This article is kind of one that started back around mid-June of last year. We were telling people Stormtroopers were back. The Empire was back. A lot of people didn’t believe it. Then proof started trickling out. Indie Revolver dropped a few really good pieces of proof. We eventually had concept art and storyboards talking about speeder bikes and chases. A doubter said something like “Stormtroopers and The Empire are back and now speeder bikes? Gimme a break!” The truth is, it didn’t amount to much on the speeder bike front but it did still make it into the movie they filmed last Summer. I find it interesting to follow the development of the film and that evolution.
In the earliest iterations of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was a speeder bike sequence that appeared to be in development. On a very green planet, there was giant tree cover and under it, huge monsters that looked like Wacky Wall Walkers used their giant tentacles to travel from branch to branch. During one sequence, the giant monsters chased two speeder bikes with heroes on them as they zoomed away, hoping to not be eaten. This was clearly suggesting what the sequence could be rather than what it would be (knowing what we know today).
There were some storyboards of other work connected to this part of the film taking place on a tree planet. The storyboards depicted a sequence in which two Stormtroopers were taken by the monsters and eaten. The monsters sneak up on the Stormtrooper, take one without his partner even noticing. His partner then follows him to the belly of the beast. So the monsters and their capabilities were being explored by the art department.
What was shot in the Summer of 2014 doesn’t seem to rely on the monsters at all. That’s not to say they aren’t in the background or something, for all we know they very well may be. I personally doubt it though. We could see these monsters on Rose’s planet which sounds more like the jungle world, but it doesn’t really fit there either.
The crew shot a sequence for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in which Rey and Finn simply get on a speeder bike, steal it, and zoom away. They are spotted by a snowtrooper. A chase ensues over the snowy terrain and the heroes “take him out.” (Note: we will have more on the greater context of this sequence sometime soon.)
As you can see the organizational changes in the film probably made it inappropriate to have a monster sequence breaking up the drama of their impending doom should they not prevail.
I believe the design of the snowtrooper is the one Indie Revolver showed us some time ago.
The concept above shows the trooper on the desert planet. We heard about the flamethrower troopers looking differently, and in different iterations of the film, the designs served different purposes. The “flamethrower troopers” or “incendiary troopers” are definitely used in the opening sequences with the village. It appears the “Hot Troopers” are only used in this sequence in the film to the best of our knowledge. But we aren’t totally sure the designs are different than the average new Stormtrooper we saw in the first teaser or if they’re the design seen above, thanks to Jay at Indie Revolver.
It is interesting to see how far we’ve come since last June when we were trying to convince people Stormtroopers and the Empire are back, and it is still interesting that we don’t know exactly which designs fit where at this juncture. We still have a lot of tiny mysteries left and the sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can start watching the movie in our heads with better detail.