No home viewing experience can seriously rival seeing a Star Wars film in a dark and crowded theater. But The Force Awakens DVD and digital video release makes up for the difference with a couple of hours of special features. Among those bonus clips is a comprehensive The Force Awakens behind-the-scenes documentary that includes a detailed conversation about the changing luck of Oscar Isaac's fighter pilot character. Poe Dameron was originally supposed to die in The Force Awakens, early in the movie. But why did creative team alter the script to keep him alive and what does that mean for Poe's role in future Star Wars episodes?
Somewhat hilariously, Poe's life was extended in part because Isaac was fresh off of playing a string of characters who'd been killed off early in their respective movies. "Originally Poe was going to die early in the film and that was the script that Oscar saw," director J.J. Abrams says in the featurette. "And he was sick of dying early on." Fortunately, Isaac's personal preference (not dying) aligned with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan's fondness for the character. "The role of Han in the first three movies, he's the one that draws your eye because you don't know what he's going to do," Kasdan says. "That's an archetype that all of us like. We wanted someone like that to be in this group." Enter, Poe Dameron.
It's not every day that an actor's suggestion is the catalyst to dramatically change the narrative course of a major film in a legendary series. But the fan response to Poe's character, his relationships with other members of the ensemble (ahem, Finn), and the various hero moments he has throughout The Force Awakens seem to prove that Abrams and Kasdan made the right choice in keeping the fighter pilot around. "A week or so [after their conversation], J.J. wrote me and said, 'We've got it figured out. Poe is in the rest of the movie now,'" Isaac proudly remembers. "I get to live!"
Now Star Wars fans are wondering if Poe's survival of the Jakku crash and the rest of The Force Awakens is just a short reprieve. If the sniffles in my theater during Han Solo's final scene are any indication, giving an audience more time to know and identify with a character — and, especially in the case of Star Wars, to build that character up into an icon — just lends more impact to a future death. Also, prolonging Poe's life establishes him as a part of a new era trio: Finn, Poe, and Rey, the Star Wars squad for the next generation. And though Han definitely had it rough in The Empire Strikes Back, he was too much a part of the core team to be taken out completely at that point.
In the behind-the-scenes documentary on The Force Awakens DVD, Isaac says he's eagerly anticipating "going forward, what [Poe will] add to the fight against the First Order." The pilot's fate is still (wait for it) up in the air, but Poe Dameron has a lot still to offer to the Resistance and to his new friends. I don't expect he'll be taken away from them just yet.