This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
NB: The following contains potential spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, assuming you haven’t yet seen it. Scroll below the Jedi Squirrel at your own risk.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens moved at the wild pace of a speeder bike hurtling through an Endor forest.
Indeed, director JJ Abrams seemed so intent on keeping his Star Wars sequel rattling along that he was quite ruthless about cutting away anything that might slow the story down; in interviews he’s given since The Force Awakens’ release, he’s talked on multiple occasions about sequences which ultimately wound up on the cutting room floor.
We recently learned that Abrams’ longest cut of The Force Awakens amounted to around 170 minutes, with credits – around half an hour longer than the theatrical version’s 136 minutes. Those hoping that an extended edition of The Force Awakens might appear soon will be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a collection of deleted scenes on the movie’s inevitable DVD and Blu-ray release.
If this is the case, what might we see in those deleted sequences? In the attempt to answer those questions, we’ve turned to Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of The Force Awakens, which contains several scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut. We’ve also thrown in one or two scenes we’ve heard about through other sources, such as Abrams’ interviews over recent weeks.
This isn’t, of course, a definitive list of the numerous scenes that could have been cut or re-edited in The Force Awakens, but they’re undoubtedly some of the major ones. Taken together, they fill in some of the questions the final print of The Force Awakens couldn’t find time to answer.
Poe Dameron after his crash
Remember when Poe Dameron and Finn’s jaunt in a stolen Tie-Fighter came to an abrupt end on the sandy wastes of Jakku? Remember how Poe disappeared, only to reappear again just as unexpectedly in The Force Awakens‘ second half? The novelisation suggests that a fairly lengthy scene would have filled in the blank bit where Poe is shown surviving that crash landing.
In the book, Foster describes Poe scrambling from the wreckage of the Tie-Fighter in a daze and, in the process, accidentally leaving his jacket behind in the pilot’s seat. Stranded in the desert, Poe meets a speeder-driving scavenger with “mirrored eyeshades […] wide snout, and a toothy grin.”
This is a Blarina named Naka Iit, a less scary individual than he initially appears. Having listened to Poe’s story of escaping from the First Order, Naka whisks Poe from a pursuing Strus Clan – “a collection of grunks who can’t do salvage, trade, repair, or anything else.”
During the chase, Poe again shows off his prowess as a pilot by taking control of the speeder and thwarting the clan’s pursuit.
The scene does much to explain what Poe got up to while Finn encountered Rey on Jakku, so why was this solid-sounding action sequence cut? Maybe Abrams didn’t want to spend too long lingering on the desert planet – or (less likely) maybe he balked at the scene because it contained a reference to The Phantom Menace.
When Poe asks whether Naka’s speeder can go any faster, the scavenger testily replies, “I am a salvager, not a podracer!”
Here’s an example of just how late in the day some of The Force Awakens‘ sequences were cut out; they not only had their visual effects largely finished, but were even used in the movie’s marketing. Case in point: Constable Zuvio, an ornery-looking law enforcer on the planet Jakku. Shown off in publicity photographs and made into Hasbro action figures, Zuvio was ultimately – you guessed it – cut from the film’s final print.
While Zuvio isn’t mentioned in the novelisation, either, we’ve heard from Slash Film that the constable would have stepped in to break up the fight between Rey and a gang of scavengers we see early in the movie – which means that Rey and Finn wouldn’t have met at this particular juncture as the story was originally envisioned.
Constable Zuvio isn’t the only character to get an action figure but not a spot in the final cut; insectoid alien Sarco Plank is another bit-player with this dubious honour. Perhaps the home release will give both of them a moment in the limelight.
A bit of politics
Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Originals), who has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo as a citizen of the doomed Hosnian system of planets. But Richardson-Sellars’ character, Korr Sella, would have had a slightly more substantial role in The Force Awakens, since the book describes a scene between her and General Leia.
We learn that Sella is Leia’s emissary, and that her task would have been to appear in front of the Senate to beg them to strike out against the First Order.
“If they fail to take action soon,” Leia tells Senna, “the Order will have grown so strong the Senate will be unable to do anything. It won’t matter what they think.”
It’s a small yet useful scene, since it helps explain why Leia and her Resistance appear to be the lone defenders against the First Order; the Senate simply don’t think they’re a threat. Abrams, it seems, prefered audiences to fill in the blanks for themselves rather than remind them of the convoluted political machinations of the prequel trilogy.
Chewbacca’s barroom brawl
Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg), the lugubrious junk boss of Jakku, doesn’t figure much in the second half of the adventure. But Alan Dean Foster’s novelisation makes it plain that he would have made a dramatic reappearance at Maz Kanata’s place on Takadana. Plutt threatens Rey and demands that she give ‘his’ Millennium Falcon back.
At this point, Chewbacca steps in and does something Han Solo warned us all about years ago – he rips Plutt’s arm clean out of its socket.
“Grabbing the thrusting arm, a roaring Chewbacca twisted and ripped it off at the shoulder, throwing the dismembered limb clear across the room. Looking down at himself, Plutt let out a scream of agony…”
Ouch. Whatever Abrams’ reason for cutting it, this is one scene we sincerely winds up on the disc.
Rey’s extended vision
The vision Rey suffers through in The Force Awakens is deliberately coy, hinting at a troubled past and a dramatic adventure still to unfold – the partially-obscured voices of Alec Guinness, Ewen McGregor and Frank Oz’s Yoda merely adding to the intrigue. You may recall that one part of the vision explicitly shows Rey stumbling through a corridor on Bespin, the very location where Luke Skywalker lost his lightsaber – and hand – in The Empire Strikes Back.
According to Slash Film, we would have actually seen a shot of Vader chopping off Skywalker’s hand in Empire, before revealing how Luke’s lightsaber got from Bespin to the basement of Maz Kanata’s palace. Is this further proof that Rey and Luke have some familial connection, or is Rey simply ‘reading’ the history of the lightsaber by touching it? The answer to that won’t arrive, we suspect, until Episode VIII at the earliest.
If you thought C-3PO and R2-D2‘s roles were rather limited in The Force Awakens, then the novelisation has a pleasant surprise – the pair actually shared an extra scene, in which C-3PO expresses his guilt at having lost contact with BB-8.
“I forgot to activate his long-range tracking mode!” C-3PO tells the dormant R2. “I must have assumed the droid would always be in the presence of that pilot and that therefore there would be no need. I deserve to have my memory wiped…”
As a result of all this thinking aloud, C-3PO suddenly comes up with the idea of sending an alert out to all droids on the side of the Resistance, in the hope that one of them might spot BB-8. This explains why, at Maz’s palace, a droid immediately contacts the Resistance as soon as BB-8 and his cohorts are spotted. It’s a cute scene, but in a film where expository dialogue often issued from the mouths of the veteran cast, it’s not difficult to see why it was deemed a bit extraneous.
More Maz Kanata
Among the chaos of the First Order‘s attack on Maz’s palace, the fate of its owner was left frustratingly obscure. Where did she go? Did she survive the destruction of her thousand year-old haunt? The theatrical cut has no clear answer, which appears to be because Maz‘s role in the movie was altered quite substantially during post-production.
We knew from one of the trailers that Maz would meet General Leia, with the former handing the latter Luke‘s long-lost lightsaber. But as JJ Abrams explained to Entertainment Weekly, Maz simply spent the final act loitering around the Resistance base with nothing very much to do, so the decision was made to quietly remove her instead.
“That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out,” Abrams said. “At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to have her sitting around… Lupita [Nyong’o] did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt like going right just to go left, and it was unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out.”
From a storytelling perspective, that makes sense. What’s more curious is that a smaller scene described in the book was also cut out of the film.
“Go,” Maz says to BB-8, the crumbling remains of her palace smouldering in the background. “Share what you have with your people […] Looks like some cleaning up to do, hmm?”
It’s not a major event, admittedly, but it at least avoids leaves one of The Force Awakens’ more high-profile supporting players with a proper send-off.
Vader’s rejection of the Dark Side
One question we were left with at the end of The Force Awakens was, how much did Kylo Ren really know about his chosen hero, Darth Vader? Was he aware that Vader turned away from the Dark Side just before the Empire crumbled in Return Of The Jedi. An exchange between Snoke and Ren, present in the book but cut from the film, provides the answer.
“Had Lord Vader not succumbed to emotion at the crucial moment—had the father killed the son—the Empire would have prevailed,” Snoke tells Ren. “And there would be no threat of Skywalker’s return today…”
What would have been an action-filled call-back to a famous chase from Return Of The Jedi exists solely – at least for now- as a passage in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization. In it, Finn and Rey steal a snowspeeder during the Resistance assault on the Starkiller base. A break-neck pursuit ensues, with Rey piloting the vehicle while Finn blasts at the First Order snowtroopers in hot pursuit.
Again, this sequence must have remained in the movie until fairly late in production, since hints of it were all over Force Awakens merchandising and marketing materials, from publicity shots of Kylo Ren posing with Snowtroopers to Hasbro snowspeeder toys. If the snowspeeder chase doesn’t make an appearance on The Force Awakens‘ home release, we’d be more than a little surprised.
Rey’s farewell to Leia
Some of the most effective scenes in The Force Awakens unfolded without a word of dialogue, not least Rey’s introduction as a scavenger on Jakku and the grand finale, in which Rey said farewell to her newfound friends and headed off in the Millennium Falcon to find Luke Skywalker.
Abrams’ visual approach did, however, leave one or two things unsaid as the final credits rolled. Why did Rey go to find Luke and not his sister, Leia? Did Chewbacca mind that Rey was his new co-pilot after years of sharing the Falcon with Han?
The novelisation doesn’t exactly spell things out, but it suggests that there was a more verbose version of the script where Leia and Chewbacca, in their own way, give Rey their respective blessings before she goes off to meet Luke.
“This is how it has to be,” Rey tells Leia just before she steps aboard the Falcon. “This is how it should be.”
“I know it, too”, Leia replies. “May the Force be with you.”
On the Millennium Falcon, Rey asks Chewbacca whether he’s sure she can sit in the pilot’s chair. With a growl and a friendly, welcoming paw, the Wookiee give his assent: Rey is officially the Falcon’s new co-pilot.
Of course, these are only the scenes that we know about from comparing the book and other accounts to the movie. There are other bits and pieces we might see, too, such as the long-rumoured lightsaber scene that would have opened the movie, but was replaced by a Star Destroyer eclipsing Jakku at some point in the production.
Plus, there’s a late scene that reportedly sees Kylo Ren briefly climb aboard the Millennium Falcon and reflect on his estranged father. Who knows what else was filmed but never included in the final cut? At present, only Abrams and his fellow filmmakers. Here’s hoping we see at least some of these trimmed sequences soon.
The Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization is out now.