Let’s face it, the moment we saw BB-8 in the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, this orange and white ball droid with an R2-D2 like head racing across the sand, we loved him! Well, I did, and I know there are many alike out there who think BB-8 is awesome, and the perfect compliment to so many of the outstanding characters in this long awaited Star Wars sequel. It would seem that BB-8 became, in and of himself, the identifying image for TFA, and everyone knew who he was before we even saw the movie. I know I drooled over the app powered remote control BB-8 droid long before opening night, and somehow knew, this droid would be the droid we’re looking for!
So what is it about this orange and white droid that makes him so great? Well aside from some of the obvious reasons, like the ingenious idea to make him a ball that can roll anywhere, his lovable beeps and blurbs in binary, with the added purr to charm Rey, and the emotions that come out of this droid, I think the reason he is so awesome lies in identifying what makes a Star Wars supporting character so great. R2-D2 for instance is the most loved droid to come out of the Star Wars Universe, even though he often was accompanied by his annoying counterpart, C-3PO. Since R2-D2 is so loved by many, and since BB-8, although a one of a kind BB unit, has a very similar look and charm to R2-D2, it seems inevitable that BB-8 would be an instant star. R2-D2 was in the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie, and though unintelligible to the audience, he has the second line. Immediately, his binary language is intriguing to the audience, and although we rely on supporting characters to translate what R2-D2 is saying, there is a certain quirk about him that makes his meaning come across to the audience. Whether it be an urgent message, or his excitement, or his playfulness which we see a lot more in The Empire Strikes Back, R2-D2 is able to convey his feeling and emotions through his personality. Did you get that? Feelings, emotions, personality… from a “robot?” That’s right, Star Wars has brought the “robot” to life in so many different droids, with R2-D2 being at the forefront. Even C-3PO, as we discussed on Unmistakable Star Wars a few weeks back, is characterized by “Watson” as the most neurotic character in Star Wars. So we are able to feel and experience a vast array of emotions from these droids, and R2-D2 has done that that best, and we now have BB-8 to carry that on. I mean, let’s just look at some of the feelings we get out of BB-8: apprehension and a little anxiety when Poe tells him to take the map piece, we see sadness when he believes Poe was killed, and of course we see an “attachment” immediately to Rey who rescues him from Teedo. BB-8 also has a very childlike personality to him, in contrast to R2-D2 who tends to be a little more seasoned and rebellious, (yet another likable characteristic) whereas BB-8 tends to cling to those who care for him and seeks approval from them as well.
Now there are many amazing and much loved characters to come out of the Star Wars Universe, and I for one have several favorites, not just R2-D2. Chewbacca, Wicket, and Paploo are a few more of my personal favorites. While these characters have so much depth that make them distinct, they have a quality that many of the much loved characters in the Star Wars Universe has… a unique language. This unique, unintelligible language, requires a form of translation. R2-D2 has been reliant on a lot of his communication to be interpreted by other characters, like C-3PO and Luke Skywalker. I believe that many of the characters that are well loved in the Star Wars universe have this same issue; they speak another language and become reliant on either another character, or their emotions and inflection to be understood. And I believe this is a key reason why they are so awesome. Chewbacca, again, another well loved character, speaks the language of the Wookies, and for the most part, is interpreted by Han Solo. Yet his roars, banters and mumbles have become so familiar to so many Star Wars fans, that it is like we know exactly what he is saying. Wicket, and all of the Ewoks, speak a very adorable language, but again, C-3PO is needed as a translator. You’ll notice that there are also many villains that speak another language, but they tend to be in subtitles, and don’t have a counterpart to do their translating for them. It’s an interesting distinction, but it seems mostly consistent that the subtitles are reserved for villains, and our beloved Rebels, or our newly loved Resistance fighters, all have fellow characters to share in dialogue with them and allow for translation to happen.
So why do I think this could be a reason that makes many of our loved Star Wars characters so lovable? Well lets take this theory about having an unintelligible language and apply it to the “sidekick” character from The Phantom Menace who doesn’t need translating. We all know who I’m talking about, dare I say his name. Yes, Jar Jar Binks, a character who has become disliked amongst some vocal Star Wars fans. He spoke english, and therefore, was understood (barely) by the audience. Maybe had they given him a cute alien language that we couldn’t understand, he wouldn’t be so hated across the board. Yet since he spoke, and way too much I might add, he became quite annoying! To quote Qui-Gon Jinn, “The ability to speak, does not make you intelligent!” I mean lets face it, would we really like Chewbacca as much if he just spoke english? I think these unique languages add so much more depth to these characters and therefore make them awesome!
Now, this is just my own rant and theory as a reason why these characters have become so well liked and adored, but it seems like BB-8 has fallen into this same category and has meshed so well with the Star Wars universe that he has become an instant hit. I have no doubt that Episode VIII will continue to solidify BB-8 as an integral part of not only the Resistance, but I believe he has what it takes to be as well loved and identified as R2-D2 is, if he hasn’t already achieved that!