"Who are you?" Maz Kanata asks Rey in the trailer. "I'm no one," Rey quietly replies.
The exchange isn't actually in the movie—a little editing magic from the boys in marketing—but it pretty much sums up Rey's beginnings.
She's a scavenger in a junk heap, living on a dusty desert planet and spending her days pulling bits of electronic garbage out of the wreckage of a crashed Star Destroyer so she can eat.
She's alone, anonymous, and unremarkable in every way…kind of like a frustrated farm boy from another dusty planet who once looked out at a pair of setting suns and silently begged the universe, "Please…anywhere but here."
As happened with him, the universe has a whole lot more in store for her, too.
Rey was left behind on Jakku by her family, a family she wants back so badly she's actually making hash marks on the wall of her stylish, burnt-out AT-AT leg to count the days until they come back.
They're not, as Maz points out when they talk:
MAZ: Dear child. I see your eyes. You already know the truth. Whomever you're waiting for on Jakku, they're never coming back.
Rey, however, hasn't accepted that…and doesn't until almost the end of the film. Instead, she stays put, selling whatever bits of high-tech modern art she can pry off the bulkheads. She's sustained by her belief that someone will come for her. Someone does, of course, just not the someone she expected.
In the meantime, she's picked up her share of skills. She can pull metal off of bulkheads like nobody's business…and in the process, she's kinda-sorta figured out how to fly some of those ships. She also knows exactly, precisely how they work…to the extent that she can actually show Han Solo a thing or two about the Millennium Falcon:
REY: Unkar Plutt installed a fuel pump, too—if we don't prime that, we're not going anywhere.
HAN: I hate that guy.
So girl's got skills. She's also figured out how to take care of herself. Jakku is a tough place, and some of the locals have a hard time keeping their grabby little hands off of other people's stuff. Rey know how to keep them at bay…but while she's tough, she hasn't lost her compassion or humanity.
Case in point: BB-8, who follows her home like a lost puppy and whom she can't quite bring herself to dismiss:
REY: Don't follow me. Town is that way. No! […] In the morning, you go.
Tough gal with a heart of gold. She's gonna fit right in with the rest of the Star Wars gang.
As if that wasn't enough, Rey is a Force prodigy…something she knows absolutely nothing about but which launches her headlong into the galaxy's throwdown du jour between the Republic-backed Resistance and the creepy-CGI-guy-played-by-Andy-Serkis-backed First Order.
It really kicks into gear when she finds Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, stuck in Maz's basement like someone's old wedding photos. It grants her a vision, and though she fights it at first, when destiny calls, you don't get to reverse the charges.
Not that she doesn't try. Like Luke, Rey feels the call of adventure…and like Luke, she's inclined to resist it because she feels she has responsibilities back on Jakku:
MAZ: The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead. I am no Jedi, but I know the Force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes. Feel it. The light. It's always been there. It will guide you. The saber. Take it.
REY: I'm never touching that again. I don't want any part of this.
And what does she get for her trouble? A free trip to Kylo Ren's brain-melting chamber and a firsthand look at what the Force can do. Her stubbornness costs her…but it also opens her eyes to what she can do. In that moment, the junkyard rat suddenly gets a sense of her own self-worth.
It's a rush—especially since it lets her get the better of the little weasel trying to stick his greasy little fingers in her mind:
REY: You...you're afraid...that you will never be as strong as...Darth Vader.
Speaking of which, she finds out that she can do the same thing to other people if she wants, which is handy if, say, you're trying to escape from the bad guy's fortress:
REY: You will remove these restraints. And leave this cell, with the door open.
STORMTROOPER: I'll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum!
REY: You will remove these restraints. And leave this cell, with the door open.
STORMTROOPER: I will remove these restraints. And leave this cell, with the door open.
REY: And you will drop your weapon.
STORMTROOPER: And I'll drop my weapon.
It's a handy trick, and it also convinces Rey that Jakku isn't for her, that bigger things await and that awesome lightsaber duels are probably involved. More than probably, since the lightsaber chooses Rey over Ren, which pretty much triggers the film's climactic rumble.
All of that leads our heroine to where she needed to go: the top of that island with another lonely orphan staring back at her. Turns out, the whole thing is just the start of her journey. But now, at least, her eyes have been opened to who she is. She's not no one. She's not some little girl tossed out with the garbage. She has skills, and she can learn to use them.
The galaxy better watch out.
Star Wars has a long, proud tradition of bad guys—or, at least, disinterested neutrals—who see the light and sign on for Team Hero.
But we've never seen anyone as deep in the system as Finn.
We first see him as a stormtrooper, getting ready to wipe out an innocent village in the name of Scary Guy Needs a Map. Turns out, he's not down with the program, highlighted by one of his fellow stormtroopers slapping blood all over his helmet. That prompts a moment of clarity, and the former faceless, nameless drone in the First Order machine decides that he could do much better somewhere else.
His early actions are governed largely by self-interest, however, and while he's not a jerk about it, he doesn't make bones about whom he looks out for. Fear seems to be his primary motivation: fear of the First Order and what they can do to him:
FINN: You don't know the First Order like I do. They'll slaughter us. We all need to run.
As we all know from our Yoda readings, fear is the path to the dark side, and it's what Finn needs to conquer if he really wants to get with the program. He first understands the consequences of acting like a Scaredy McWetpants when Rey is abducted, and he's powerless to prevent it:
FINN: He took her! Did you see that? He took her. She's gone!
That shakes some of the cobwebs out of his head and gives him the focus he needs to really leave his stormtrooper past behind him and become a rebel. Rey was his friend, and he let her down. Now, he needs to make that right by putting her ahead of himself for the first time, showing him that safety only matters if you've got some BFFs to share it with.
He gets a little boost in that department from Poe, who he thought had died in the TIE fighter crash but who pops up alive and well at the Resistance Base. He also lets Finn know what he did by saving Rey and BB-8 on Jakku and how important his actions might be to the fate of the galaxy:
POE: You completed my mission, Finn.
It's definitely enough to make him sit up and take notice. So he goes after Rey, who's being held captive on Starkiller Base, and even defends her against Kylo Ren in the film's darkest moments. But it's always in the darkness that we learn who we really are, and Finn, though still frightened, isn't going to let that beat him.
Decisions like that are the stuff that heroes are made of, and we're pretty sure that this anonymous little stormtrooper is going to have a whole lot more to say about the fate of the galaxy as the story goes on.
If you want to see this film really zig where the rest of the Star Wars saga zags, look no further than the skinny guy in the mask.
We say "skinny" instead of "ominous" or "terrifying" because frankly, Star Wars has been there and done that. Imagine sitting down and creating Kylo Ren. You want him to be scary, but he's coming on the heels of Darth Vader and the super-creeptastic Emperor.
Yeah, the Emperor is hard to top.
Luckily, J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan weren't in the mood to put another scary dude in a black cape and leave it at that. Instead, they went the opposite route, turning their central baddie into someone more conflicted, a little sadder…and a whole lot whinier.
Basically, he's an enfant terrible: a guy with a whole lot of power and not much maturity to guide it. He wants what he wants when he wants it, and he's really not all that interested in being told no. But he doesn't keep a lid on his emotions the way, say, Darth Vader does.
Vader tended to focus all that bile and direct it in a very specific direction. Ren, on the other hand, is kind of all over the map: lashing out randomly, letting computer bulkheads taste his wrath, and generally throwing a fit instead of making a chilling example of those who have angered him.
So, yeah, the kid's got some anger issues. No wonder he keeps his grandpa's skull on a table so he can feed his bile from time to time.
At the same time, he's conflicted about the whole dark side thing. He talks about being pulled in different directions by the dark side and the light, as he does when he and Han finally have it out:
REN: I'm being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain.
That gives him some massive insecurities to work out, too. Vader—and most of the other villains in Star Wars—are pretty confident in their evil. They've picked their sides, they don't regret their choices, and if Force-choking the life out of you will convince you, then kiss oxygen good-bye.
Ren, on the other hand, is constantly trying to prove himself. He views his inner conflict as a weakness and sets out to do awful things as a way of getting over it. Oddly enough, he turns to the spirit of Darth Vader to do that…even though Vader had the same problem and eventually came back to the light. (Seriously, kid, didn't Uncle Luke explain that to you? We're betting he did…)
You can see that during his Special Private Time moment with Vader's ashes (yeah, not creepy at all):
REN: Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started.
A lot of that stems from his background and the fact that he used to be Ben Solo instead of Vader Lite. Unfortunately, being in this family means you have an extra-heavy load of daddy issues, as well as resenting the heck out of your elders in general.
He starts out as an apprentice, being trained by his uncle, Luke, as part of the whole Jedi reclamation thing that starts at the end of Return of the Jedi. What happened next is a bit fuzzy, at least as of this writing, but it's clear that he went bad in a serious way, destroyed the other apprentices, and sent Uncle Luke scuttling off to an island in the middle of a huge ocean on a planet no one can find.
As far as teenage rebellion goes, that's pretty hard to beat.
In fact, "annoying your parents" seems to be a big part of Ren's deal. He's mad at his dad for not being there—something we can definitely see since Han isn't exactly the most reliable guy in the galaxy—and frankly, his mom, too. Details are sketchy (they need something to talk about in Episode VIII, after all), but at least some of it has to do with being abandoned.
As Leia explains when she reunites with Han:
HAN: There was too much Vader in him.
LEIA: That's why I wanted him to train with Luke. I just never should have sent him away. That's when I lost him. That's when I lost you both.
Luckily for her, he's pretty focused on his dad, as he tells Rey when he has her in his clutches:
REN: And Han Solo. You feel like he's the father you never had. He would have disappointed you.
Family issues are nothing new in the Star Wars saga, of course, but few of them have triggered the kind of response that this one does. We figure they aren't going away just because Kylo Ren ices his pop…and that sooner or later, this Dark Lord of the Sith is going to end up paying the fiddler big time.
There's Rey, there's Finn…and then there's this less-than-pleasant fellow. Though part of the new trio replacing Luke, Han, and Leia, Poe has less meat on his bones, character-wise, than the other two. He's basically there to send Finn on his way at the beginning and blow up Starkiller Base at the end.
That makes him as much of a plot device as a character, and it takes some doing to make him someone worth relating to.
And that's part of where getting a good actor can really make a difference. Oscar Isaac can bring a whole lot of personality to a character who's really kind of flat on the page. This good guy helps Finn escape, delivers some key info about BB-8, and fare thee well.
But Isaac finds little quirks and cleverness that lets us feel this guy's bravado, his sense of derring-do, and the way that he—as an X-wing pilot—will happily lay it all on the line for the sake of the Resistance.
A great example comes early on, when he's been captured by Kylo Ren and is facing grievous Force-poking to get him to talk:
POE: Who talks first? Do you talk first?
KYLO REN: The old man gave it to you.
POE: It's just very hard to understand you with all the...
The lines are full of snark, but it's up to the actor to give them personality. You can see how fearless he is, how he'd rather make a joke and seriously get this guy mad than quiver and tremble in the face of it.
That means that he actually becomes the third leg of the stool along with Finn and Rey, the new trio to replace Luke, Han, and Leia as the centerpiece of the story. Poe may not have much going on in this film, but we suspect we're going to see a lot more of him going forward.
Some people call him the space cowboy. Some call him the gangster of love. But most of us just call him Han: the galaxy's most notorious pirate, hero of the Galactic Republic, and—for the first time—a father with a whole lot of issues to resolve.
This is Han's fourth appearance in the Star Wars saga and the first where he really has some heavy dramatic lifting to do. When we first met him, he was a pure mercenary—reminding anyone who would listen that he was in it for the money and nothing more. He combined that with a cocksure manner and a grin that screamed, "I'm hustling you," from every corner.
For the first three films, he basically had to figure out where he stood: was he going to back the rebels or continue looking out for number one? That was resolved by the middle of Return of the Jedi, and star Harrison Ford infamously stated that he'd prefer to see the character killed off rather than be asked to play him again. (Source)
We're not sure we disagree. At the end of that third film, it seems he'd done everything he needed to do, and while we're glad he got to settle down with Leia for a happily ever after, there doesn't seem to be a lot more to say about him.
Until, of course, we meet him in The Force Awakens. On the surface, he seems to have reverted to his smuggler's ways: hauling giant monsters to interplanetary rulers and talking his way out of trouble when it comes knocking.
As it turns out, however, he has some pretty good reasons for doing so. Turns out, he and Leia had a kid—Ben—who went over to the dark side and became Kylo Ren. After Ren wiped out Luke's school and Luke went into exile, Han decided he wasn't good for anyone and went off to the stars:
HAN: We both had to deal with it in our own way. I went back to the only thing I was ever good at.
But that adds a new wrinkle to his character since space studs like Han don't have to think much about the people they leave behind or the damage they might do. He's someone used to just...running away. And when your son goes all Hannibal Lecter on you, that's a whole lot to swallow.
So, Han ran. But this time, he couldn't just stay away. This time, he was going to have to face the heinous mess he left behind and do something about it. With his son running rampant, no sign of Luke, and another planet killer firing up, it's time for this old space pirate to step up and face the music:
LEIA: If you see our son again, bring him home.
This time, of course, he doesn't hesitate. He gets Rey and Finn onto Starkiller Base and makes sure they have what they need to blow it to kingdom come. But more than that, he finally faces his demons. He looks his son in the face, holds out a hand, and says:
HAN: I'm sorry I hurt you. Come home.
That's part of what makes his death so awful: the fact that he genuinely tries to atone for the Bad Father thing and gets skewered in the gut anyway. But he knows that it was a possibility and he doesn't let the fear of it stop him. He risks his life just to reach out to his kid one last time. Said kid is beyond help, but it grants Han a nobility in death that he never quite reaches in life.
And that death probably makes him worthy of his other role here: mentor. Finn and Rey are desperately in need of responsible grown-ups to guide them. In lieu of said grown-ups, Han will have to do. He offers Rey a place to belong for the first time in her life:
HAN: I've been thinkin' about bringing on some more crew, Rey. A second mate. Someone to help out. Someone who can keep up with Chewie and me, appreciates the Falcon.
And while Finn gets a little more of Grumpy Han than Happy Han, Han is still plenty happy to point the kid in the right direction, like all good mentors do.
HAN: You okay, Big Deal?
It goes even further than that. Luke Skywalker has become an urban legend, and no one is really sure if the Force actually exists or not. Han, the skeptic, sets them both right:
HAN: I used to wonder that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo—magical power holding together good, evil, the dark side and the light. Crazy thing is, it's true. The Force, the Jedi, all of it. It's all true.
That's quite a dramatic arc: from criminal to hero to bad dad to reluctant teacher. In some ways, he even resembles John the Baptist at the end by opening the way for Luke's return and presumably some serious butt-kicking for Team Good Guy.
His end seems tragic—senseless even—but considering who witnesses it and considering what he was trying to do when he got it, the symbolism of his sacrifice is going to carry some serious weight.
Yoda has been dead for a long time when The Force Awakens opens, and we need someone to pick up the slack.
But it can't be the same someone or everyone will notice that it's just Yoda in a different outfit. Maybe it should be someone a little more sociable—someone who runs an intergalactic watering hole instead of being stuck in a planet-wide malarial soup, for instance—and has an eye on really living instead of keeping a social calendar that Tibetan monks might see as too quiet.
No, Maz isn't Yoda, nor is she a Jedi. She has her own plans, and she does her own thing, which apparently involves running one of those great Star Wars bars where every client looks weird and every set of eyes—even on heads that have, like, 12—has a story.
Maz believes in those eyes and those stories, which is why she has that elaborate set of goggles to augment her teeny little peepers. When she looks at you, she can see right into your soul, as she does when Finn sits down at her table:
MAZ: If you live long enough, you see the same eyes in different people. I'm looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run.
That insight lets her do a fair bit of Yoda impersonation, offering helpful tips and guidance to the right souls who come across her path. For while she may run a decidedly seedy watering hole (did you see those bug things?), she's far from a disinterested party.
Early on, she makes it very clear which side she's fighting for:
REY: What fight?
MAZ: The only fight: against the dark side.
So, not only is she on the good guys' side, but she's a lot more approachable than any Jedi, meaning that edgy folks like Rey and Finn can get a teacher who can open the door for them on their level, not from some sanctified Jedi pedestal from on high.
That's probably the real purpose of her little drink-slinging business: sifting through the galaxy's travelers to find the ones who really need her street-level insight into the Force.
She was a princess when we first met her, but she was always so much more than that. She was an imperial senator, a rebel operative, a steely-eyed adult in a world of overgrown boys ready to stare them down and let them know exactly how full of it they were.
Now, she's a general, and the change likely suits her. No matter what's going down in that galaxy far, far away, this is the lady you want organizing your team.
Leia is older and wiser than she was when we first met her, and there's been a lot of water under the bridge in that time. She's sadder now than she was: she's dealt with the loss of her son and her husband, as well as the whole First Order thing, which must have been a bit of a blow after she fought so hard to take down the Empire. It's toned down some of her youthful brashness and added a lot of galactic know-how.
When your baby boy goes off the reservation and sends your twin brother into exile, it can leave a mark, as she explains to Han during their reunion:
LEIA: I just never should have sent him away. That's when I lost him. That's when I lost you both.
Having said that, she's still the Leia we remember, starting with her commitment to duty. When she first appears, she has a little moment with Han, but she definitely gets down to business before she'll hash it out with her favorite romantic sparring partner:
LEIA: That was incredibly brave, what you did. Renouncing the First Order, saving this man's life—
FINN: Thank you, ma'am—but a friend of mine was taken prisoner—
LEIA: Han told me about the girl, I'm sorry.
POE: Finn's familiar with the weapon that destroyed the Hosnian system. He worked on the base.
LEIA: We're desperate for anything you can tell us.
FINN: That's where my friend was taken. I've got to get there, fast!
LEIA: And I will do everything I can to help, but first you must tell us all you know.
And that old fire hasn't left her yet, either. She's still happy to call out the boys on their idiocy (Han, especially):
HAN: I'm trying to be helpful!
LEIA: When did that ever help? And don't say the Death Star.
Plus, she still has the Force. There's some question as to how she developed it since she's clearly not a Jedi, and her skills are now being used for planning and tactics rather than wading right in with a lightsaber.
But we know she has them—watch her facial expression when Kylo Ren kills Han, for example—and we suspect that the Force helps her out on the whole general/politician/leader of men thing, too. Negotiating with someone can be a lot easier if you know what they're feeling, and she can sense when and where the best spot to launch an attack might be. It may not be Jedi-level awesome…but it ain't exactly chopped liver, either.
And as one of the Big Three from the original trilogy, we get to see how she's grown and changed since we left her partying down with the Ewoks 30 years previous. She's older, she's wiser, life hasn't been kind to her, but she's still that ready-for-anything princess we remember...wild hairdo and all.
When the film first came out, some fans noticed that BB-8 tends to act a little too much like R2-D2—and once you get around his nifty beach-ball physique, there's not a whole lot of differences between the two of them.
They're both plucky and resourceful, loyal to a fault, and ready to take one for the team whenever they need to. Both of them are found by a lonely soul on a desert planet, carry vital information in their innards that the bad guys want, and when the chips are down, are ready to go with whatever support the team needs.
So, why is BB-8 here? Why him and not R2? Well, R2-D2 is out of commission owing to another super secret set of orders from Luke, and the movie needed someone to take up the slack. And BB-8 is also a little more vulnerable in some ways: R2 was ready to fight when someone crossed him. BB-8 would prefer to quietly scoot out of the way and hope no one notices him.
The interesting thing about him is how endearing he's become. R2 and C-3PO were an odd couple for the ages, but BB-8 feels very much like a third musketeer, which is pretty impressive for a sentient beach ball.
He serves as the main way to move the narrative forward, with the villains in pursuit of him and the heroes closing ranks to make sure he stays safe. That makes him as much of a plot device as a character…but what an adorable little plot device he is.
Chewie was always intended as a surrogate dog. Well, the best, coolest dog you could ever ask for, who just happens to be able to shoot a bowcaster and co-pilot a ship as well. George Lucas famously based the character on his Alaskan Malamute, Indiana, and it wouldn't be right not to include him in the action here.
Here, he sticks pretty much to form. He's loyal to Han unto death—literally, as it turns out—and will cheerfully defend his friends in any manner they need, be it pulling the arms off of bad guys or sitting in the co-pilot's seat ensuring that the malfunctioning whatchamacallit doesn't blow up the Millennium Falcon.
In other words, pretty much the same awesome sidekick stuff he did in Episodes IV-VI.
Yet, if you look closely, you can see some slight differences in Chewie that weren't there in those earlier films. He's a bit more of a prima donna here, for starters, fussing over his injuries and demanding praise for things that flatter his Wookiee ego.
Look, for example, at the way he reacts to Finn trying to bind his wounds. It's pretty much the way a fussy dog would:
FINN: Chewie, come on! I need help with this giant hairy thing! Stop moving! Chewie!
HAN: You hurt Chewie, you're gonna deal with me!
FINN: Hurt him?! He almost killed me six times!
Similarly, once he gets some proper medical attention, he clearly needs to be buttered up as much as stitched up:
DR. KALONIA: That sounds very scary…you must be so brave.
Kalonia's knowing, not-unkind smirk tells you everything you need to know about her praise.
Chewie's loyalty, which, while absolute, undergoes a subtle shift from one hotshot pilot to the next. Rey catches his eye, and while he would never throw over Han for any reason, he seems pretty happy to let the kid join the club, as Han indicates when Rey waffles at his job offer:
HAN: It's too bad. Chewie kind of likes you.
That makes it easier for Chewie to glom onto Rey—and thus stick around for future movies—once Han goes. Chewie is upset that his BFF got killed (seriously, there's going to be a lot of Wookiee grief pouring out of the big guy for a while), but Rey needs buddies, and with her in de facto command of the Falcon, it only makes sense that the Sidekick Transfer Operation successfully shifts him from the old, grizzled smuggler to plucky, young scavenger with ease.
That's good news because it means this "walking carpet" is going to be around for a long time to come. We can't say we're unhappy at the prospect.
What can you say about these two that hasn't already been said?
They're one of the great duos in all of cinema—the tall, thin guy and his short, fat buddy predate them by quite a bit, but they found their own rhythm early on and show no signs of stopping here.
In any case, unless you've been in a coma for the last 40 years, you know these guys.
C-3PO is a fussy and high-maintenance droid, prone to panicking and quite the snooty-patooty when he wants to be but also quietly affectionate to his friends. R2-D2 is much more reliable: dogged, friendly, loyal to a fault, and willing to stand up and be counted when the chips are down.
For this one, the boys are left on the sidelines for most of the film. C-3PO remains steadfastly beside Princess Leia, acting as her butler/interpreter/ex-husband annoyer:
C-3PO: Goodness! Han Solo! It is I, C-3PO! You probably don't recognize me because of the red arm. Look who it is! Did you see who? Oh. Excuse me, Prin—uh, General. Sorry.
That's basically his thing here, and he doesn't deviate from it. Show up, bug Han, deliver some key plot exposition, and hang out with Leia until the credits roll.
R2 is a little more interesting on that front, which is weird since he pretty much doesn't move for 90 percent of the film. He fell silent after Luke left and basically exists as a giant paperweight when we first see him here. Credit C-3PO for being really bummed about it:
C-3PO: R2-D2 has been in low power mode ever since Master Luke went away. Sadly, he may never be his old self again.
This is definitely in keeping with what we know about R2: he loves his buddies so much that he might just shut down out of sheer electronic grief when Luke goes into exile.
Turns out, he's kind of playing possum on that front…which plays into his loyalty, too. When Luke left, he knew he had to leave behind a way to reach him again, but he didn't want the bad guys finding out first. Who are you going to trust with that information? The astromech droid, that's who.
R2 is even willing to go into semi-permanent power-saver mode to make sure that happens, coming back to life only when the right people have the right info to induce him to spill the beans..
And for all his fussiness, C-3PO understands that. You can't trust Goldenrod the way you can R2, but underneath that type-A, butler thing, C-3PO really cares. You see that when R2 finally wakes up, confirming that these two really are inseparable:
C-3PO: Oh, my dear friend. How I've missed you.
Gets us right in the feels, every time.
(We're lumping these two together because they don't get a lot of screen time here, though we're hoping to see more of them in future entries.)
There are two kinds of bad guys in the Star Wars universe. There's the tall, scary, black-robed wizard types who throw lightning around with their hands and Force-choke underlings for failing to deliver their morning Danish at the appropriate temperature… and then there are the worker ants.
The worker ants are the regular military: the guys (and now, girls) who salute and follow orders. They seem to enjoy doing evil just as much as the big villains do. They're just much more…officious about it.
With their clipped British accents and pale, chinless faces, they're part of the enormous machine that keeps the Empire/First Order rolling ever forward to squash the galaxy flat.
These are the guys who have problems killing an entire planet but will get whipped into a frenzy if the paperwork is done wrong. The kinds of guys who won't give you a Band-Aid unless you've filled out the requisition forms in triplicate first. They're bureaucrats charged with executing the insane orders of the Sith in a practical fashion, and as such, they make evil look disturbingly like just another day at the office.
In A New Hope, it was Grand Moff Tarkin. Later, it was Admiral Piett and any of a dozen or so guys that Darth Vader Force-strangled on a whim. Here, it's General Hux and Captain Phasma: a strutting tin soldier and his silver-armored underling out to burn down orphanages, tie virgins to train tracks, and do whatever else Team Evil dictates.
Frankly speaking, they're pretty one-note characters. Kylo Ren struggles with his better half and sometimes lacks the courage of his dark side convictions. (Take careful note, folks: inner conflict = good dramatic material.)
Hux is just this strutting twerp, convinced of the righteousness of his cause and quivering his lower lip the moment anyone questions the fitness of his men…as Kylo Ren does at one point:
GENERAL HUX: My men are exceptionally trained, programmed from birth—
KYLO REN: Then they should have no problem retrieving the droid. Unharmed.
GENERAL HUX: Careful, Ren, that your "personal interests" not interfere with orders from Leader Snoke.
We can gather from that that he's not exactly best buds with Ren. But beyond that, he's all bloodless speeches and watery-eyed cruelty, the old Imperial Navy at its finest.
Phasma is even more of a cog in the machine. As someone farther down the totem pole, she has to get personally involved more often than Hux, actually shooting people instead of just casually ordering their executions over tea, for instance.
That makes her much more practical in her duties, concerned with getting the job done "right" rather than issuing the right commands. She takes Finn's defection kind of personally—look at how she recognizes him the moment he pops back up in her life after defecting:
FINN: Not anymore. The name's Finn, and I'm in charge. I'm in charge now, Phasma. I'm in charge.
But otherwise, again, she's about the armor more than the character (at least in this film).
Phasma is more interesting once you look beyond the character to the place she holds. In the first place, she's a woman—we literally haven't seen any female bad guys in the Imperial armed forces before—but also, we never actually see her face. She's wearing that silver helmet all the time, which actually echoes Darth Vader a little more than Kylo Ren does. Ren, after all, takes off his helmet to show us the deeply troubled young man underneath, but Phasma remains faceless and anonymous throughout.
That makes her a literal face of the machine: part of this huge First Order engine that grinds up people, planets, and eventually the whole galaxy if the good guys let it. Hux is cut from a similar cloth, and though we can actually see his face, he's still representative of a big, uncaring, anonymous engine.
They may not cut the scariest figures in the film, but the more you think about it, they're almost more evil than the Sith lords themselves: doing evil not because they're committed but because it simply doesn't bother them at all.
Remember those creepy old men we talked about in Kylo Ren's section? The latest model just shipped.
Supreme Leader Snoke apparently stepped in to fill the void left by the death of Emperor Palpatine, leading the First Order in various bits of space fascist mayhem and resolutely snuffing out all that is cool and awesome in the Star Wars universe.
We don't see much of him save in giant holographic image form, but we can infer that he's serving the same basic role as the Emperor did in Episodes IV-VI: ruling the bad guys with an iron fist and presumably single-handedly keeping the galactic skin cream industry in business.
Beside the ripe evil, we know mainly that he was responsible for turning Ren to the dark side and ensuring that the reborn Jedi order was conveniently wiped out. Han and Leia certainly blame him for the loss of their son:
HAN: We lost our son, forever.
LEIA: No. It was Snoke. He seduced our son to the dark side.
So, getting rid of the First Order presumably means getting rid of Snoke. Clearly our heroes are not up for that just yet. Even if they were, there's still Kylo Ren to get through…and though he may be a little weasel, he's a very angry weasel with Force powers.
They're going to need to build up to Snoke, meaning that that particular boss fight can only be hinted at here. Let's hope Rey is up to the challenge.