Supreme Leader Snoke
|Supreme Leader Snoke|
|Star Wars character|
Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens
|First appearance||The Force Awakens (2015)|
|Last appearance||The Last Jedi (2017)|
|Portrayed by||Andy Serkis|
|Occupation||Supreme Leader of the First Order|
|Religion||Dark Side of the Force|
Supreme Leader Snoke is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. He is a CGI character voiced and performed by Andy Serkis. Snoke was introduced in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the Supreme Leader of the First Order, a military dictatorship resurrected from the fallen Galactic Empire, which seeks to reclaim control of the galaxy. Powerful with the Force, he seduces Ben Solo to the dark side; Solo serves him as the commander Kylo Ren.
Snoke's appearance changed throughout principal photography and post-production of The Force Awakens. Serkis said, "It's the first time I've been on set not yet knowing what the character's gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!" According to the actor, the character's appearance, voice, and movements evolved as he and the film's writer/director J. J. Abrams challenged the visual effects team.
According to The Force Awakens senior sculptor Ivan Manzella, "Snoke almost became a female at one point. J. J. picked out a maquette he liked and then we took it to a full-size version, sculpted in plasteline. J. J. and [creature creative supervisor Neal Scanlan] didn't want him to be old and decrepit, like [Emperor Palpatine]."
While Serkis secretly joined the project in February 2014, his casting in The Force Awakens was first announced on April 29, 2014. When asked about his role in July 2014, he joked, "I'm not Yoda." In May 2015, a StarWars.com interview with photographer Annie Leibovitz about her The Force Awakens shoot for Vanity Fair revealed that Serkis would be playing a CGI character named Supreme Leader Snoke, and featured an image of the actor in motion capture gear. Serkis had previously played several CGI characters using motion capture technology, including Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film series (2001–2003), the titular ape in 2005's King Kong, and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.
In November 2015, Serkis said of the process of creating Snoke:
When we first started working on it, [Abrams] had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn't been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance ... We shot on set of course, and I was in the scenes I have with other actors, but the beauty of this process is you can go back and reiterate, keep informing and honing beats and moments. So J.J., after we shot last year, we've had a series of sessions where I'd be in London at The Imaginarium, my studio, while he’s been directing from L.A., and we've literally been creating further additions and iterations to the character. That's been fascinating. And in the meantime I've been able to see the look and design of the character grow and change as the performances change. So it's been really exciting in that respect.
According to Serkis's costar Lupita Nyong'o, who played the CGI character Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens, the actor coached her on performance-capture work, telling Nyong'o that "a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other. You have to understand who the character is and what makes them who they are." Serkis said of filming:
It was quite an unusual situation. I worked specifically with Domhnall Gleeson and with Adam Driver. My first day was basically standing on a 25-foot podium doing Lord Snoke without the faintest idea what he looked like ... or in fact who he was! I was very high up, totally on my own, away from everybody else, but acting with them ... we used sort of a "Kongolizer" method of having sound come out of speakers to give a sense of scale and distance for the character. So it was very challenging and scary, in fact probably one of my most scary film experiences I’ve ever had.
Costume designer Michael Kaplan had the idea to give Snoke gold robes to contrast from his red and black throne room in The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson said the red motif was intended to evoke curtains in a nod to The Wizard of Oz, in which the titular character hides behind a curtain. The throne room was designed to look theatrical as opposed to Palpatine's, which was more utilitarian. The conceptual designers of the set were inspired by unused concept art for Return of the Jedi depicting the Emperor's lava-based lair under the surface of Coruscant. According to The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, the gold ring Snoke wears is set with obsidian from Darth Vader's castle on Mustafar. The glyphs it is set with are a reference to four philosophers Palpatine had statues of in his office, first seen in Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Additionally, Palpatine's theme can be heard during the scene in which Snoke tortures Rey.
Snoke, whom Abrams called "a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force", is the leader of the evil First Order. He is master to the sequel trilogy's primary villain, Kylo Ren. Serkis described Snoke as "quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage." Serkis called Snoke "a new character in this universe", adding "I think it'd be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree."
Explaining why CGI was the only way to create Snoke's unique appearance, Serkis said before the film's premiere, "The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design—you couldn't have gotten there with prosthetics ... he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone and facial structure." Chief of creature and droid effects Neal Scanlan said, "This character is much better executed as a CGI character. That's just a practical reality when he's 7-foot-something tall; he's very, very thin." Snoke's "scarred, cavernous face" was not revealed before the release of the film, in which he appears as a "massive, ominous hologram". The character's deep voice was first heard in the teaser trailer released on November 28, 2014.
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph described the disfigured and skeletal Snoke as a "sepulchral horror", Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called him "hissing and grotesque", and Andrew O'Hehir of Salon dubbed the character "a spectral demonic figure". Variety's Justin Chang wrote that Snoke resembled "a plus-sized, more articulate Gollum", and Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly described him as "essentially Emperor Palpatine crossed with one of the aliens from Close Encounters." Stephanie Zacharek of Time called the character "a giant, scary, noseless dude who sits placidly in an oversized chair like a dark-lord version of the Lincoln Monument."
There are multiple fan theories regarding the origins and identity of Snoke, including that he may be Darth Plagueis, a Sith Lord anecdotally mentioned in Revenge of the Sith and the mentor of Palpatine, allegedly possessing the power to prevent death; Palpatine himself, "the Operator" Gallius Rax, a mysterious First Order manipulator from Chuck Wendig's Aftermath novel trilogy; or Ezra Bridger, a main character from the animated series Star Wars Rebels. Pablo Hidalgo of the Lucasfilm Story Group dismissed the Darth Plagueis theory in May 2016, and Rax's death in the 2017 novel Aftermath: Empire's End disproved that theory as well.
The Force Awakens (2015)
In his first appearance in the film, Snoke is introduced as Supreme Leader of the First Order, and master to Kylo Ren. Seduced to the dark side by Snoke, the masked Kylo is really Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Snoke senses an "awakening" in the Force, and warns Ren that the limits of his power will be tested when he faces his father in pursuit of the wayward droid BB-8. He orders General Hux to destroy the New Republic with the Starkiller Base. Leia reveals to her estranged husband Han that it was Snoke's influence which corrupted their son. Later, he orders Ren to lead Rey to him. After Ren is defeated in a lightsaber duel with Rey, Snoke orders General Hux to collect Ren and ready him to complete his training.
The Last Jedi (2017)
Following the events of The Force Awakens, Snoke reprimands Hux for his failings as a military leader, and Ren for his failure to find and kill Luke Skywalker, even doubting the latter's destiny to succeed Darth Vader. However, he congratulates Hux for having the means to follow the Resistance Fleet to destroy them once and for all. Ren brings Rey to Snoke, who tortures her for information on Luke's location. He reveals to Ren and Rey that he created the psychic bond between them as part of a plan to destroy Luke himself. Snoke then orders Ren to kill Rey after failing to turn her to the dark side, and gloats over his total control over his apprentice, only to buy time for Ren to use the Force to activate Luke's lightsaber, which Rey had been using, from a distance and slice Snoke in half with it, killing him. Snoke's Praetorian Guards attack both Ren and Rey in an attempt to avenge Snoke, but Rey and Ren briefly join forces to defeat the guards in a lightsaber duel. After Rey escapes, Ren declares himself the new Supreme Leader of the First Order, pinning Snoke's death on Rey to cover his actions.
Snoke appears in the 2015 novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. In the novel, Leia tells Han in more detail how Snoke, aware that their son would be "strong with the Force" and possess "equal potential for good or evil", had long watched Ben and manipulated events to draw him to the dark side. An unplayable Lego minifigure version of Snoke appears in cutscenes in the 2016 video game Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the spring of 2018, Snoke was added to the mobile MOBA Star Wars: Force Arena as a playable Dark Side squad leader.
The novelization of The Last Jedi states that Emperor Palpatine knew of Snoke, but not how strong he was. Canon works also reveal that Snoke acquired Palpatine's Senate office.
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Supreme Leader Snoke is a larger-than-life, vaguely Harry Potter-ish hologram voiced with deep gravity by Andy Serkis; the full weight of this character's malignancy and dramatic power will presumably be better assessed in subsequent episodes." Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called Serkis "the undisputed champion of the performance-capture roles". Though praising the "unobtrusive sophistication" of the visual effects used to portray the character, Variety's Justin Chang said that Serkis is "fine but not galvanizing" in the role. Lindsay Bahr of the Associated Press deemed Snoke one of the "less memorable" characters in The Force Awakens.
Some viewers felt that Snoke's character arc was underdeveloped. Various fan theories about his origins were held so strongly among some viewers that it was difficult for them to accept his demise in The Last Jedi.
Serkis addressed the criticisms by saying producers wanted the character "to have a great deal of mystery", but that he "has been asked to not shed anything should they want to bring him back in any way, whether prequel or whatever". Forbes criticized The Force Awakens for not developing Snoke as a character, or exploring his backstory and inexplicable rise to power after the events of the original trilogy, calling the character "a bandage poorly placed over a gaping plot-hole". Serkis acknowledged that some fans found the lack of backstory "incredibly frustrating", but suggested this as an opportunity to layer Snoke in a future story. Despite the criticisms towards the writing, Forbes praised Serkis' performance in both films, and was much more positive towards his appearance in The Last Jedi, highlighting his death and his relationship with his apprentice, Kylo Ren.
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