Cara Dune

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Cara Dune
Star Wars character
Cara Dune Star Wars.jpg
Gina Carano as Cara Dune in The Mandalorian
First appearance"Chapter 4: Sanctuary" (2019) (The Mandalorian)
Created byJon Favreau
Portrayed byGina Carano
Information
SpeciesHuman
GenderFemale
OccupationMercenary; former Rebel Alliance shock trooper
HomeworldAlderaan

Carasynthia "Cara" Dune is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise who appears in the Disney+ television series The Mandalorian. Portrayed by actress and former mixed martial artist Gina Carano, she is a former Rebel shock trooper turned mercenary who becomes an ally to the title character of the series.

The Mandalorian creator and showrunner Jon Favreau created Cara Dune with Carano specifically in mind and did not audition any other actresses for the part. A highly trained and battle-hardened special forces warrior, Cara is skilled in the use of weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, and battle tactics, and has an intense hatred for the Galactic Empire. Carano described the character as a loner who is having trouble readjusting to society following her career as a soldier.

Favreau sought to create a strong and independent character, but one different from Princess Leia or other strong Star Wars female characters. Carano performed many of her own stunts on The Mandalorian. She credits Bryce Dallas Howard, who directed the first episode featuring Cara Dune, with helping Carano find how to best translate the character from the script to the screen.

Carano has been received positively by reviews and fans, and has been described as a feminist role model, and called her unique even among the Star Wars franchise's female characters due to her physicality and combat skills.

Appearances[edit]

Cara Dune appeared in three episodes in the first season of The Mandalorian,[1] Although it is not revealed until the first-season finale, Cara's full name is Carasynthia Dune, and her home world is Alderaan, the planet destroyed by the Death Star in the first Star Wars (1977) film.[2] She is a former shock trooper with the Rebel Alliance,[3][4][5] who fought against the Galactic Empire in the Galactic Civil War depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy, and helped establish the New Republic form of government following that conflict.[6][7] In exposition from The Mandalorian, Cara reveals that most of her past work as a Rebel soldier involved eliminating Imperial warlords and other remnants of the Empire following the Battle of Endor, the decisive Rebel victory depicted in the film Return of the Jedi (1983).[2][4][7] Her role as a "shock trooper" was to be dropped behind enemy lines with no support, and cause as much damage as possible (i.e. comparable to the US Navy SEALs or British SAS). The dialogue also establishes that she left the Alliance after her role shifted to a more political "peacekeeping" role, such as protecting delegates and suppressing riots,[4][2][8] which Cara said was "not what I signed up for".[2] After taking what she calls "early retirement" from her military position, she became a mercenary,[4][9][10] and began drifting from planet to planet.[1][11][12] She eventually became wanted for reasons not yet disclosed by the show, leading her to hide out on the forest planet Sorgan.[13]

Cara made her first appearance in "Chapter 4: Sanctuary", the fourth episode of The Mandalorian.[1][14] She meets the Mandalorian on Sorgan, where she recognizes him as a bounty hunter, and each wrongly believes the one was attempting to collect a bounty on each other. This results in the two briefly engaging in hand-to-hand combat during their first encounter,[4][9][15] ending in a stalemate.[9] They reconcile and ultimately join forces him to defend a village against a ravaging band of raiders of the Klatooinian alien species.[4][16] Cara and the Mandalorian help prepare defensive obstacles and protective positions throughout the village, as well as train the villagers for combat. Lacking sufficient weapons to take down the AT-ST, they develop a plan to use the environment of the village, digging ponds deep enough for the walker to collapse after stepping into them. These measures prove effective during the battle,[17] but when the AT-ST fails to advance far enough to fall into the pond traps, Cara successfully lures it forward by leaping into the pond herself and attacking it at close range.[15][17] When the walker moves forward to target her and becomes stuck, the Mandalorian destroys it with a thermal detonator.[17] After the battle, Cara saves the life of the Child, a young alien creature under the Mandalorian's protection, when she finds and kills a bounty hunter just before it is about to execute the Child.[4][15] As a result, the Mandalorian realizes he must take the Child away from Sorgan, and he invites Cara to come along with them, but she declines.[4]

Cara reappears in the episode "Chapter 7: The Reckoning", when the Mandalorian recruits her for a mission to the planet Nevarro to eliminate an Imperial presence there.[18][19][20] When he first finds her, Cara is participating in fights with challengers for money.[21] Cara is initially reluctant to leave Sorgan, but when the Mandalorian explains that the targets are Imperials, she immediately agrees.[18][21] While traveling to Nevarro on the Mandalorian's ship, Cara participates in a friendly arm wrestling match with him, but the Child mistakes her actions as aggressive and uses the Force to choke her, only stopping after the Mandalorian intervenes.[18][21] During their journey, Cara and the Mandalorian's party are attacked by a group of pterodactyl-like creatures, which they repel after taking casualties.[21][22] The bounty hunter Greef Karga is critically injured and Cara attempts to apply first aid, but the Child uses the Force to heal him.[21]

Later, Greef reveals the mission is an ambush, after which the Mandalorian is to be killed and the Child given over to the Imperials. Cara, the Mandalorian, and Greef instead devise a new plan: they will leave the Child behind, bring the Mandalorian to the Imperials as if he is a prisoner, and then eliminate them.[21] The plan goes wrong, resulting in the trio becoming pinned down inside a cantina by Imperial officer Moff Gideon and his stormtroopers.[2][21][23] At the start of the first-season finale "Chapter 8: Redemption", the group engages in a brief gunfight with the stormtroopers after the droid IG-11 arrives with the Child to provide assistance. The Mandalorian is badly injured during the fight, and Cara drags him back into the cantina to safety.[24] The group escapes the building via the sewer system, and flee on a droid-controlled floating barge on a river of lava. Cara is present when IG-11 sacrifices himself to eliminate a large number of stormtroopers to ensure the group's escape, and she survives an attack by Moff Gideon in a TIE fighter, which the Mandalorian repels.[24] Afterward, Cara decides to stay on Nevarro to help eliminate any remaining Imperial presence on the planet,[24] and Greef invites her to work as his enforcer, which she appears to accept.[25]

The character is slated to return for the second season of The Mandalorian.[4][16]

Characterization[edit]

Cara Dune is a battle-hardened warrior,[26] with a tough and aggressive, but also a kindness beneath her gruff exterior.[16] Gina Carano, the actress and former mixed martial artist who plays the character, said Cara and the Mandalorian are similar in personality and background, and that the two understand each other and were able to form a bond as a result.[26] A highly trained fighter,[7] she is muscular,[15] extremely accurate shot,[27] and has excellent hand-to-hand combat skills, as show immediately in her fight with the Mandalorian when Cara is first introduced.[4][15][9] She is one of the few in the show who is able to match the Mandalorian in direct combat.[7][28] Olivia Luchini of PopSugar described Cara as a feminist role model, and called her unique even among the Star Wars franchise's strong female characters due to her physicality and combat skills.[15]

Strong and independent,[11][26][28] Luchini described her as "bold, brave, rough around the edges".[15] Carano called Cara as "a bit of a loner",[3][11][12] who is having trouble reintegrating herself into society following her combat experience.[3][10][29] The fact that she mistakes the Mandalorian for attempting to collect a bounty on her during their first meeting indicates she has done some unsavory things since leaving the military; Carano said of this: "I feel like she's always in trouble."[30] As a soldier, Cara enjoyed the adrenaline of war, and when that disappeared during peace time, she found herself disillusioned with her new role.[12][31] Carano has said it's also possible that she is questioning whether she agreed with everything that occurred during her military service, and that her experiences at war taken a psychological toll on her.[30] When introduced in The Mandalorian, Cara kept to herself, did not easily trust others,[12][31] and cared about little except her survival, keeping her skills sharp, and killing Imperials.[2] However, she also has a strong sense of loyalty, as shown by her refusal to abandon the Mandalorian after he is seriously injured in the first-season finale.[13] Cara has an intense hatred for the Empire, which is driven in large part by its role in the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan.[2][32][33] Cara is not afraid to argue back against the Mandalorian or point out his faults,[15] and she feels uncomfortable when asked to hold the Child, saying she doesn't "do the baby thing".[24]

The Angry Staff Officer, an anonymous Army National Guard officer who writes for Wired magazine, has called Cara one of the more tactically-proficient characters in Star Wars. He called Cara perhaps "the one person in the Star Wars universe to actually absorb some lessons learned" from her past combat engagements.[17] The writer described the defensive measure the Mandalorian and Cara develop to protect the village in "Chapter 4: Sanctuary" as a "near-perfect defensive engagement",[17] and praised Cara's efforts in luring the AT-ST into a vulnerable position, as well as the way they quickly identified their priorities of work, such as establishing obstacles, building protective positions, and training the villagers to fight. In another example, he cited a scene in the first-season finale in which Cara assists an injured Mandalorian by dragging him into cover for assessment while providing covering fire. He said other Star Wars characters in this situation have simply tended to the victim in the middle of the firefight, a dangerous scenario, while Cara's method is safer method recommended by the United States Armed Forces. He wrote: "Cara Dune would receive a 'go' for all the performance measures for this U.S. Army medical task."[17]

Concept and creation[edit]

Conception[edit]

Cara Dune was created by Jon Favreau, the creator and showrunner of The Mandalorian.

The character of Cara Dune was created by Jon Favreau, the creator and showrunner of The Mandalorian.[16][26] He sought to make a strong and independent character, but one different from Princess Leia or other strong female characters previously featured in the franchise. Gina Carano said Favreau "wanted my character to be this new soldier of women, and he wanted her to have an impact".[26] Favreau said it was the type of character he always wished to portray as an actor himself, describing her as "raising the stakes and raising hell".[16] The writers checked with executive producer Dave Filoni, who had been involved in past Star Wars works, to make sure the Rebel shock trooper position was consistent with the past continuity of the franchise.[34] False rumors had circulated on the Internet about what type of character Cara would be prior to any official announcements about her were made character.[29]

Cara Dune was first publicly unveiled during the Star Wars Celebration convention in Chicago on April 14, 2019, along with the character Greef Karga.[3][35][36] The event also featured teaser footage featuring Cara, a still photo of the character,[35][37] and included a panel discussion with Carano and Carl Weathers, the actor who portrays Greef, discussing their characters.[3][35] Cara was subsequently featured prominently in posters, commercials, and marketing materials in advance of the release of The Mandalorian.[4][15] On September 4, Entertainment Weekly unveiled an exclusive photo of Cara and the Mandalorian fighting together,[11][38] and on October 28, a character poster of The Mandalorian solely featuring Cara Dune was released.[39]

Portrayal[edit]

Cara Dune is portrayed by Gina Carano,[16] who Favreau had in mind when he created the character. He did not audition any other actresses for the part,[26][4][16] and the character's first name "Cara" was inspired by Carano's last name.[26] When contacted about the role, Carano assumed she would be portraying an alien character with her appearance obscured by a costume or visual effects,[16][31] and was surprised when she learned this was not the case: "I thought I was going to be like the female Chewbacca. I was ready to put on the fur outfit and be the female version of that."[16] She was amazed when Favreau showed her concept art that looked exactly like her, and when she first read the script she became so emotional that she cried.[31] Carano has described Cara as "a little diamond of a character,"[26] and the kind of part she had long wanted to play.[26] Carano said she feels she has much in common with the character,[16] and described playing her as "a way to embrace who I am".[26]

Carano's casting was first announced on December 12, 2018, though the news had been leaked on the Internet before the formal announcement.[40][41][42] The production of The Mandalorian called for more secrecy than any other job of Carano's career.[29] Prior to filming one of Cara's first scenes, Carano said Favreau told her that playing this character was going to change Carano's career trajectory, giving her more self-confidence as an actress providing her the opportunity to play stronger roles in the future. Carano said she had a strong positive emotional reaction to the conversation, and that it helped her play the role of Cara Dune more confidently, saying: "I feel like my whole life since I shot that has been a different world."[38][43][44] Carano credited Bryce Dallas Howard, who directed the first episode featuring Cara, with helping Carano determine how to best translate the character from the script to the screen during their work together in Cara's debut episode.[16]

Costume[edit]

Gina Carano said she was impressed by the amount of detail the crew of The Mandalorian achieved in their costuming, saying of them: "These people are legit."[29] The creation of Cara Dune's costume began with a mold being made of Carano's body, a process she did not enjoy. The shoulders were built out and the waist cinched in,[16] to create a distinctive hourglass-shaped silhouette for the character.[16][45] The Mandalorian executive producer Kathleen Kennedy had stressed the importance of Cara having a distinctive silhouette because she felt all Star Wars characters should be recognizable from a great distance in silhouette form.[46] Jon Favreau, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Dave Filoni provided input on the costume,[16] with Howard in particular making suggestions about how to convey toughness without sacrificing femininity,[16][45] while also ensuring Carano would be able to perform the athletic feats required of the character.[47] Carano stressed the importance of this: "How do you put basically football padding on a busty curvy female? I didn't want to be a block. I didn’t want to just be this like big, buff refrigerator."[16]

Cara's hairstyle was originally planned to be short, with one side completely buzzed, but Carano objected to this because she wanted to maintain the character's femininity. Maria Sandoval, the lead hairstylist on The Mandalorian, who described Cara as her favorite character on the show, instead developed a shoulder-length hairstyle with rough edges.[48] The hairstyle was partially inspired by that of director Deborah Chow, who had directed several The Mandalorian first-season episodes. Howard said while she and the producers of the series were discussing Cara's costume, they observed Chow directing and noticed the way her hair was gathered and stylized with braids, and elements of it were factored into Cara Dune's hairstyle.[49] Cara was provided a blaster prop similar in appearance to the firearm used by Han Solo in the Star Wars films.[16] The character also has a handful of tattoos, including a small Rebel Alliance insignia under the left eye,[4][19][26] and a series of tattoos and bars around her that signify her as a veteran of the Rebellion,[19] something that had been featured on characters on the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.[26] Carano said the Rebel insignia tattoo in particular has a deeper back story that will be revealed later in the series.[26]

Filming[edit]

Cara Dune's scenes were filmed in a studio in Manhattan Beach, California.[26] Favreau and Filoni discussed elements of Cara's back story with Carano before filming to help inform her performance,[26] and just before filming the introductory scene of Cara's debut episode, Favreau shared secrets about the character that would not be revealed until later in the series.[14][26] Carano said having this information helped inform her performance and "added so much depth to what her life has been like".[14] Carano said she enjoyed performing against Pedro Pascal, the actor who pays the Mandalorian, and other masked characters in the show, and she said it was easy for her to do so because, in her everyday life, "I don't naturally see what somebody's physical appearance is. I instantly kind of feel who a person is."[50] As a result, she said she could often tell what faces Pascal was making or what emotions he was expressing beneath the mask, despite not seeing his face.[50]

Gina Carano credited Bryce Dallas Howard (pictured) with helping Carano find how to best translate Cara Dune from the script to the screen.

During filming of Cara's first episode, Bryce Dallas Howard Howard listened to Carano's thoughts and ideas during the filming process, watched replays with her after shooting scenes, and communicated with Carano as a fellow actress, since Howard herself is also an actress.[26] Carano said of Howard: "She was very motherly and protective of our performances."[26][16] Howard also allowed Carano to have as many takes as she needed to get the performance right, which the actress said put her at ease.[26] Howard enjoyed exploring the aggressive side of Cara's personality with Carano, particularly because Cara is different than the types of characters Howard usually plays as an actress herself. By directing Carano, Howard felt she was able to vicariously experience what it was like to be Cara.[16]

During Carano's first day of filming, she was required to ride the mechanical blurrg, a reptilian mounted creature that was so large she needed a ladder to climb atop it.[51] Pascal was unavailable for many of her scenes on "Chapter 4: Sanctuary" because he was auditioning for another series, so Howard mostly worked with Carano and Pascal's body double. As a result, she called Carano "the face of the episode".[52] Carano had a stomach flu when her scenes fighting the AT-ST were filmed, which along with two nights of rain in advance of the shoot made the scene very challenging.[52] Carano's introductory scene in which the Mandalorian and Cara fight each other was originally written differently, but it was changed on the set by Favreau and Howard as the stunt team worked on choreography and previsualization. Carano said one of the changes was "we made it to where she got the jump on him."[26]

Carano said the set of The Mandalorian is "not a green screen set", but rather is very realistic, even with the alien characters and other fantastic elements. She said this helps her performance and has been "an incredible blessing for my imagination".[26]

Stunts[edit]

Carano collaborates and works closely with The Mandalorian stunt team, and she believes they "accepted me as one of their own", in part due to her mixed martial arts background. She said the stunt team "have been like brothers and sisters to me".[26] Carano performed many of the stunts herself.[29][53] For example, Carano herself drags a wounded comrade off a battlefield during one of her scenes, which surprised many of the bystanders on the set.[29] Carano also outpaced Pascal's stunt double in one scene, and in another she sent a stunt performer flying across the set due to the force of one of her kicks.[52][54]

Carano believes her fighting scenes have been aided not only by her mixed martial arts skills, but also her training in ballet, jazz dancing, and tap dancing as a child. She said some fighters have trouble transitioning into acting because they want to appear tough and have trouble performing in scenes in which they lose fights or take hits, but Carano said her early arts training helped her avoid that.[26]

Cultural impact[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Gina Carano has been received positively by reviews and fans.[26] Carano said most of the feedback about the character she has heard and read online has been positive, adding: "I have so many people who are rooting for this strong female character."[26] Olivia Luchini of PopSugar called her a character "worthy of riotous applause", praising her strength, personality, combat skills, and body type. She said Cara serves as a role model particularly for female fans who consider themselves "a little rugged and audacious", writing: "She is a breath of fresh air for those who haven't been able to see themselves in the Star Wars universe quite yet."[15] Megan Crouse of Den of Geek called Cara one of the show's best characters, particularly praising the "great platonic chemistry" between her and the Mandalorian. Crouse said Carano fully inhabits the character that she elevates the script.[55] Variety writer Will Thorne praised Cara Dune, complimenting her combat skills and "debonair charm", and compared her to the Marvel Comics character Gamora as performed by Zoe Saldana in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.[9] Danny Pham of Screen Rant ranked her fourth on a list of the most interesting characters from the first season of The Mandalorian.[13] Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson called the character a "prime showcase for Carano" and the first role to capitalize on her "real-life, distinct blend of inherent sweetness and physical toughness".[16] Erik Kain of Forbes called Cara a great character and said he wishes she was featured even more prominently in the series.[24] Cara Dune's costume was ranked third on a Screen Rant list of the ten best costumes in the first season of The Mandalorian.[56] Several fans have produced artwork of the character and dressed as her in cosplay,[6] and some have gotten the Rebel Alliance tattoo that Cara has under her eye.[26]

Anthony Gramuglia of Comic Book Resources wrote that some Star Wars fans were critical of the Cara Dune character because they perceived the presence of a strong female fighter as "forced diversity" and "wokeness". Gramuglia said these objections were misogynist and "patently ridiculous", and that other female Star Wars characters had received similar complaints, including Rey, Rose Tico, Jyn Erso, and Qi'ra.[28] Gramuglia also wrote: "To them, Cara Dune's presence serves as a means to make men appear weaker by comparison, as she fights battles that most of the male characters aren't capable of undertaking themselves."[28]

Merchandise[edit]

Several toys of Cara Dune were first made available at a Star Wars product launch event called Triple Force Friday on October 4, 2019. Among them was a six-inch action figure by Hasbro as part of the company's Star Wars: The Black Series toy line,[57] and Funko Pop figurine,[57][58] and a Lego mini-figurine,[59] as well as The Mandalorian t-shirts featuring the character.[57]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

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