Let's take a moment to talk about space vampires. There's a space vampire in the original Star Wars movie named Dannik Jerriko who you probably don't remember. He is the guy in the Mos Eisley Cantina with the bushy hair smoking a hookah. He is from an entire alien race of space vampires called the Anzati. Why does anybody care about a character that all of a sudden seems awesome but only appears in the film for a few seconds? Because the Star Wars movies have always been for dreamers. The Force Awakens was wonderful and did what a good Star Wars movie should do: elicit many questions. How did the New Republic allow the First Order to come into being? Did Mon Mothma get blown up? And why was the Senate not on Coruscant? These were my initial questions, but more fun than that are the questions about all the weird characters that appear constantly in the background and foreground of the film.
These are questions for the dreamers, who need to know everything they can about this world of imagination. Who are these strange-looking aliens, what are they, and what motivates them? The Star Wars movies are absolutely wonderful for sparking creative discussion about all the denizens, technology, and vehicles of this made up universe. Fans are allowed to create elaborate back story about hundreds of weird images, allowed to do this more than in any other film series. Sure Star Trek has three or four aliens in the crowd that make people yell, "Who's That?" but Star Wars movies delight in the visual alien. Now that Disney is able to release literature about The Force Awakens, fans can begin trying to understand what they were looking at in the theater.
The following is a list of 10 characters introduced in this movie that are amazing. Some of them are main characters while others you you may not have even notice.
10 General Hux - Played by Domhnall Gleeson
General Hux commands legions of Stormtroopers from both the Starkiller Base and his personal Star Destroyer the Finalizer. He seems like a pretty dangerous guy, not physically as Kylo Ren may attest to, but based on his ideology. Hux seems to have no regard for life at all outside of the First Order, and even then he regards his own soldiers as tools, rather than people. Hux's dad used to run one of the Imperial Academies before the Battle of Endor, which probably led to a lifetime of bigotry and intolerance bringing Hux to his current state of mind. When he watches with gleeful awe as his Starkiller Base commits genocide, it is one of the most chilling moments in the entire Star Wars canon. The real reason he is on this list though is his survival, probably, at the end of the movie. The only other repeat Imperial officer we have seen is Admiral Piett from the original trilogy (General Veers survived the Battle of Hoth but we never actually saw him again). For Hux to come back for Episode 8 is a big deal for this character.
9 Maz Kanata - Played by Lupita Nyong'o
What an interesting character! Maz Kanata is this tiny old woman, who seems like a sweet domestic type, but in reality she was a kick ass space pirate who not only made a name for herself in the smuggling world, but then built a castle to be a smuggler/pirate paradise. You know she must have been tough to bridge that disparity between her actions and appearance. Also, Maz creates so much intrigue in the film's plot itself: how did she get Luke's saber from Cloud City; what is her connection to the Jedi; why does she display Mandalorian flags on her castle? Her lust for Chewbacca and the giant statue of herself in her courtyard are funny and add depth to her characterization. We don't get to see a lot of Maz in the movie, but the characters who seem like they could automatically be starring in another movie are always a lot of fun.
Grummgar is the giant alien having some drinks in Maz Kanata's castle. He is intimidating, seems to have a way with the ladies, and dresses in something the bounty hunter Bossk would feel comfortable in. He looks like he could tear Chewbacca in half, which already makes him an awesome character, and the fact that as a puppet he is super realistic makes the character memorable. Grummgar is a Dowutin mercenary who spends his free time as a big game hunter, traveling to exotic locations, finding even more exotic animals, and killing them. He is certainly a villainous sort, and would make a very cool antagonist in the new expanded universe for our heroes. I hope to see more of Grummgar in the future.
7 Poe Dameron - Played by Oscar Isaac
One disappointment I had with the Force Awakens was no appearance by Wedge Antilles. I'm a pretty big Wedge fan, so not seeing Dennis Lawson among Leia's ranks was curious, especially since Abrams went to the trouble of getting Mike Quinn to reprise his role as Nien Nunb from Return of the Jedi. But Poe is a worthy successor to the Antilles legacy. Poe's parents were members of the Rebel Alliance and raised their son on Yavin 4 of all places, so he has a healthy respect for the Republic, the complete opposite ideals of General Hux. Sure Poe got captured at the beginning of the movie, but he kicked butt for the rest of the film, and that black x-wing of his was awesome.
6 The Guavian Death Gang - Played by Brian Vernal
Hasbro released a Guavian soldier in their initial action figure line, and I went a little crazy. I grabbed my son and began frantically yelling, "Deadpool is in the new Star Wars!" I was convinced that this dude was going to be the standout villain in the film, and was a little disapointed to see that he was one soldier of many, the security force for the Guavian Death Gang under the command of Bala-Tik. Still, these guys are awesome, a criminal guild of cyborgs who plague the core worlds looking for easy money and new victims. They equip themselves with prototype weapons to be at the cutting edge of violence and use their cyborg parts to overpower regular sentients. Although many of them get eaten during the course of the film, I really hope Bala-Tik and his goon squad show up again, even if it's just a cameo.
5 Captain Ithano
Here is another guy who looks so wicked the audience wants to know more. Known as the Blood Buccaneer, Captain Ithano travels the outer rim with his first mate Quiggold, looting ships and ruining lives. The captain is a Delphidian, but wears a Kaleesh helmet. One can see the Grevious like tone of the helmet, but that striking red color really makes Ithano stand out from the rest of Maz Kanata's pirate patrons. Finn almost joins Ithano's crew during the Force Awakens. Maybe the two will encounter each other again in the future if the Resistance requires it and can afford Ithano and his ship, the Meson Martinet.
4 Kylo Ren - Played by Adam Driver
Kylo Ren, maybe Darth Ren is an interesting villain. J. J. Abrams wants to give us an antagonist who is not quite ready to be the new face of evil. While Darth Vader and Darth Maul were fully formed Sith warriors, violent and insanely awesome, Kylo Ren is a spoiled brat, a dangerous boy who throws temper tantrums and doesn't know how to comb his hair. The characterization is great, creating a different type of bad guy to hate in different ways then we hate other Sith disciples. Ren coming across like a whiny high school jock also allows his character to easily grow over the next few movies either into more of an actual villain or into a redemption-seeking anti-hero.
He would have been completely captivating except that his birth name is Ben, which kind of ruined things a bit. I've heard people making the argument that he was named Ben after Ben Kenobi, but that doesn't make sense. Leia never met Obi-wan, and Han thought he was an idiot. Leia would have named her son Bail or maybe Anakin, like her second son in the original canon, but not Ben. When Han confronts Kylo at the Starkiller base, all he needed to do was shout, "Jacen!" and tens of thousands of Star Wars fans, myself included, would have exploded. Instead, Abrams made a name change that has no reason for being. This felt like Abrams giving us the middle finger in my opinion, which is why Kylo is not higher on this list.
3 Finn - Played by John Boyega
John Boyega was stellar as Finn, AWOL Stormtrooper whose personal quest helps move along the entire plot of the Force Awakens. It is a tough character to make work: first, you have a soldier betraying his cause, which is hard to sympathize with even if the army the soldier came from is evil. Also, Finn doesn't know anything outside of the First Order, which forces the character to be on the fine line between being an idiot and being funny. I think Boyega was very funny, and I really came to like Finn. He isn't a character that can further the story necessarily, but he would be real fun to have along for the journey. The classic trilogy had the Han Solo character who looks at fantastic things and says, "whatever" to help ground the audience, and this new trilogy of movies has Finn to look at the fantastic and say "what's that?" to mimic the audience's wonder. It works well, a lot better than the prequel trilogy which had Jar Jar Binks look at the fantastic and then break wind, making the audience say in frustration "why?"
My favorite Star Wars character is R2-D2, which may explain why I love BB-8, the droid that plays the "R2 part" in the Force Awakens. The design of the droid immediately separates the new Star Wars canon from the original "Legends" canon, which had gotten all the way up to R9 astromechs without making any radical and creative changes to the droid's actual design. He is cute, he is funny, he is expressive. He is easy to underestimate, is intensely loyal to his owner, and is just as much of a character as anyone else in the film. All of these things could also be said about R2-D2. I think the idea I like the best with BB-8 and R2 is the amount of information they store with no way for us the audience to access it, since the droids do not speak English.
1 Rey - Played by Daisy Ridley
Daisy Ridley joins a pantheon of gorgeous Star Wars actresses from the obvious (Carrie Fisher as Leia and Natalie Portman as Padme) to the obscure (Keira Knightley as Sabe and Amy Allen as Aayla Secura) who have not been sexualized - gold bikinis excepted of course - but portrayed as strong leaders and warriors. Daisy is gorgeous, but she does such a good job playing the role of Rey that one almost doesn't notice. Rey is created as a mystery; but also serves as protagonist for the Force Awakens and, like Finn, needs to figure out the universe. She is excited, nervous, wistful, and confused all at once. Watching the film, Rey is very easy to relate to and root for, as she grows closer to Han and later, quite literally Luke. I am intrigued and can't wait to see what happens to Rey as the films progress. This is exactly what a good character should do, and Rey more than any other character will be holding the weight of the new Star Wars universe on her shoulders.
Source: Hidalgo, Pablo. Star Wars the Force Awakens Visual Dictionary. Dk. 2015. Print.