Beware, young Padawan. Both minor and major spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens lie ahead.
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not give us Yoda, we’re still treated to a short, wise alien in the form of Maz Kanata. Portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o, Kanata is a character who appears to know a great deal about the Force. She is no Jedi, but she knows how to read people’s inner thoughts by simply looking at their eyes. She is an intriguing character, and some may have been disappointed by the brevity of her appearance in the film.
Of course, her role is still highly important. When the main characters go to visit her at her pirate bar, they have no idea that the castle is housing an important relic from the previous films. Rey, upon hearing voices in the basement, stumbles upon a box containing a familiar lightsaber. She touches it, and the audience is treated to a strange vision sequence that leaves many unanswered questions. She decides that she wants no further affiliation with the Jedi way, and she leaves without it. Maz later gives the lightsaber to Finn, who eventually gives it to Rey. Well…sort of. I’ll leave that part unspoiled, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.
Apparently, however, Maz was originally supposed to have a somewhat larger character arc. Some may recall a scene in one of the film’s trailers, in which Kanata actually gives the lightsaber to General Leia Organa. This apparently would not have changed the general plot of the film very much, and that’s pretty much precisely why it was cut. Director J.J. Abrams explained this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“That was a scene actually filmed, but we took out. At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realized that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to be sitting around.”
That might sound like the kind of decision that would usually be made while the film was still in the scripting process, but apparently they had originally gone a bit further with it. And as far as Abrams is concerned, it was a change for the better.
“Lupita did film scenes on set for that sequence, but it felt like going right just to go left, and it was unnecessary. So we ended up leaving those things out. Sometimes you discover that things you would have cut off a limb to shoot on the day are absolutely inconsequential, and in fact less impactful than if you were to remove it.”
The lightsaber still would have made it into Rey’s hands, and the vision sequence still would have occurred. The sequence of events just would have been slightly different. But there’s one thing that we still don’t have closure on, which is how Kanata managed to inherit the lightsaber in the first place. She’s actually asked about this in the film, but she tells us that this is a story for another time. Whether or not we’ll ever hear this story remains to be seen. We can only hope that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.