Spoilers for Episode VII. As with the previous article discussing Rey and Kylo Ren, this too is a discussion filled with spoilers and theories.
Welcome to Part III of my Star Wars: The Force Awakens analysis. In this article I’m discussing the Stormtrooper turned Resistance Fighter, Finn. In my previous articles on Rey and Kylo Ren, I left some things out regarding their characters because they were relevant to Finn’s story, especially regarding the fight near the end of the movie and his interactions with some throughout.
Much of this is speculation so please feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page with ideas or thoughts.
Why was Finn so quick to leave the First Order?
Was he? We don’t know how long he’s been with the First Order as we pick up the action quite literally in media res. What we do know about Finn is as follows:
- He saw a fellow Stormtrooper get shot and die before his eyes.
- He was reluctant and eventually refused to pull the trigger on the townspeople of Tuanul, a supposed spiritual colony on Jakku.
- Upon his return to the Star Destroyer Finalizer, we see him overwhelmed by the recent events, apparently in the middle of a panic attack when he’s confronted by Captain Phasma
That’s it. The next time we see Finn he’s breaking Poe Dameron out of his restraints for a crazy escape back to Jakku. Obviously there’s a lot more going on than we’re seeing as Finn, or FN-2187 as he was designated, makes the decision to leave the First Order. We have to delve into some back story to see what pushes him to this seemingly rash decision. In the novel, Star Wars: Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, Finn is described as an up and coming Stormtrooper wunderkind. His blaster never misses in simulation drills, he picks up weapons training quickly, is a leader among his fire team, and is considered by Captain Phasma to be an all around superior soldier and a future candidate for becoming an officer.
Furthermore, we find out in the movie that Finn was taken from his home at some undisclosed, though assumed young age. It’s not that farfetched to think he’s been with the First Order for years if not decades. As a matter of fact there’s a bit of a hidden Easter Egg that hints at how young he was when he was taken from his family. There’s a scene where Captain Phasma is speaking with General Hux about Finn’s defection. As the two are speaking there’s a monitor in the foreground that shows what appears to be Finn’s resume. Slowly spinning next to his resume is a picture of a very young kid, probably between the ages of 3 and 5. That being said, when he decides to break from the First Order, this isn’t a decision he’s made lightly or within a short amount of time. He’s pondered the decision, for some time. He’s too smart to completely buy into the conditioning of the First Order and his fellow soldier dying before his eyes was the final straw.
It’s easy to see the correlation between classic Rome and Star Wars. Transitioning from the Republic to the Empire marks a massive turning point in Roman history. It’s violent and cataclysmic. The same is true for the Republic and Empire in the Star Wars universe. So where does the First Order come from? They don’t fit into the classic Rome motif. Instead, what we have with the First Order is something more akin to North Korea. They work in complete secret. According to Poe’s chapter in Before the Awakening, both the Resistance and the First Order are considered something of a myth disregarded by most military personnel. Back to my point. Finn was taken from a family he won’t ever know meaning he was kidnapped and then conditioned to think the First Order way. This is significant for my next point.
Finn is still trying to break his First Order way of thinking throughout the film.
Finn is a great character. John Boyega’s portrayal of the turncoat Stormtrooper was one of the surprises of the film. A lot of this has to do with how he played Finn. Finn has committed to breaking from the First Order minutes after the film starts, but the First Order both freaks him out and still has a small hold on him. Two scenes in particular come to mind. The first is the most obvious scene where Finn is confronted by Maz Kanata about wanting to run. Finn has a mini breakdown and suggests there’s no stopping the First Order and that everyone should run. He even begins to leave, abandoning Rey and BB-8, before the First Order shows up.
The second time occurs earlier in the film when Han and Chewie discover Finn, Rey, and BB-8 in the Falcon. Chewie howls something and Rey answers him. Finn’s response? “You can understand that thing?” This is a classic Star Wars line if I’ve ever heard one. Recall Episode IV when Han, Luke, and Chewie go to break Leia out of the cell. The elevator opens to the cell block and the guy in charge says, “Where are you taking this… thing?” There are remnants of the Empire’s dogma in the First Order and Finn’s conditioning is the proof.
He will continue to struggle with this programming, though the battle at Maz Kanata’s castle did a lot to get rid of whatever was holding him back. When he sees Rey being taken by Kylo Ren, Finn switches to full on hero mode. While he’s scared of the First Order, he’s more frightened of losing his friend, something he didn’t think possible only minutes earlier. By the end of the film, Finn enters a battle he knows he’s going to lose. He’s either a cornered and scared animal or he’s made a decision not to be scared anymore. I feel it’s much more the latter. So let’s discuss that final fight between Kylo Ren and Finn.
How can Finn successfully use a lightsaber?
The simple answer? He’s a highly trained Stormtrooper and yet he was pretty terrible at using the lightsaber! However, Star Wars fans don’t do simple, so here’s some more explanation.
Finn fought in two battles with the lightsaber. The first was against the now famous TR-8R Stormtrooper, who as it turns out is a member of his former fire team, FN-2199. In this battle, FN-2199 calls him out and they start battling… sort of. In actuality, Finn gets his proverbial ass handed to him. There are roughly 14 strikes in the fight. The first 9 are all from FN-2199 as Finn holds the saber in front of himself for defensive purposes. Anyone with a sense of personal preservation can manage that. Only in the last few strikes of the battle does Finn attack and even then it’s short lived. He’s promptly slammed to the ground and the trooper has him dead to rights. Bowcaster to the rescue!
In the second battle against Kylo Ren there are roughly 12 strikes. This time the battle is relatively equal, though Kylo Ren has the upper hand throughout most of the fight. A lot of people have had a problem trying to figure out how a non-force user can last against a force user in a fight. First off, who said he’s not force sensitive? That’s a theory for another day.
Much like the Kylo Ren vs. Rey fight, a lot of it comes down to the bowcaster bolt to the side. Kylo Ren is hurt, badly. Finn is a well trained Stormtrooper who, by the way, was trained to fight with that wicked force baton that FN-2199 used. He can handle himself just fine in a fight. Plus, the fight wasn’t that long! For comparison I give you the Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul fight. After Qui-Gon has been defeated we are given the fight that defined all fights in Episode 1. There are roughly 50 strikes in a fight that takes about 40 seconds of screen time. Obviously these are two highly trained force users but it makes my point. Finn didn’t do that well in any saber fight he was a part of.
I suppose the point here is that, he’s a well trained soldier who can adapt accordingly, and even then wasn’t up to the task as we see his spine sliced in two. But that’s okay. Star Wars medicine is literally the best thing ever. A nice bath in the Bacta Tank should have him feeling chipper in no time.
I thought Finn was in sanitation?!
There’s a lot going on with that simple throw away statement, in my opinion. Four reasons in total. Two of them are “in” jokes and two of the reasons are altogether different.
First, it sets up the Captain Phasma down the garbage shoot joke. Obviously this pays homage to Episode IV which makes the joke even more memorable as Han was the one making it.
Second, there’s a part of me that wants to believe this was thrown in the movie for Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks. J.J. Abrams and Kevin Smith are friends. As a matter of fact it was Abrams who accidently cleared the room at Comicon last year when Smith was supposed to follow him. This in and of its self would be enough for Abrams to throw this joke in the movie. So what joke am I talking about? If you will recall, in Clerks, Dante and Randal are having one of their many movie based conversations. If memory serves, I believe it was Randal who was going on and on about Return of the Jedi. In his tirade he mentions how the first Death Star blowing up was all military personnel dying while on duty. He then goes on to discuss that the second Death Star was obviously in the middle of being constructed and was most assuredly full of independent contractors like plumbers and roofers who were killed when Lando blew it up. Finn being in sanitation might have been Abrams tipping the cap to this rather hilarious conversation.
Third, it might be argued that it shows Finn is willing to do anything, including go on a completely suicidal mission to save his friend Rey. Finn, as it turns out, is one of the most courageous characters in the entire film, in spite of his many concerns throughout.
Fourth, it humanizes the Stormtroopers. Finn being assigned a menial task like sanitation in spite of his abilities as a Stormtrooper shows that in the military all jobs had to be done and everyone was going to play their part, regardless of the job. It also gives Finn a reason for knowing the layout of the massive Star Killer Base. Sanitation knows no bounds. A toilet needs to be everywhere where people are working. Being in sanitation insures he’s everywhere at all times. Brilliant move Abrams.
A few last second things to think about.
- I don’t think Finn is a Calrissian. That seems too coincidental and a bit cheap if you ask me. However, there’s a chance he could be from the same planet as Calrissian or perhaps Mace Windu. Calrissian comes from a planet called Socorro. Windu comes from the planet Haruun Kal. If Star Wars has shown anything, it’s that most planet species look VERY similar to one another. Just a thought.
- In the same line of thinking, Finn could be related, distantly, to either man.
- John Boyega is British and speaks with a rather distinct accent. At first I thought this might be a telling fact. Finn speaking in a particular dialect sounds as though it’s been done on purpose. As it turns out, John Boyega tried Finn with his normal accent and apparently it sounded really stupid for the character. Almost instantly J. J. Abrams asked him to change it to an American accent. It’s hard to imagine Finn with a thick British accent. Makes me think they made the right call.
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