Who is Maz Kanata? This character intrigues me more than anything else in The Force Awakens. Is she a Jedi? Is she just a wise old alien lady? Or perhaps the leader of a pirate gang? Let’s delve into what we know about this mysterious character.
First off the name. The folks over at Making Star Wars had one of their podcast listeners mail in a suggestion (forgive me, I don’t know the name of who sent it in ping me and I’ll add it!) about the name of Maz Kanata being meant to sound like the Spanish phrase “más que nada”. This phrase basically is translated to “More than anything” according to Google translate (although word-per-word translation means “more than nothing”). In Brazilian Portuguese it means more like “but nothing” or “but nonsense”. Taken together, this is whimsical name for a character that both confuses and adds a bit of mystery. Like saying she could be nothing and everything at the same time. Given the long history of double-meaning Star Wars character names, I’m willing to bet that this is deliberate. What could be more than anything? The Force perhaps? An amazing Jedi? Also, taking a different direction, it is notable that the name Kanata is one letter swap away from “katana”, a Japanese sword. More on the possible Japanese connection below…
Thinking beyond the name, what do we know? She is an alien character played by Lupita Nyong’o through performance-capture. She runs a pirate gang that hangs out in a castle and may also run a pub. She might be a Jedi…We have a couple of images that have seemed to hold up. One of them dates back pretty far (first on imageshack and later by SWU here) of Rey entering Maz’s pub:
This image is remarkably similar to another piece of concept art that later surfaced at Indie Revolver, that seems to depict the same clothing and blue alien design:
So in both of these we have a blue alien character with a longish neck and a red headdress. Given this, we might think that we’ve nailed it down. Furthermore, these images really suggest a Gossam as the species of this alien. Not so fast. As most of us know there are more images out there that turn out to be quite different.
From the (second) teaser trailer, we have who almost everyone has concluded was Maz handing over Luke/Anakin’s light saber to Leia. Side note: we know this is Leia from the ring and outfit matching Carrie Fisher from the SDCC BTS video.
This depiction of Maz has a very different design: an orange alien with blue outfit. What gives there? I would definitely lean toward this later character design (in the trailer after all) over the earlier concept art. It’s even possible that the blue alien above is in fact not Maz at all, but another alien at Maz’s pub/castle. At this point, we don’t know for sure. Also notable is the fact that the outfit looks a bit more pirate-like. It seems to be a bit baggier and something about the bracelets connote something that would fit with the pirate motifs. Furthermore, note the lack of wrinkles. This alien seems young, although it is tough to draw too many conclusions since this shot is difficult to see.
Next we have the most recent post at Indie Revolver, that gives one of the most detailed images of Maz yet:
In this image we have a design that isn’t exactly similar to any of the others, but more similar to the previous image in terms of the alien’s color. This is much more wrinkled. We’ve noted before that early reports from makingstarwars.net have reported that there were two aliens, an older one and a younger one. This last image definitely looks like the older one, so maybe the orange one posted before it is the younger one? Time will tell if the notion of two aliens holds up, or whether early concept design was playing with the idea of different ages. Another possibility here is that this alien species just has a lot of wrinkles independently of her age.
The robes in this last IndieRevolver pic are very reminiscent of a Jedi or possible kimono robes. The crystal in front of her is consistent with reports and theories that Maz uses psychometry to extract information from the Kyber crystal from within Luke’s lightsaber. She uses this to conjure up the history of the crystal and produce the Force-Flashback that the characters, or at least the audience gets to see. All these theories and the fact that the image is consistent with them suggests, if true, that Maz is indeed Force sensitive and possibly a Jedi.
But how? How could she be a Jedi at this age of the galaxy? Given the age of the character in this last image, one would expect that she predates Order 66. Could she just be a Force user and not a Jedi? That is certainly possible, but her outfit looks too similar to a Jedi to me. I would think it would be confusing to have a Force-user that wears an outfit that looks this similar to a Jedi tunic. Maybe Maz was just too powerful to be taken down by the Clone Troopers, or maybe she had already left the order, or maybe, she was already hiding out on Takodana far away in the outer rim. Another possibility is that she does not predate Order 66 and was just trained by Luke at some point post RotJ. Perhaps she was just a Force-sensitive that later refined her methods under Luke’s tutelage. Time will tell.
Any other scraps we can dig up? A while ago we had reports of the name “Kanjiklub Gang” being in TFA. MSW has speculated that this could be a group from the freighter scene. However, Reddit user thatstarwarsdude has posted here the following comparison shot:
On the left we have the guys from the lower left of the Vanity Fair shot of the guys from Maz’s castle. On the right we have a character from the box of the leaked Lego set where the name leak came from. The resemblance is pretty strong. The chest strap. The cap. The eye patch. The gloves. The mustache. It’s just so much that it would be confusing if these were not the same character. Now I’m fully aware that Vanity Fair may have characters line up out of context for a big group shot, but these guys just seem to fit in with the rest of the shot.
To me, this really suggests that Maz’s pirate gang could in fact be Kanjiklub. Let’s dissect that name for a minute. Kanji is basically a writing system used in Japan. We also have Maz’s robes as being described as like a kimono. Both of these things suggest a design with heavy Japanese influence. Kanji club? It’s almost like they aren’t trying too hard to make the names sound otherwordly.
We also have the planet name “Takodana” that sounds Japanese, and “Tako” means octopus in Japanese. Many have concluded that this name is most likely the name of Maz’s home planet. Come to think of it, Maz Kanata kind of sounds Japanese too (other than the Spanish connection mentioned above) and sounds a lot like “katana”, a Japanese sword as mentioned above. So it certainly sounds like there is a common thread of Japanese references in a lot of these names. That seems to reinforce the notion that Kanjiklub is the name of Maz’ pirate gang stationed on Takodana because it would tie together a lot of these Japanese-infuenced names.
Time will indeed tell who this character is. The speculation is half the fun!