The Star Wars movies have always been very straightforward tales of good versus evil, of light versus dark, of plucky young farm boys versus cyborgs and old men with electricity powers. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is how it looks to reinvent this dynamic. The bad guys aren’t so easily defined this time around. At least that’s what director J.J. Abrams keeps on telling us.

His latest chatter about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens villains comes from an interview with Empire, where he spoke about the film’s central villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the group that utilizes his services, The First Order. Here’s what we now know – the former is not a Sith and the latter are, like the Empire before them, just a bunch of Space Nazis.

With his black robe and red lightsaber, you’d think Kylo Ren would be a Sith, but Abrams says he is something else altogether:

Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.

We can possibly assume that the proper Sith died out with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine and that the Knights of Ren are attempting to pick up the mantel of “baddest mofos in the galaxy” and run with it. If he’s not a Sith, then Kylo Ren belongs to a group that is much newer. Or even much older. All we know is that he takes his orders from Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit.

A slightly more cynical read of this is that the original trilogy never mentions the Sith – they were fleshed out in the extended universe and the prequel trilogy – and this is just another way Disney and Lucasfilm are trying to distance themselves from the prequels.

When grilled about The First Order,, Abrams utilized a little world history to explain the bad guys who look an awful lot like the Empire but apparently aren’t the Empire:

That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?’ What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?

This is an interesting idea because it doesn’t diminish the Rebel victory at the end of Return of the Jedi. Our heroes did deliver a crucial blow to Empire and the whole organization tumbled … but the remnants went into hiding, licked their wounds, and slowly amassed a new following. In other words, the new bad guys eerily mirror some of the more terrifying aspects of real-world socio-political turmoil happening around the world right now.

Potential social commentary in a Star Wars movie? Now that’s interesting. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18, 2015.

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