(he’s just a Porg boy from a Porg family)
I know they’re the new Ewoks. The new Gungans. I even saw someone on Twitter call them the new Minions which, in my opinion, is a bit far, but not an assessment that’s totally unfounded. But that doesn’t bother me.
I’m of course talking about the new Star Wars species, and soon to be prolific lunchbox cover-stars, the Porgs. Somewhere between a penguin, a butternut squash and a bobble head, all with huge eyes and a cute, How To Train Your Dragon-style growl, the Porgs are an adorable addition to the Star Wars universe that, to be quite honest, has captured my attention with a far more impenetrable grip than anything to do with Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren or Poe Dameron’s beautiful beautiful face.
I’m expecting that the Porgs will play the inconsequential, but vital, role of Cute Things That Sit There Being Cute. It’s an important position in many films and television series, but is an especially vital one, in my opinion, when the subject matter is as distant from reality as sci-fi and fantasy settings allow, and when the plot is one of relative dark seriousness.
Covering the latter point first, Star Wars is hardly a heart-wrenching emotional warzone like Game of Thrones (or, to be honest, the final episode of Yu-Gi-Oh), or the gritty blood-and-guns of military sci-fi series like Battlestar Galactica. Yet the trailer for the new film, The Last Jedi, hints at a much more morally muddled and thematically bleak than other entries in the series. We’re not in the realm of Luke flipping off the plank above the Sarlacc pit to catch a flying lightsaber forged by plot convenience in mid-air, before delivering a blow so viciously ridiculous it wouldn’t look out of place in a pantomime with a particular disregard for practical reality in the face of grandiose spectacle. We’re in the realm of the supposed end of the Jedi order, of hints at Rey working with, not against Kylo Ren, and of posters more blood-tinged than Varric’s personal tarot card after completing Here Lies The Abyss. If the new film is to move away from simpler narrative elements – Jedi are good, Sith are bad – and replace them with darker, greyer elements, having a cute thing sitting on the dashboard of the Millennium Falcon could be a nice antidote to that.
And regarding the former point, it’s sci-fi. We wouldn’t be operating in this genre if there wasn’t a healthy amount of new planets, people, technology and creates to discover. I must admit, The Force Awakens was notably weak on this end; the film opened with Stormtroopers blasting rebels and a black-suited commander capturing a resistant figure of importance, who managed to stow away some plans on a willing and adorable-in-its-own-right droid; then we went to a desert planet that totally wasn’t Tatooine, a cantina that totally wasn’t in Mos Eisley, and the whole thing ended with a superweapon that totally wasn’t the Death Star being destroyed because of the plucky work of a small group of freedom-fighters that totally wasn’t the Rebel Alliance. In fact, the biggest ‘new’ addition to the first film was the presence of meaningful women who aren’t Carrie Fisher; the fact that this was not only a novelty, but one that distracted from the lack of actual sci-fi-tastic novelty in the film, shines a less than wonderful light on the film industry as a whole, but I digress. Say what you like about Geonosians, pod racing and the Naboo royal family, the series has always been an excellent source of diverse peoples, species and, frankly, things, and the Porgs are a thing I am genuinely quite excited to learn more about.
However, there is a danger that the Porgs will pull an Ewok, and become jarringly relevant to the plot. From ten-year-old Anakin single-handedly destroying a space station to the unsatisfying resolution to the question: ‘The Most Well-Equipped And Highly Trained Military In The Galaxy Versus Some Furry Bois: Who Would Win’ that we saw in Return of the Jedi, the film have a tendency to push the suspension of disbelief a bit too far when it comes to extraordinary things done by relatively minor people. Maybe a Porg, sat atop Chewie’s shoulder as he infiltrates a First Order base, looses its footing, falls through a tiny crack in the floorboards and adorably tumbles onto the base’s big red self-destruct button.
Although were that to happen, the Porg in question would probably be given a medal by Leia, while Chewie would be snubbed. Again.