There's More Under That Helmet: Characterization in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a kid growing up watching the original trilogy on VHS back in the 80s and then watching the prequels on screen as a teenager, I was excited when I heard of three more Star Wars movies, albeit a little worried as well. After some issues with the prequels, I didn’t want to get overly excited only to be disappointed in the end. Happily, The Force Awakens did not disappoint. That being said, I’m taking to my keyboard to take a look at some of the various aspects of The Force Awakens from a literary and storytelling perspective in a series of posts. This does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want it to be ruined, then bookmark this and read it later. You’ve been warned.

I'm a big fan of the new cast of this Star Wars trilogy. Rey, Finn, Poe, even Kylo Ren, provide some fresh new takes on character archetypes used in the earlier trilogies. They bring some new life into a storyline that parallels the earlier movies


I love Finn’s character. He may be my favorite of the new cast. Finn is a fugitive stormtrooper, formerly known as FN-2187, who has left the ranks of the New Order because he couldn’t believe in what they were doing. Finn’s character is unsure of himself throughout the movie, but he remains strong in his conviction that what the New Order is doing is wrong. His unlikely friendship with foil character Poe Dameron helps him become a little more confident in himself.

I love that he’s faulty. He messes up. He loses fights. He’s real. He’s just like me. He tries his hardest and has good intentions, and he doesn’t give up when he fails. He follows the convictions of his heart, even if it leads him into danger or into an uncomfortable situation.

What I really love about Finn is the depth he gives to the stormtrooper character. Previously, you had two types of troopers: clone troopers and stormtroopers. Both of these types of troops are very robotic in nature. The clones, pretty obviously, are made to obey orders. They don’t question authority; they just do their job. Much like a machine. The stormtroopers, on the other hand, are conscripts from around the galaxy. From the original trilogy, the stormtrooper is nothing more than an expendable soldier who only serves to get in the way. In Force Awakens, though, Finn reveals that there is more to the stormtrooper than we probably realized. Sure, a lot of them enlist with the intent of serving the Empire, or in this case the New Order. Finn tells us a different story.

Finn didn’t enlist to become a stormtrooper. He was taken as a young child and conditioned to be a soldier. If you read Star Wars: Aftermath, you may have noticed this pop up in one of the interludes. So now, stormtroopers aren’t just evil soldiers obeying every whim of the Emperor. There are actually some sympathetic characters within the ranks. Surely, Finn isn’t the only one who questions the acts he is committing. Perhaps not everyone under the authority of evil is truly evil. There is redemption for those who want it, and Finn is one of those characters looking for redemption. And he’s able to find it through his developing friendship with Poe. His character helps us see that coercion and force are not the way to influence someone but rather through relationships and example.

I love that Finn brings a different type of character into the Star Wars story. We’ve seen young, initiate Jedis-in-training like Rey before. We’ve seen a hotshot ace pilot like Poe as well. And then of course, the brooding, evil character in Kylo Ren has certainly happened. Finn give us a fresh new type of character to the cast with a bit of a different kind of backstory.