Ever since Porgs emerged as the marketing focus of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, people have been confused, aghast, enthralled and disgusted by the arrival of a new breed of creature in a galaxy far, far away. What are these puffin-like creatures in a perpetual state of shock? What is their role in the journey of our lead protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) as the Resistance fights back against the yet thwarted power of Supreme Leader Snoke and the First Order? And more importantly – are they better than the Ewoks?
Well, now that the movie has arrived in theaters we can answer most of these questions. That said, the last one is rather difficult because it’s really an issue of taste. For several reasons, a selection of Star Wars fans have taken issue with some of the less human-like creatures across the franchise. Ewoks in particular have endured serious disdain from a minority of fans who believe that they are so frustratingly awful they are comparatively worse than Jar Jar Binks.
Why Ewoks Are So Hated
The prime anti-Ewok argument is that these teddy bear-like aliens were shoehorned into the original trilogy just to pander to children and make more money on merchandise, as well as perpetuate the cliched underdog film trope. Now, to be fair, George Lucas may well have been thinking about marketing and merchandise when he invented these cute forest creatures of Endor, but that doesn’t really mean they weren’t as legitimate to the story as any other character. Given that the first two films were already rated PG, it seems a bit much to suggest Lucas was trying to pander to kids considering most children were already fans without the need for the Ewoks.
And, well, isn’t the entire Star Wars franchise a cliched trope about the underdog fighting back? The Rebel Alliance has always been considered the David to the Galactic Empire’s Goliath, so it hardly seems fair to call out the Ewoks for helping to win the final battle in the Return of the Jedi when it’s a fundamental theme throughout the franchise.
Why The Porgs Are Much Better Regardless
Those who already hate the Ewoks will probably hate the Porgs too, though once again the ire seems slightly undeserved. Yes, of course, Disney will be hoping to capitalize on people’s love for them by selling tons of merchandise bearing their image, but how is that any different to the new Stormtroopers or hairstyles that serve only to provide the excuse needed to bring out various new toys.
Besides, there was a practical reason for the Porgs to be in the film too. Their in-universe home was on Ahch-to, the island Luke Skywalker was hiding away on, which happened to be filmed on Skellig Michael, one of the habitats of puffins. According to Mark Hamill and others working on the film, these birds were everywhere and so they decided to keep them in the movie, with a slight Star Wars tweak, rather than digitally-remove them.
Beyond saving CGI time, the Porgs offered an entrance point to levity. What really works about these little hamster-like birds is that they serve as a kind of comedic palette cleanser to take you from one scene to the other. And given how serious things get on Ahch-To, they were definitely required at certain junctures. Porgs are not meant to be taxing or offer some grand meaning to the Jedi island Rey finds Luke on. They’re supposed to make you chuckle when you least expect it, without taking away from the rest of the movie. Considering how they’ve not been the subject of criticism alongside the film’s other attempts at humor, that suggests they succeded.
Even a longer scene featuring Chewbacca cooking up some Porgs didn’t feel gratuitous; it was just a fun little scene that showed off Chewie’s heartwarming character, and now that he’s without Han it was nice to see the wookie have some solo screen time. But, overall, the Porgs don’t take up that much of the movie, which dissenters must surely be happy with. Especially those who took issue with the amount given to Ewoks and Jar Jar.
It seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing much of the Porgs again (unless the few that managed to stow away on the Millennium Falcon remain uneaten by the time Episode IX comes around) and that’s what makes their appearance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi work so well. They functioned as mere appetizers, not a main course, and Rian Johnson served them up pretty damn well.
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