Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens continues the tale about the struggle for freedom in a galaxy far, far away, three decades after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The film revolves around a new generation of characters (and a number of older, but still beloved heroes too) who are swept up into the ongoing galactic war; most of the new players have been revealed ahead of Force Awakens' release, save for two key characters being brought to life via motion-capture performance and CGI.
One of those two mo-cap characters - the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) - narrated the first Force Awakens teaser trailer, while the other - a relatively ambiguous non-human named Maz Kanata (Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o) - has been heard, but not seen, in the film's recent trailers and TV spots. It turns out we have already gotten a glimpse at Maz, as Force Awakens co-writer/director J.J. Abrams has confirmed that the mystery goggle-wearing alien on the movie's poster (see above) is, indeed, Maz.
Abrams confirmed that, as many fans have speculated, Maz is the grinning alien on the Star Wars: The Force Awakens official poster to EW, as part of their continuing exclusive coverage of the film. Maz can be heard speaking (via voiceover) in the first Force Awakens TV spot to one, if not both, of the movie's two protagonists - Rey (Daisy Ridley), a junk scavenger who's long lived on the planet Jakku, and Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who abandons his post - while claiming that she "knows their eyes" and has seen them in other people before (hint, hint).
According to Abrams, "eyes" in general are a key part of the Maz character:
“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do. I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”
Nyong'o, who got some helpful tips on the art of motion-capture performance from the master himself, Serkis, during production on The Force Awakens, likewise emphasized Maz's eyes as a key quality of the character (and, in turn, Nyong'o's performance):
“As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway. So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character.”
It's apparent that, at some point on their adventure in The Force Awakens, Finn and Rey will cross paths with Maz Kanata - presumably, at the castle that she owns. However, while it was previously indicated that Maz is actively a pirate lord and crime boss of sorts (a la Jabba the Hutt from previous Star Wars movies), Abrams describes her as being a long-lived being similar to Yoda - one who's left her pirates days behind her:
“Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time. She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”
The Maz character - who Abrams confirmed was originally going to be brought to life via puppetry (as was rumored) before he decide motion-capture was the better route - may provide a fresh perspective on the seemingly endless war between the remnants of the Galactic Empire (now The First Order) and the rebel forces (now The Resistance). That is, she's someone who has no doubt grown quite tired and disillusioned after seeing so much warfare, having become a pirate in the process - but whose hope is rekindled by the emergence of new heroes in Finn and Rey (among others).
Indeed, by the sound of it, The Force Awakens will pick up at a time when a new hope (my apologies) is more needed than ever in a galaxy far, far way. After all, the Jedi and peacekeepers of the past have seemingly become the stuff of legend - and even someone as admirable as Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is now known as a villain to many, thanks to the First Order's propaganda. And speaking of seasoned heroes in the Star Wars universe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.