Star Wars and the art of quirky creatures

The screaming bird-like ‘porg’ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi calls to mind some of the franchise’s other great creature creations.

Star Wars

Watching the trailers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead of its release this week (which I’ve been doing obsessively for months now), one image has continued to stand out.

It’s not the sight of Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke Skywalker with evident gravitas, nor the pain etched across villain Kylo Ren’s face as he contemplates blowing his mother, Princess Leia, to smithereens. No, the standout image for this particular Star Wars geek is the strange fish-bird creature squealing with startled urgency while perched on the dashboard of the Millennium Falcon.

The creature is called a porg, native to the planet Ahch-To, but to mitigate the risk of spoilers I won’t go any further into the details about this little critter, or how it comes to share a cockpit with an equally startled Chewbacca. Its presence does confirm though that under Disney’s ownership, the creative types at production company Lucasfilm haven’t their lost their knack for designing wildly imaginative creatures to populate the Star Wars universe.

Indeed for all the talk about the mythology of the franchise and the saga that swirls around its main characters, Star Wars has always paid close attention to its enormous cast of extras who collectively help to transport the viewer to a galaxy far, far away. Here we look at some of the quirkiest, freakiest and downright bizarre Star Wars creations to date.

Jawas

Without the Jawas the history of Star Wars could’ve been very different. It’s this merry band of hooded, pint-sized scavenger people who capture the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 in the Tatooine desert and sell them onto Luke Skywalker at the beginning of A New Hope.

These metre-tall humanoids are completely unseen behind their robes except for their bright, yellow eyes, while their jabbering chatter (and frequently exclaimed phrases like “Utinni!”) lend them an endearingly shambolic quality. Handy with a blaster and always ready to haggle, Jawas are a great introduction to the kind of shady, slippery characters who thrive on causing trouble in the Star Wars universe.

Max Rebo

You may simply know him as the blue elephant-thing from Return of the Jedi – but he’s so much more than that. The creature in question is actually Max Rebo, a blue-skinned Ortolan musician and the leader of The Max Rebo Band.

This three-piece act, which provides a funky musical backdrop at Jabba the Hut’s palace, has developed a big cult following of its own, appearing in a wide range of spin-off Star Wars stories and fan-made content. It even has its own Wikipedia page (which informs me that Max’s instrument is a Red Ball Jett keyboard).

Max Rebo

Salacious B. Crumb

Staying at Jabba’s palace, which is truly a treasure trove of weird and wonderful Star Wars creatures (see also the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope), a special mention has to go to Salacious B. Crumb.

This Kowakian monkey-lizard serves the role of a jester in Jabba’s court, laughing maniacally at the misfortune of those who fall foul of his master. His presence adds to the sheer sense of enveloping doom at the beginning of Return of the Jedi; he’s a small creature but a malevolent one. As he claws and gnaws at the eye of a hapless C-3PO during the rescue sequence, it’s a joy to see him get zapped by R2-D2’s trusty cattleprod.

Rathtars

It would be remiss not to mention The Force Awakens which, like The Last Jedi, introduces a whole host of jaw-dropping new creatures. Among them are rathtars – defined by the Wookipedia fan site as “large, carnivorous cephalopods” that slither on land.

They appear during a fantastic sequence in The Force Awakens when, shortly after Han Solo is reunited with the Millennium Falcon, the smuggled creatures break free and run amok on a cargo ship. Gobbling up everything in sight (including members of the criminal Kanjiklub gang who are hunting Solo), the rathtars are reminders that the Star Wars franchise can also do out-and-out monsters who kill with merciless efficiency. In a rogue’s gallery of Star Wars creatures, the rathtars deserve pride of place.

Rathtar
Credit: Wookieepedia

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