Much of the marketing for Star Wars: The Force Awakens so far has brought the seemingly new franchise leads Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to the forefront so audiences become more familiar with the younger heroes. However, their co-stars are now starting to come into the spotlight. Thanks to the recent Vanity Fair cover story on the film, we learned new character names (like Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma) and discovered that Adam Driver is the actor behind the villainous Kylo Ren.
Another thing we learned in that piece is the identity of Lupita Nyong'o's character (initially rumored to be called Rose): an alien by the name of Maz Kanata. Based on an image of the Oscar winner on set, it became apparent that the character would be brought to life by motion-capture technology, with a digital creation filling in for the actress in the final product. Now, we know what that creature will look like.
Indie Revolver posted a production painting of Kanata, who is described as a pirate with "Galactic travelers, smugglers, and other assorted riffraff" in her castle.
As you can see, it's obvious why Abrams opted to use CGI to make Maz a reality. While the production team is doing everything they can via practical effects (including those who live in Kanata's castle), there are some things you cannot do with real-world materials. Of course, some will say that Maz could have been a puppet a la Yoda in Empire Strikes Back (as was originally reported), but motion-capture technology has evolved so much this century that filmmakers can easily create photorealistic beings through an actors' physical performance and state-of-the-art digital effects (see: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). This method has proven to work several times before.
Even though this is our first real look at Kanata, it technically isn't her debut. Indie Revolver also revealed that she is briefly featured in a shot from the second teaser trailer, where she hands Luke's original lightsaber to an unknown individual (Leia? Rey?) and is seen in profile.
While that revelation doesn't spill a lot of juicy details that fans are still eagerly awaiting, it is enough to raise even more questions about the film. Many will be wondering what Kanata's relationship to the lightsaber is. One of the (false) rumored trailer descriptions from a while back allegedly used dialogue from Maz as a voiceover, where she referred to Luke as "the one who taught her." Based on that speculation, it sounds as if she is a Force-sensitive being who is in hiding under the guise of a smuggler (in the vein of Jabba the Hutt). If Luke did indeed take her in as an apprentice, then it's plausible Maz has knowledge of why the lightsaber is significant, and has vital information Finn and Rey need for their quest.
In a way, Maz could could be the new trilogy's homage to Yoda, in that she doesn't look like the "great warrior" one would expect from someone strong with the Force, but proves her worth through powerful words of wisdom. Going off of the facial expression she is making in the painting, it certainly looks like Abrams has intended for her to have been through the wringer a few times and whatever experience she has will be a valuable asset for the protagonists as they progress through their journey.
We still have a ways to go before we find out what Lucasfilm has in store, but another piece of the curtain of secrecy has been pulled back - allowing us to hypothesize more about the saga's highly-anticipated seventh episode.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be in theaters December 18, 2015
Source: Indie Revolver