By Anthony Breznican
Updated December 11, 2014 at 08:41 PM EST
Lucasfilm ltd

Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

  • Movie

We finally got to meet some new characters in the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but now we’re getting to put some names with the faces.

J.J. Abrams, the film’s co-writer and director, and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, have decided to reveal the identities of some of their new characters exclusively to EW—and they’ve done it in a retro fashion that should bring a smile to anyone familiar with the phrase “Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em.”

That was the catchphrase of the Topps trading card company, which in addition to baseball players and comic book characters put out a series of collectible cards featuring scenes and characters from around the galaxy for the original 1977 Star Wars movie.

There were five rounds of Topps cards for that movie, each one designated by a different color, with red and blue leading the line-up. Right now, Abrams and Kennedy have mocked up three from the red series, and five from the blue series.

Will we get more some day? Perhaps…

There’s certainly much more to reveal. We haven’t yet seen Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, or Max von Sydow—let alone any of the veteran stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fisher. And we’ve heard, but not seen, Andy Serkis. (Someday we may see similar reveals with yellow, green, and orange borders.)

For now, we’re getting to know the characters played by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac—as well as that shadowy figure in the snow with the crossguard lightsaber.

Also, we no longer have to call that adorable, rolling robot “ball droid.” Like C-3PO and R2-D2 before him (her?), that character now has its own alphanumeric moniker: BB-8.

The card captions also give a hint about the state of mind of the characters, but this far from the Dec. 18, 2015 release date, the filmmakers don’t want to reveal any more.

“I’m only sorry we couldn’t give everyone a stick of gum,” Abrams says.

Here’s a rundown of the reveal, listed in order of their collectible card number, with some analysis and speculation thrown in for good measure. (Asked if there was significance to the numbering, Abrams replied: “YES.”) Time to get on that, Bothan spies.

Next page: Meet BB-8

This bouncing baby droid has already endeared itself to the Star Wars faithful with just a few bleeps and squawks of droidspeak. Its exact role in the plot can’t be determined, but it likely serves a similar role to R2—the sweet, childlike, non-threatening David that plays a small but critical role in facing down an intergalactic Goliath. Abrams may have named his company Bad Robot, but this is clearly a nice one.

Now there’s a name weighted with significance. Some fans have already gleaned an intense, not necessarily welcoming vibe off of Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot, and a first name taken from a writer who chronicled the sinister side of human nature would suggest that this is a character who is on the edge of the light/dark divide. Those characters, like Han Solo and Vader himself, are always the most interesting ones. His name is also an almost-spoonerism of Cameron Poe, the character Nicolas Cage played in Con Air. Coincidence? (Probably, yeah.)

We don’t yet know which actor is playing this ominous figure, but he’s clearly a villain, mentioned in the trailer as the dark side of the awakening that has taken place. What’s notable about these few seconds of footage is that this seems to be a villain who has no resources, no ship, a shoddy, sparking, flame-like blade on his lightsaber (despite the cool crossguard customization). Luke Skywalker was a farmboy who rose from nothing to take on the Empire. What if the villain of the new trilogy was the same, but from the other moral direction—a nobody who brings chaos to an entire galaxy?

Next page: Rey on her Speeder

There’s been no shortage of rumors about the character played by Daisy Ridley, but even the name being used in that speculation—Kira—has now been proven false. All we have at this point is her first name, Rey, so… maybe we’ll find out eventually whether her surname reveals deeper family connections.

Next page: Finn on the run

We also don’t know the last name of John Boyega’s character, so that could also be an important omission. But the extra three words of description—”on the run”—explains a little bit why he is seen jumping into frame and gasping in the opening moments of that trailer. He’s in a Stormtrooper uniform, but we don’t know for sure if he is an actual member of that fighting corps or if, like Han and Luke in the first movie, he’s merely using it as a disguise.

About that guy in the middle… I think Princess Leia said it best, once upon a time: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

The design is slightly different—the wings open up in the middle instead of having two platforms pressed together—but Poe Dameron’s squadron seems no less fearsome than the group that swooped in to battle the forces of the Emperor. The fact that they’re skidding along the surface of a lake rather than screaming through the void of space gives us something new along with something familiar.

The Millennium Falcon, the most beloved and seemingly least aerodynamic fighting ship imaginable. Yet it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs and saved the galaxy from not one but two Death Stars. Yeah, it’s been around for a long time, but it still seems to be kicking ass 30 years after Return of the Jedi.

To borrow a phrase from Indiana Jones, in an entirely different Lucasfilm universe: “It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”

Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

  • Movie
  • J.J. Abrams
stream service