Starkiller Base

Son of Solo

The line, coming in a dramatic moment in The Forces Awakens, is powerful in its brevity and delivery. Han Solo, helping to plant charges which he hopes will give the Resistance an advantage in destroying Starkiller Base, sees the film’s villain Kylo Ren standing alone on a bridge, a bridge which spans a seemingly bottomless chasm. At this point in the film we know that Kylo Ren and Han Solo are related, that Solo is Ren’s father. However, it is not until Solo advances towards the dark-shrouded man that we  suddenly and unexpectedly learn Kylo Ren’s given name. “Ben!!!!”, Solo shouts to get the villains attention, doing so and beginning a conversation which, we also know, ends just as suddenly and unexpectedly when Solo is killed by his tormented offspring.

There are any number of ways one could approach/discuss the events which unfold in this dramatic scene in The Force Awakens. And, I am sure I could provide some well-developed and, I’d like to believe, insightful thoughts on it. But my intentions in this brief conversation far less overarching, and I am much more interested in providing, for now, a small morsel of consideration regarding the moment Han Solo shouts the name Ben.

To begin, when I heard Solo pronounce Kylo Ren’s true name, I was, undoubtedly like many others, struck by the fact that Ben is also the pseudonym used by Obi-Wan Kenobi whilst he lived on Tatooine (Ben Kenobi). Assuredly, this is an indication that Han Solo and Leia Organa named their only child after the famed Jedi Master, perhaps as a way to honor the man who, from a certain point of view, brought the lovers together. Plus, if we backup and consider the countless ways The Force Awakens borrows from/echoes A New Hope, it seems appropriate that the film includes a character named Ben. And yet, that Kylo Ren’s real name is Ben has another equally important and symbolic meaning, one that resonates as loudly as Solo’s voice when the name leaves his mouth.

A Hebrew name originating in the Jewish Tanakh, Benjamin (the anglicized form of Binyamin) is often translated in two distinct ways: “Son of the south” or “Son of the right hand.” Thus, taken alone as a masculine noun, “Ben” quite literally means “Son” and/or “Son of” (Yeshua ben Eleazar ben Sira = Joshua [Jesus] son of Eleazar son of Sira). Ben is used in both given names and surnames of Hebraic origin, although philologists who study Hebrew will be quick to point out that “Ben” is used in a number of other ways as well.

While I would enjoy delving deeper into the nuanced meanings and usage of “Ben” and “Benjamin” in Biblical texts, my reason for noting its usage as a masculine Hebrew noun should be fairly obvious. On the one hand, Han Solo is not just yelling the name “Ben!!!” to get Kylo Ren’s attention, but he is also, quite literally, yelling “Son!!!” On the other hand, we can translate the name Ben Solo as the “Son of Solo.”

I cannot say with any authority that the writer(s)/director of The Force Awakens, when  choosing the given name for Kylo Ren, were aware that the name Ben could be translated as “Son” or “Son of.” While it is likely that the name was chosen to create superficial connection with Ben Kenobi, I am never-the-less left wondering whether Ben was also chosen because of it’s original Hebrew meaning. Still, intentional or not, the meaning in the name Ben is present, rippling outwards as it leaves Han Solo’s lips. With these complimentary meanings in mind – “Ben” = “Son” and “Ben Solo” = “Son of Solo” – the potential for new insights about The Force Awakens may emerge. And if they do, I hope you will share some of those insights with me.

Bow to the First Order

I could talk at length about a number of scenes in The Force Awakens, but one scene that really stood out to me in my first viewing of the film is when General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, addresses an assembly of First Order soldiers and officers on Starkiller Base. With a massive First Order flag behind him and a sea of white armor and black uniforms spread out below him, General Hux delivers a charismatic speech lambasting the Republic and “loathsome” Resistance.  I was immediately captivated by what Hux was preaching, drawn in by the raw hatred bleeding off of every perfectly annunciated word as he railed against a Republic “regime” that “acquiesces to disorder.” I could easily imagine the soldiers and officers in attendance feeling empowered by their commanding General, their resolve to make the galaxy “bow to the First Order” strengthened.

It hardly needs to be said but this scene gives off some pretty intense Nazi-esque vibes, the setting visually reminiscent of a Nazi Party rally with General Hux playing the role of Adolf Hitler. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Domhnall Gleeson prepared for this particular scene by watching videos of Adolf Hitler speaking, given how closely Hux imitates Hitler in demeanor and oration.

Salute
General Hux (foreground) receives a very Nazi-esque salute from his soldiers, left arm raised with a fist, once his speech concludes.  
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Hux isn’t just mimicking Hitler, though. Oh no, he is also mimicking another Chancellor we are all familiar with: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Recall the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine gives an impassioned and empowering speech to the Senate about the “Jedi rebellion” and the physical scars he received from the Jedi. He then follows this with a chilling declaration:

In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, the Republic will be re-organized into the First Galactic Empire!

While the context of General Hux’s speech is different than Palpatine’s, both none-the-less mirror each other in an important way: by calling for the end of the Republic. Using his authority as Supreme Chancellor, Palpatine proclaims the formation of the Empire, washing away the Republic even though he does not, at that point, disband the Senate. On the other hand, Hux vehemently and viciously exclaims more than once that the end of the Republic is nigh, which comes to fruition when Starkiller  Base is used to destroy Hosnian Prime, the planet hosting the current session of the Republic Senate.

Two charismatic and authoritative figures declaring and then executing, in their own ways, the same outcome – the death of liberty and democracy.

But while Hux parallels Palpatine in declaring an end to the Republic, this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that the two individuals are exactly the same, or that the organizations they represent are perfectly comparable. Frankly, even though the First Order was born from the remnants of its Imperial predecessor, they are not the same thing. Both share some obvious similarities, like the use of Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, and TIE Fighters, but the two entities have much different motivations and goals. And this is precisely  why this short scene is so critical to the film – Hux might be inspiring his soldiers with his harsh words, but he is also speaking to you and I, giving us direct insight into the First Order and how it stands apart from the Galactic Empire.

Honestly, what better way for the film to teach us about this mysterious organization, the new villains in the Star Wars universe, than by allowing us all to participate in a secret gathering on their secret base?

So, what did YOU think about this scene? About General Hux? About the First Order?  


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

swcomlinksbanner1

 

Star Wars: Phasma

As I headed into my first viewing of The Force Awakens, I was under the impression that Captain Phasma would be one of the primary villains in the film, on par with Kylo Ren and General Hux. Well, she is certainly villainous, strutting around with a Vader-esque swag in one of the coolest looking outfits created for a character in the Star Wars universe. Plus, on those  occasions where we hear her speak, she is incredibly intimidating, her voice projecting calm, collected authority.

Phasma VF
Captain Phasma stands in the wreckage of Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana…except, we don’t see her participate in this battle in the movie.
Photo Credit – Vanity Fair

And yet, Phasma barely shows up in the film. Given how much the chrome armored Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie, appeared in promotions for the The Force Awakens I was pretty shocked by how little she factored into the movie. But this doesn’t mean I’m specifically disappointed with Phasma as a character. Really, I thought she was fascinating, someone who  even  in her brief appearances really captivated me and left me wanting more. Ultimately, my disappointment stems from the fact that Phasma was entirely underused, not once seen leading soldiers into battle or firing her blaster. And while she does give a few orders in the film, they are insignificant in relation to the overall plot of the movie. In fact, her biggest role comes in her last appearance where she is captured by Finn, Han, and Chewbacca and they force her to lower the shields that surround Starkiller Base. But here, in her final act, I felt she was entirely misused, neutered of any  authority as she is man-handled by the three at gun point. As THE leader of the stormtroopers in the First Order, it made no sense at all that Phasma would be so willing to let these three individuals order her around. Wouldn’t she rather  die than betray the First Order? Apparently not…

Going forward into Episode VIII, I can’t imagine a scenario in which Captain Phasma doesn’t play a larger role. It would be silly for writer/director Rian Johnson not to utilize Phasma in a more direct way, particularly now that Starkiller Base is gone and, presumably, First Order and Resistance forces will be fighting a dirty and gritty war. Besides, with many fans expressing disappointment over how little she appears in The Force Awakens, it would make practical sense just to give us more of her.

But while I am hoping we get more Phasma in Episode VIII (and even IX), I had another thought: Captain Phasma would be a GREAT character for a stand-alone Star Wars film.

Boba with Carbonite Han
Boba Fett walks alongside Han Solo (who is frozen in carbonite). Notice that Fett’s cape is draped over the left shoulder.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Now, I am under no illusion this will actually happen but I’m still gonna dream about it because I believe Phasma is precisely the type of Star Wars character we all tend to love  – a mysterious and intimidating figure shrouded in unique armor. Along these lines, I would actually liken her in a lot of ways to Boba Fett and even wonder if Phasma was created with everyone’s favorite bounty hunter in mind (she even drapes her cape over the same shoulder that Boba Fett drapes his). Plus, like Boba Fett, Captain Phasma need not say/do much of anything for us to know she is someone you do not cross. Honestly, while I do think she was underutilized in the movie, I give J.J. Abrams a lot of credit for creating a character who, with very little screen time, radiates an incredible amount of badass.

But whereas we were given a young Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones, along with Jango Fett (who Boba looks like as an adult since he is a clone of Jango), I would go so far as to suggest that in a Phasma film, the chrome helmet needn’t come off. In fact, the only exception to this would be if the helmet were to be knocked off in the heat of battle. Otherwise, we already know what Gwendoline Christie looks like, and we can simply us our imagination to conjur up images of her intimidating expression. If there were a scene with a young Phasma, I would even suggest that the child keep her training helmet on. In short, a Phasma film, set prior to the events of The Force Awakens, would be an excellent way to establish the duty and devotion she has to the First Order, duty and devotion so entrenched she is always wearing her gear.

Does this mean she wears her gear to bed or when showers? Of course not, that would be silly. But we wouldn’t need, nor should we want, to see Phasma in the confines of her quarters. Seeing Phasma in her downtime would take away from the badassery that surrounds her. Besides, I can’t imagine Phasma being the type of figure who decides to take a nice, hot bubble bath after a long day of work.  No, what I want to see is a character so duty-bound, so devoted, so loyal to the First Order that nothing else matters. For Captain Phasma, there is ONLY the First Order.

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about Captain Phasma’s role in The Force Awakens.