Think back, if you can, to the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's the first new Star Wars movie in over a decade. It's pulling at a plot thread that many have only dreamed about for even longer than that. What are the things you're expecting, even just hoping, to see? Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon have to be there. Stormtroopers are a certainty. We knew that Mark Hamill would return as Luke Skywalker (not knowing he would have fewer lines than Daniel Craig in the movie, of course), but the checklist of things fans expected to see was long, and, in the end, mostly satisfied. It was the thing that none of us expected to see in the film that stuck with me, though, the thing that I have not stopped thinking about for four years. Something that never appeared in a Star Wars movie before or since.
It happens about 27 minutes into the film. Finn (John Boyega) has been traversing the desert of Jakku and finally found a semblance of civilization at Niima Outpost. Our hero forages through the camp to find water, finally stumbling upon a small reservoir from which he begins to drink. John Boyega's character is not the only one drinking from this dirty pond, though, as a massive beast known as a happabore also begins to drink before knocking Finn out of the way. The giant pig-like creature is able to do this as Finn first notices Rey, who is being attacked in an attempt to steal BB-8. Hoping to be a hero, Finn runs to her aid and that's when we see it. Not the stunning prowess of Daisy Ridley's Rey as she dispatches some alien goons, not the hilarious facial expressions of Finn as he witnesses it all go down. Something bigger and far more unpleasant: The tremendous anus of the happabore on full display. Already rotund to begin with, it stretched to uncomfortably great lengths if you were watching the film in IMAX.
Surely, your eyes deceive you. This is Star Wars, a world of infinite possibilities and mythical beasts unlike any we've ever seen. It's among the best examples of the monomyth in modern storytelling, a franchise that has delivered iconic sound effects and characters that have transcended movies themselves; and, like the happabore's unmentionables, its influence is vast and unending. So how did an over-sized hog with a Cadillac-sized keister end up on the screen? What dark magics saw this through the final edit? One thing to keep in mind about this elephantine rump is that this was a practical effect. This beast was constructed by the creature team on the film, and all of the junk in its trunk was given a stamp of approval by director J.J. Abrams.
“J.J. did his first tour of our workshop, and we rounded it off by having this enormous thing charge out of a side door into the main warehouse,” Creature concept designer Jake Lunt Davies previously said. “It was a risk. Fortunately, he loved it.”
I'll repeat for emphasis: J.J. Abrams loved it.
Star Wars is truly no stranger to juvenile jokes and toilet humor, but this is not a joke — not intentionally, at least. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace famously featured a scene where Jar Jar Binks steps in an almost musical pile of excrement (“Bantha poo doo,” if you're nasty). Later still, he gets a face full of air biscuits from another animal that turns with smug pride and flaunts its flatulence at him. These moments are meant for levity, designed specifically to elicit laughter from children (the scorn they drew from adults was seemingly unintended). That is where this specific moment from The Phantom Menace and the overwhelming buttocks featured in The Force Awakens differ. One was crafted to be noticed, to be heard, to be a focal point, and the other was just the product of biological design that was only natural when sculpting an Earth-influenced animal. No one arrived on set in the desert of Abu Dhabi and said, “Today is anus day.”
The other major difference? This moment was, in all likelihood, not scripted (which is what further differentiates it from the thala-sirens milking scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi). The creature shop on Star Wars: The Force Awakens had to add this piece of anatomy to the happabore. Someone spent their days making sure it looked just right, sculpting it with precision. Then, over the course of what was likely a few days, J.J. Abrams pointed a camera at it and committed its image to celluloid. This thing made it past countless eyes, and, if someone pointed it out and said, “Are we really going to show that?” they were seemingly overruled.
I will never forget seeing this beast and its unexpected back porch on the big screen (it appears in three shots in total across The Force Awakens, and be warned, once you see it, you cannot unsee it). It was the thing I wanted to bring up more than anything else; more than Han Solo's death, more than BB-8's hilarious thumbs up. This moment even began a selective club for modern blockbusters, a group of “Things That, If You Told People They Were in This Movie, They Wouldn't Believe You,” which further consists of the jar of pee in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the bull/cow mix-up “prank” in Power Rangers, and the infamous “like a turd in the wind” line from Venom. How do these things exist? How did an entire production with hundreds of eyes looking at every detail see this and think, “Yes. The world must know about this and see it on the biggest screen possible”? I do not know the answer to this question, but I thank them.
Even if this entire thing was unintended, it has made Star Wars richer. The franchise created by George Lucas is at its best when it's getting weird. The moments from the original trilogy that stick out as fan favorites are the ones with the weirdest and wildest aliens, whose screen time is reduced to mere frames in some instances. The same can be said for the happabore. Its existence does nothing to Finn's journey in The Force Awakens, as he would still meet Rey without it; but that it exists is something that will remain at the forefront of my thoughts, and I can only hope that something even weirder is waiting for us still in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and beyond.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on December 20th.
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