Launching the #StarWars Sequel Trilogy with style, J. J. Abrams's The Force Awakens left fans with a lot of questions. One of the most intriguing mysteries was the identity of the First Order's enigmatic commander, Supreme Leader Snoke. Clearly envisioned as the Sequel Trilogy's version of the Emperor, Snoke was voiced by Andy Serkis, and left a deep impression on the fans.
Lucasfilm hasn't exactly been open about the answers. Instead, they've been dropping a breadcrumb trail that's gradually giving us a sense of just who the Supreme Leader truly is. Here's what we know so far.
Why So Mysterious?
It may surprise you to learn that, back when Lucasfilm launched the sequels, they didn't actually have a detailed backstory for Snoke. Andy Serkis has explained there was "an evolving design of the character" back during filming of The Force Awakens, making it something of a challenge for him to portray the character. Ultimately, Serkis focused in on a single concept: the source of Snoke's pain, aggression, and emotional center. To Serkis, the important part of the design was that agonizing cleft in the Supreme Leader's forehead.
"He's got this cleft in his head and I think it's very painful for him to speak and yet there's an imperiousness about him. He's severely damaged but there's a vulnerability that's he's trying to cover so that was sort of what I was trying to do."
That terrible injury became the heart of Serkis's brief portrayal in The Force Awakens, and remained prominent during filming of The Last Jedi. More recently though, Serkis has noted that Lucasfilm has now decided the character's backstory, just in time for the villain to play a far more significant role in the latest film.
But don't expect The Last Jedi to give you all the answers. Writer-director Rian Johnson keeps calling back to the same metaphor, insisting that a good story isn't like a Wikipedia entry. It tells you what you need to know to make sense of the story, and nothing else. Johnson compares Snoke to the Emperor in the Original Trilogy, who was a shadowy background presence, never explained or explored as a character.
An Ancient Force Presence
We've already seen hints that Lucasfilm was firming up Snoke's backstory. This year saw author Chuck Wendig finish his "Aftermath" trilogy, a series of novels set shortly after the events of Return of the Jedi. They revealed that the Emperor had long been aware of an ancient dark side being watching the galaxy from the Unknown Regions:
"The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there — some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal — conveniently one that only he could hear. Even his greatest enforcer, Vader, seemed oblivious to it, and Vader also claimed mastery over the dark Force, did he not? Rax believed Palpatine had gone mad."
In one telling scene, the pregnant Leia sensed a dark side presence weigh down upon her, as though watching the infant within her womb. The narrative clearly points to Snoke, and suggested he's a nonhuman being of tremendous dark side power. The novel ended with the last remnants of the Empire fleeing to the Unknown Regions, where they'd presumably encounter Snoke.
There have long been rumors that Supreme Leader Snoke wore a ring upon his finger, one containing a black Kyber Crystal through which he focuses his power. Those were seemingly confirmed by the official action figures, released on Force Friday 2017.
The Wrath Of Snoke
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Serkis explained that Snoke's terrible, ancient injury remains central to his backstory:
"The thing about Snoke is that he is extremely strong with the Force, the dark side of the Force. He’s terribly powerful, of course. But he is also a very vulnerable and wounded character. He has suffered and he has suffered injury. The way that his malevolence comes out is in reaction to that. His hatred of the Resistance is fueled by what’s happened to him personally."
Like all creatures of the dark side, Snoke is driven by his passions. In this case, his passionate hatred of the Resistance, and of the New Republic, finds its origin in whatever he experienced in the past. Serkis describes the scale of Snoke's injuries in fascinating detail. It seems that Snoke, a nine-foot-tall alien being, is horrendously disfigured. His body is twisted up like a corkscrew, limiting his movement. The sense of restriction is a constant reminder of what he once suffered, driving his malevolent fury and rage.
Snoke's injuries were inspired by those experienced in the trenches of the First World War. As Entertainment Weekly notes in comments that perhaps imply a lot about Snoke's origin:
"In that conflict, modern war machines ripped and gnarled human bodies like never before, but lifesaving contemporary medicine ensured the survival of men who otherwise would have died on the battlefield. They lived on carrying damage previously seen only on corpses."
Given Snoke's jaw is completely mangled, Serkis ensured he got the voice right by taping down the lefthand side of his mouth, restricting movement and ensuring he spoke with a distinctive snarl.
Greed And Lust For Power
Serkis insists that revenge isn't Snoke's only driving force. He's desperately greedy, seeking material wealth in order to compensate for his physical deformity. That explains the shimmering golden robes that the Supreme Leader wears, and it may also suggest why he likes to track down the most powerful Force-users.
Furious at the destruction of Starkiller Base, Snoke plays his two highest figures — Kylo Ren and General Hux — against one another. He's unable to accept Kylo Ren's weakness, and so is on the lookout for another possible disciple. We see that in the trailers for The Last Jedi, which reveal that Snoke senses "raw, untamed power" within Rey. He covets that potential, desiring to make Rey his own.
We don't know much about Supreme Leader Snoke. His nature and his origin are still a mystery, and will likely only begin to be revealed in next year's #StarWars novels. That's where Lucasfilm likes to drop their breadcrumbs, and to tie their loose threads together. In the meantime, though, we do know to expect Snoke to be a being of terrible dark side power, a vengeful powerhouse who longs to take the galaxy by storm!
Do you think Lucasfilm should explore Snoke's origin in the movies? And what do you expect from his story? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
[Source: Entertainment Weekly]