Before Lucasfilm hit the reset button on the Star Wars canon, there were apparently more than 20 million species in the Star Wars galaxy. That number, which I've pulled from Wookieepedia and that Wookieepedia pulled from some Star Wars novel, surely does not refer to an actual list of species created by Lucasfilm over the years. It's too many. Narrow that down to sentient species that have their own wiki page, and it's merely hundreds: Twi'leks and Mon Calamari and Sullustans and Sock-Headed Worm People. In one of the Star Wars novels I'm now only slightly embarrassed to have read as a teenager, a genetically modified Ewok with prosthetic limbs worked as shuttle pilot.
What I'm saying is, there's a rich, weird, silly, pretty awesome range of alien species out there for Star Wars creators to draw from, invented over decades of movies and books and comics and games. And yet this is the character Respawn has chosen to lead Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
Seriously? Where have I seen this guy before? Oh yeah: Solo, that Star Wars movie nobody asked for that spelled out a backstory nobody needed to know. Fallen Order's protagonist Cal Kestis looks like a knock-off young Solo, even if he's based on actor Cameron Monaghan rather than Alden Ehrenreich.
To quote executive editor Tyler Wilde: "They chose someone with the personality of a hotel bathrobe."
Where else have I seen a character an awful lot like this? Oh, just in the majority of big-budget videogames made in the last 15 years or so, more or less. The hood, the clean jaw, the broody face. I can't remember the last time I was this instantly bored looking at a videogame protagonist, and the rest of the Jedi: Fallen Order reveal trailer doesn't do much to bolster its flat lead. It's all cutscenes, so we get no real sense of how this game will play.
And the voiceover—"Trust no one… trust only in the Force" is a rote "See how disillusioned we are?" setup. Maybe a brilliant actor could've instilled this script with more desperation or conflict or a tinge of hope, but I watch this and I feel, well, nothing.(opens in new tab)
What a wasted opportunity. Of course I can't say yet if Cal Kestis will be a narratively interesting character. We'll only know that in November, when Fallen Order is out. But I can say that there were so many visually interesting options that Respawn, EA, and Lucasfilm didn't take here, and it's a damn shame. This isn't a movie, where hours of makeup, close-up shots, uncomfortable costumes and expensive CG are all barriers to making central characters aliens. This is a videogame, where the skills and imaginations of your artists are the only limitations.
Surely this wasn't as far as that imagination could stretch.
Here's a short tour of some of Star Wars' many, many alien species who could've made for more immediately interesting protagonists.
The blandness of Fallen Order's protagonist really stings when you hear that Uncharted writer Amy Hennig's canceled Star Wars project, Ragtag, would've starred a group of playable characters, not just a single protagonist. Here's a piece of key art from that game-that-will-never-be via Kotaku.
Even if the main character, Dodger, was a rogueish Han Solo knock-off, even if he was also a white guy with brown hair, I gotta say, he has more personality in his mustache than Cal Kestis has in his whole dang face.(opens in new tab)
I hope Fallen Order's lightsaber combat is great, and evokes a way of experiencing that galaxy we haven't had since Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. I just wish this hero wasn't a Force Unleashed retread with the edgelord knob dialed back 75%.