We queued at Toys “R” Us, Target, and the Disney Store for the midnight opening. We scoured toy aisles, scrutinized packaging, checked out costumes, and read the books to answer the big question: What did Force Friday tell us about The Force Awakens?
Caution: mild spoilers and wild speculation below.
The toys give us detailed, 3-D looks at the characters who have become familiar from the trailers: the young heroes Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron; their droid sidekick, BB-8; key baddies Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, and General Hux; and First Order stormtroopers of various armor and functions. Via the talking action figures we also hear the voices of Kylo Ren (intoning such lines as “You know what I’ve come for,” “Don’t fight it… you know you can’t,” “I’m immune to the light,” and “Together, we will destroy the Resistance and the last Jedi”), Phasma, and Finn.
But we’re also getting our first good look at characters either barely glimpsed in the teasers or not yet seen. These include the Hasbro action figures Constable Zuvio; Unkar’s thug and Teedo; and the Lego minifigures Tasu Leech and Kanjiklub gang member.
Teedo, Zuvio, and Unkar’s thug — previously known as “junkyard thug” when his costume was revealed at Star Wars Celebration — all seem to be denizens of the desert planet where Rey, Finn, and BB-8 all come together. The 3.75-inch Unkar’s thug and Teedo are packaged together with BB-8 in a set labeled “Desert Mission.” Could BB-8 originally have belonged to these guys? One of the Micro Machines set features Theedo riding a “luggabeast,” a domesticated desert creature of similar stature to a dewback or bantha. While Zuvio appears unsavory, the action figure bears a slight resemblance to the new “Resistance ground crew” Lego minifigure, meaning he could be Team Poe. Finally, Teedo’s costume suggests he might the alien played by Star Wars super-fan Simon Pegg.
Tasu Leech and the Kanjiklub gang member come in Lego’s Millennium Falcon construction set, which also includes figures of a grey-haired Han Solo along with Chewbacca, Finn, Rey and BB-8. The teaser trailers indicate that Han and Chewie meet up with the younger heroes on Jakku before blasting off into space for adventure; based on the action depicted on the Lego box, Tasu Leech and the gang member aren’t exactly keen on letting the band of heroes blast off.
At some point in the film we revisit R2-D2 and his trusty companion, C-3PO, the most hapless droid in the galaxy. In the years since the Battle of Endor, Goldenrod appears to have a suffered a new indignity: his left arm features different colored plating, indicating it has been replaced since last we saw him impersonating an Ewok god.
Each of the myriad new Millennium Falcon toys introduced on Force Friday feature the rectangular sensor dish that was installed after Lando Calrissian’s close call during the attack on the second Death Star in Jedi (the Lego blurb describes the ship as “leaner and meaner than ever before”).
As noted above, Han and Chewie meet up with Rey, Finn, and BB-8 on Jakku and must high-tail it out at the new-look TIE fighters attack. Mattel has a Hot Wheels Starship set called “Escape From Jakku” recreating the scene in the trailers where the Falcon zips around the wreckage of a Star Destroyer to engage the TIEs.
Speaking of TIEs, there are at least two incarnations featured in the new film. The upgraded standard-issue version and the “Special Forces” fighters, with has a red blaze on the port side. The color swath indicates the First Order’s most elite units.
There are two different X-wing fighters in the movie as well: the blue-and-grey split-wing model that Poe pilots on the forest planet and a black-and-orange starship that he uses to engage TIEs and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer in an epic space battle. BB-8 tags along as copilot in both fighters, at least according to virtually all the toys. The Lego set describes the latter X-wing as “customized,” while the Hasbro version reveals Poe is leader of Black Squadron.
There are lots of new speeders: in addition to Rey’s bulky scrap hauler that we’ve seen in the trailers, Finn pilots a landspeeder on Jakku, Poe rides a speeder bike, there’s that First Order speeder bike, and a First Order snowspeeder. There’s a new iteration of the AT-ST chicken walker — the single-trooper “assault walker.”
Kylo Ren uses his command shuttle to decamp to a super-sized Star Destroyer, which, according to Hasbro packaging is called the Finalizer, and is the site of a big space battle (the description of the toy indicates that Finn and Kylo battle inside, while Poe takes on TIE fighters outside).
The new Star Wars novel Aftermath by Chuck Wendig takes place in the wake of Return of the Jedi and decades before The Force Awakens. While the Emperor and his chief enforcer Vader are dead, the still-formidable remnants of the Empire have retreated to the remote planet systems of the Outer Rim to regroup and plot their comeback against the New Republic (né the Rebel Alliance). Here, we get our first official description of the desert planet Jakku as “the farthest-flung nowhere rock I could find on a star map.” As we already knew from the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront game, Jakku eventually becomes the setting of a massive battle between New Republic and Imperial forces, scattering starship debris across the sands, valuable pickings for the local scavenger class. At some point in The Force Awakens, the First Order attacks, as indicated by several of the toy sets.
Aftermath also introduces a shadowy group called the Acolytes of the Beyond, whose adherents have a twisted devotion to the Dark Side and are obsessed with Darth Vader relics, including one particular laser sword. “We are not violent,” a member tells a weapons trader. “Not yet.” This might be the cult that gives rise to Kylo Ren.
Meanwhile, Han Solo and Chewbacca are back together in the patched-up Millennium Falcon, under orders from Princess Leia and the rest of the New Republic leadership to sniff out leads on the Imperial survivors’ whereabouts.
Between the footage in the trailers and the new merchandise, we can identify at least three planets (or, more precisely, ecosystems — Jakku might have a lovely polar beach resort) where the events of The Force Awakens will unfold. Aside from Jakku, there’s an ice world where the First Order assembles at Starkiller Base, the site of Kylo Ren’s showdown with Finn as teased last week on Instagram (there’s Finn action figure featuring cold-weather gear and labeled “Starkiller Base”). Finally, there’s a forested planet, where ace flyboy Poe Dameron leads a group of X-wings, while the First Order, under the command of Captain Phasma, takes on the Resistance.
While Friday’s merch dump contained dozens of new characters and vehicles there were some notable omissions. There wasn’t a single Luke or Leia in the bunch, meaning Lucasfilm is still keeping wraps on revealing the aged Luke Skywalker (illicit photo leaks of Mark Hamill’s now-bearded Jedi Master notwithstanding) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), presumably until the final trailer debut… or maybe even until the Dec. 18 release of the film. Abrams is also saving the reveals of the film’s anticipated motion-capture characters: the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke (performed by Andy Serkis), who may be the puppetmaster behind the First Order and the one really commanding that tricked-out Star Destroyer, and the mysterious Maz Kanata, played by Lupita Nyong’o, who believes her character won’t be unveiled until the film arrives.
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