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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: How fleeing Nazis inspired the new villains

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It’s a fundamental truth that most things that use the word “Supreme” in their titles are evil – the exceptions being the Supreme Court (sometimes,) Taco Supreme (sometimes), and the Motown singing group.

Kidding aside, the term “Supreme Leader” is a terrifying one in true-life history. It suggests a hysteria, a cult of personality, a merging of the mortal with the supernatural in the minds of followers. It is claimed by those who must never be questioned under any circumstances. Fascists. Dictators. Monsters.

So it comes as no surprise that Supreme Leader Snoke, the character Andy Serkis will play in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is firmly entrenched on the side of malevolence.

But there’s a new wrinkle: not everybody who is bad is aligned with the Sith, the following that counted Darth Vader and the Emperor as members. In a new interview with Empire magazine, director and co-writer J.J. Abrams explains that Adam Driver’s villainous Kylo Ren may admire Vader, but he’s not following his footsteps exactly.

In fact, the plan now is to correct the missteps.

“Kylo Ren is not a Sith,” Abrams tells the magazine, which goes on sale Thursday. “He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.”

Given that Serkis, famous for merging tech and performance as Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and Caesar from the new Planet of the Apes films, also performs Snoke using this motion-capture method, we can safely assume this new foe is something other than human.

As for The First Order, the cabal these two villains oversee, Abrams compared this Imperial remnant to Nazis who fled to South America after the fall of Hitler and the defeat of Germany after World War II. What if they regrouped, rebuilt, and decided to return? “Could Vader be a martyr?” Abrams asks. “Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”

This confirms a deliberate connection between that new shot of The First Order assembling for a rally on the surface of a snowy, rocky world and imagery from documentarian Leni Reifenstahl’s notorious 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

This is just a tease. For more, check out Empire’s interview with the filmmaker, including a new image of Kylo Ren and his crossguard lightsaber.

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