With one year to go until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there is one huge mystery character still. Well, there’s more than that. But there’s a top mystery character for me, the blue alien we’ve discussed in the past. She has a code name which appears to be “Rose.” We even think she is probably being voiced and motion-captured by Lupita Nyong’o. This character appears to join Rey and Fin once the quest for Luke Skywalker is underway and the hero’s journey begins.
I heard a rumor that an elder alien knew Luke Skywalker before he went missing. Finn and Rey are told of this elder from Princess Leia once they reach the rebel base after leaving the sand planet which is more than likely not Tatooine. When they reach the elder, they meet this younger blue alien who is with the heroes for the rest of the film.
I am going to examine some of the concept art to try and get a feeling or an idea of what this character does or how it plays into the story. I’m predicating much of this on the informed assumption that the sand planet sequence takes place early on in the film and the appearance of the blue alien comes into play about midway when the heroes reach the “Exotic City” for the first time.
There’s a really dignified concept art of the face of the young sidekick. The character has a long neck. The mouth is very human, but it has no nose. The area where the nose should be, if it were human, is shaped like a half circle, a rainbow, and upside smiley face, and gives the character a seriousness making it very much not like a cartoon in someways. The eyes are very far apart in this portrait. The character has a red headband on, which coupled with the eyes has a very eccentric Asian-like appearance. Its ears are on the side of its head and appear to have no outer ear at all. The character looks friendly but stern.
There are four different pieces of concept art which all depict “Rose” in a position of food service. Sometimes she appears to be the owner of the establishment, other times she seems to be a server at the bar or eatery.
I believe all of the concepts for “Rose’s” establishment take place on the “Exotic City.” The blue alien is never on the sand planet as far as I have seen, if my memory serves me correctly. One leaked piece shows a really underdeveloped Rey and “Rose” meeting as “Rose” chops of some food at a table, presumably to be served.
The first setting is what I’ll call the “Fruit Stand.” Its more than that though. It’s a building with arches and a giant sunroof at the top of it. In the middle, directly under the sunroof is a center piece where “Rose” resides. It looks like a really good place to animate a puppet. Practically, it means the character could barter with people coming into the establishment. There are tables with beans, red peppers and other kinds of fruits and vegetables on the tables. (NOTE: The cobblestone in this piece is exactly the same as in the old crystal maker concept art which appears to be her elder and is the same stone featured in the catacombs). To the left of the frame, Rey walks in, looking for “Rose.”
There is a second piece almost exactly the same as this one. The only difference is there are slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling and it is less “full” in the room. There is a giant stove in the corner with a fire that burns really bright (I have to admit I wonder if the elder puts the crystal into this fire like she does in her concept piece). In this one, “Rose” has her hand up to cheerfully greet Rey.
An alternate setting for “Rose’s” introduction is a very hyper-realistic piece to be honest. Everyone is painted like they’re actually on screen. This one is a bar. It is pretty much the exact bar from Star Wars: A New Hope (you can even see IG-88’s head in the hardware). The bartender looks exactly like Wuher, the bartender that serves Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi in that film. Clearly, that bartender would be dead by this time, so its a “spirit of” design. In this piece, the bartender is serving people. She’s leaning over the bar, casually, and very cool as she talks to an alien patron. She’s not little in this piece. She’s the height of an average human female. Her face is fairly similar to how it is in the portrait above but her head has two long tentacles in the back. The biggest difference is that in this depiction, she is approached by a male hero in an X-wing fighter pilot flight suit. The aliens in the bar are sitting in ways identical to the exterior paintings of the exotic city, which to me seems to be another strong indication that is the setting of this piece. This appears to be the only time Rey isn’t the contact for “Rose.”
Another piece shows the bar with a circular formed bar. A Twi-lek male is in the left of the frame, looking very slimy like Bib Fortuna. This time the bar isn’t like the Mos Eisely cantina, it’s a little more neon with blue light over the technology. The lighting is low, you can’t really make out the alien’s faces too well. But this time we see “Rose” from behind and she’s standing on her tiptoes entering an order into a touchscreen computer. There is no hero to be seen in this piece as it probably takes place seconds before the hero steps into frame.
I have often speculated that the elder alien may have been written out and Max von Sydow took over that role. The restaurant/bar/eatery sequence was assumed to take place on the sand planet. I’m somewhat doubtful of that today. It fits the “Exotic City” location best. There is a chance Han takes the heroes to Leia, who sends them to “Rose,” who takes them to Max von Sydow’s character. Star Wars 7 News just ran a piece where Sydow’s character looks like a nice old man. Our source just sent us more undated pieces of Sydow as a cyborg type. I think it would be weird to cast such an actor and cover his face, but there are lot of different looks for this character. I don’t have my bets on either depiction, both are possible until we see or hear more. Either way, it appears after “Rose”
This blue hero, “Rose” is along for the entire ride once our heroes reach the “Exotic City.” She’s there when they enter the catacombs, when Rey is taken into the embrace by the cyborg, and apparently has a room at the Rebel Base by the end of the film. Visually, the character is very much the Jar Jar/Zeb/Chewbacca of the new cast, at least that’s the way it appears based on reports and concept art.
There is another depiction of “Rose,” that is very much from a James Bond movie. She has on a floral red and purple kimono. She’s standing at a bar with a pistol out. There is another of her dressed in the same dress but green with some makeup tests, including lipstick like Padmé wore with the top lip painted and the little line on the lower lip. However, these designs appear to be preliminary and the alien race looks similar to her but could just be for a patron of the bar. I still think its an early version of her though.
You may remember a report we had about the saber activation sequence by Finn. The character design is significantly different from that painting according to much later works, which appear to have come closer to the final design.
In closing, I do not think it is fair to criticize a film still being made. A lot of the character’s features are overtly Asian in design. Sometimes the character is even wearing a kimono, rice patty hat, and sandals straight out of Seven Samurai. The artists at this point in the designs I’m looking at are attempting to extract a certain essence of cultural and exoticism into the character. But it walks a dangerous line between making racial and cultural features into a cartoon.
I’m curious to see how it turns out because if this hero comes together in a certain light, it could reignite the race debate and allegations Jar Jar (minstrelsy) and Watto (antisemitism) brought into the media back in 1999. The voice matters, clearly. Nute Gunray and the Neimoidians sat strangely with some audience members, even though their appearance was very alien. If Lupita Nyong’o is in deed playing “Rose” in this film, will her accent allow for the alien Asian designs to be seen as acceptable? Race is a complicated issue. Either way, it would not be fair to judge a work in progress as “racist” or “culturally insensitive” just yet. That said, I am dying to see what “Rose” is in the final version of the character and I hope she doesn’t perpetuate negative or comical stereotypes.