So the final(?) trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (mic) dropped this past Monday, leading to phenomenal cries of enthusiasm and mass crashes of pre-ticket sales sites. What is it that so stoked the collective glee of Star Wars geeks everywhere? Was it the appearance of Han AND Leia? Was it the larger scale of the action? Was it BB-8? I don’t know, and can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it was those last two shots of John Boyega drawing that blue lightsaber to take on Kylo Ren.
What makes speculating about this movie so infuriating is that we literally know nothing about the story aside from a handful of characters and who they stand with. With other films I might second guess myself into thinking this duel of Finn vs. Ren might be a mid-movie stakes raiser, yet I feel pretty confident that this is the big, climactic battle at the end not simply because of the weight attributed to the moment in the trailer (it’s definitely the “Oh F@#&” moment) but also you can clearly see that Kylo Ren is likely unmasked for this fight.
But this moment represents something very specific to me, both within the films story and out here in the real world. We don’t know for sure if Finn will be on the path to become a Jedi in this trilogy, and if he is, he probably won’t be highly trained in the ways of the Force by the end of The Force Awakens. We hear Luke in the first trailer state “… you have that power, too.” But who is he talking to: Finn or Rey? My money is still on Rey being the new Force user/Jedi-to-be. Some have a tendency to assign these roles in regards to the original trilogy, Poe Dameron being the new Han (potentially) and I’d be giddy to discover that Rey is the new Luke and Finn is the new Leia. My point is: we have no idea if Finn is a Force user. But dammit, he’s still using the lightsaber! He’s gotta fight! It’s do or die!
And where did he get that lightsaber? There’s been plenty of speculation about this even before the new trailer was released: references to old scripts and story points long ago leaked and likely since changed. One suggestion is that it is Luke (and Anakin’s) old lightsaber, lost during the Cloud City duel with Vader. It’s floated through space ever since and found its way into the unlikely hands of Finn, a Stormtrooper.
But see, this is what I REALLY want to talk about. See, the question of whether or not Finn is a Force user has become utterly irrelevant to me in regards to The Force Awakens. Because whether he is or not, we do know this: Finn begins the story as a lowly Stormtrooper (the Red-Shirts of Star Wars) and by the end finds himself in a lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren, potentially one of the most dangerous men in the galaxy. Think about that for a moment. This is almost like Luke facing Vader in A New Hope. Regardless of Finn’s status as a Force user, he’s going into that fight completely out matched and out of his league. And yet, through sheer determination, he may yet come out on top.
Damn, if that isn’t a wonderful parallel to John Boyega himself. Young kid makes his feature debut in Attack the Block (and what a debut it is), a small film that’s well regarded enough yet doesn’t leave much of an impact. Now here he makes this huge leap into not only a huge blockbuster, but one of the biggest, most successful franchises of ALL TIME! He’s carrying a lot on his shoulders, and he’s faced the most backlash in response to his part.
That’s why I’m jumping out of my seat every time I reach the end of that trailer. All of that comes flooding in and I see the look on Boyega’s face. He draws the lightsaber, a look of determination and defiance across his face. As Kylo Ren draws near and raises his weapon to strike, a flash of fear comes to his eyes… but he’s not running. He raises the lightsaber, ready to defend himself.
We humans are creatures of patterns. We see them everyday. We go looking for them. And we find them in the strangest of places. Right now, I can’t help but see a pattern linking John Boyega to his character Finn. Much in the way Finn faces off decidedly against Kylo Ren, Boyega has held his ground in the face of overwhelming negativity and flat-out racism. How can you not root for them both?
Because while we may not fully grasp the arcs of any other character in the film, Finn may well become the most humanized of them all. Much in the same way that simple farm boy from Tatooine rose up to destroy an Empire, this lowly Stormtrooper may yet pave the way to freeing the galaxy… without having the benefit of his Daddy helping him.