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.
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.
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.
Jedi Master Shaak Ti showed up in Attack of the Clones and the subsequent Clone Wars series, and looks like a cooler Twi'Lek.
Many of them died to bring you this information (that Bothans are cool).
A lizardlike people, not to be confused with Trandoshans or that thing Kirk fights in that one Star Trek episode. Seba Sebatyne was a Jedi Master who took on Leia as an apprentice.
A species known for being Force sensitive. One of them pops up at the very beginning of the cantina scene in A New Hope.
Why would you not want to be a Jedi bird man???
Male Devaronians are bald, have horns and look like devils, but the females don't. Also, they had a damn Jedi temple on their planet circa the Clone Wars!
Like Darth Maul, but on the good side instead. What a twist! (Remember Bao-Dur from KotOR 2?)
1. There might be a lot of bird people in Star Wars.
2. I freakin' told you a bird man Jedi would be awesome.
I wasn't entirely sure what the mon calamari hand situation was, but I can confirm that they can hold a lightsaber and thus would be entirely workable videogame protagonists and Jedi.
The Gotal are pretty cool, though they look slightly too much like goats for me to be comfortable with the name.
Okay, maybe not these guys.
A species familiar to pretty much every Star Wars fans, with an expressive face and a history of Jedi representation in the Clone Wars series. Perfect.
Who are some of the most popular and enduring characters from the history of Star Wars? Droids! We love them in every dang movie and TV show and game. Granted, they make great sidekicks and rarely have to bear the weight of a starring role, and I know what you're thinking: Droids can't be Force-sensitive, right? Wrong. There's always a Wookieepedia page.
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.
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%.