff Tarking, they didn’t have much in the way of characterization. Hux is a completely different beast for the franchise. He’s sort of the face of the First Order. This is a splinter group of the Empire that has grown like a festering wound for several decades. That has resulted in Hux becoming bitter regarding the New Republic, and it has emboldened him in his cause to destroy the Resistance. Hux is more than just an officer; he’s a true believer. That makes him even more dangerous and formidable. Played with great expertise by Domhnall Gleeson, Hux is very memorable in his interactions with Kylo Ren. When faced with a Dark Force user who could slice him to ribbons, Hux never backs down or wilts at all. In fact, he flagrantly defies Ren multiple times in the film. Hux is of some use to Supreme Leader Snoke, and he knows it. It will be interesting to see if Hux comes into conflict again with Kylo Ren in the future.
5. Kylo Ren
First on the list is the sequel’s new, essential villain, Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren, a former Jedi who turned to the Dark Side, is expertly played in the film by Adam Driver. The villains/antagonists in Star Wars, never really came off as conflicted as Kylo Ren. Apparently, Kylo Ren wants to serve the Dark Side of the Force. However, he still constantly faces the temptation and pull toward the Light Side. Previously, Star Wars has depicted this conflict as a temptation and conflict for the heroes, but not typically for the villains. Kylo Ren looks to be fighting a war within his own psyche. That war blares outward in amusing ways through his lightsaber tantrums, which produce two of the most hilarious moments in the film.
Finn brought something to the table that’s never really happened before in the Star Wars franchise. He put an actual face to the Stormtroopers, the rank and file of the First Order’s army, formerly the Empire. In the original trilogy, the Stormtroopers were always faceless. They never had their own identity. To see a Stormtrooper not only take off his helmet, but also have doubts about his mission and lot in life, was quite fresh and ingenious. Even the critics who claim The Force Awakens is nothing more than a rehash of A New Hope refuse to acknowledge that there has never been a character quite like Finn. Finn is a part of the massacre of a Jakku village. It seems he’s new to the Stormtrooper post, but he quickly discovers he’s not into the mission of the First Order. So, Finn opts to rescue Poe Dameron to go AWOL, which puts him on a reluctant path toward becoming a hero in his own right. John Boyega did a great job of playing a character that finally provides a human face to the Stormtroopers and shows that they are not all faceless monsters. One Stormtrooper actually abandoned his post and defected to the Resistance. That’s an interesting concept that Boyega was able to play with.
Every generation has a story. And the central hero of the new Star Wars trilogy is the mysterious Rey. By the end of The Force Awakens, Rey remains an enigma. Her background is still one of the great question marks heading into Star Wars: Episode VIII. That is part of what makes Daisy Ridley’s Rey so intriguing. There is still so much about her that is unknown. Based on the limited information that came from The Force Awakens, one could easily draw a conclusion that perhaps, Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker; or maybe there is some relation between the two. However, is that a conclusion that might be too obvious? Kathleen Kennedy previously said to Costco Connection that the saga Star Wars films are about the Skywalker family. The obvious suggestion there is that Rey, as the central protagonist, is of the Skywalker lineage. I know the label critics are throwing around that Rey is a “Mary Sue” character, but I do not agree with that assertion. Rey might be a little over-powered, but she’s definitely more than a Mary Sue. Her character has layers, and she was deathly afraid of using Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber at first. However, when Rey returns at the end for her duel with Kylo Ren, it is one of the coolest moments of the film. It had the whole audience cheering.
How can anyone not love BB-8? It seems even months before Episode VII was even released, audiences were already falling in love with BB-8. BB-8 was basically a show-stealer in just about every scene he was in. He has a unique design, he’s full of personality of spunk, he’s loyal and he’s heroic. He has all the qualities you want out of an iconic Star Wars droid. BB-8 did not disappoint on his initial promise from his appearance in the very first teaser trailer. One of the film’s best moments is when Finn throws a “thumbs up” directed at BB-8, and BB-8 unfurls a blowtorch, producing a make-shift “thumbs up” sign in response. It was absolutely adorable. The other reason BB-8 is so cool: his movements mirror his emotions. In addition, the audience will reflect his emotions as well. When BB-8 is sad or crestfallen, the audience feels the same way. When BB-8 is frightened, the audience is frightened with him. Whenever Jar Jar Binks was onscreen, audience members usually just wanted him to go away…or die.
1. Poe Dameron
Oscar Isaac completely owns the role of Poe Dameron. After walking out of the screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Main Theater at the Walt Disney Studios lot, my feeling was that Poe Dameron could very well be the new Han Solo of the sequel trilogy. Dameron essentially helps get the story going, as it is his secret mission to retrieve a map to find Luke Skywalker. Isaac simply has this unique charisma and charm that he brings to the role of Poe Dameron. In the face of the First Order and Kylo Ren, Poe actually tries to deflate the situation with an odd sense of humor. There’s a sort of swash-buckling quality to Poe, and the sequel will hopefully explore further. One of the most fun aspects of the film is Poe’s evolving “bro-mance” with Finn. Not to mention, Poe is an ace pilot for the Resistance. Director J.J. Abrams’ coming to the realization that Poe should not die early on was the right move. This is a great character that audiences can enjoy throughout the new trilogy. The problem with the prequel trilogies is that many of the characters were not really likable or relatable. No one in the prequels was as cool or entertaining as Poe Dameron.