space nuns nothing but space nuns

The Last Jedi’s Best Creatures Are the Judgmental Fish-Nuns

Photo: Lucasfilm

In the run-up to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Disney has trumpeted the film’s introduction of Porgs, who look like diabolically cute combinations of pugs and puffins designed in a lab to sell as many toys as possible. After seeing The Last Jedi, and without spoiling anything else, we can report that the Porgs are pretty darn cute. We have nothing against the Porgs! But Rian Johnson’s film contains a whole zoo of new, non-Porg Star Wars creatures that are just as, if not more, compelling than the little big-eyed dog-birds (and thankfully far more compelling than the prequels’ weightless CGI beings). For instance, there’s a whole species of fish-nuns. They are called Caretakers. They spend most of their time judging Rey. And I love them.

A few facts about the Caretakers, who spend their lives maintaining the Jedi Temple on Ahch-To where Rey has gone to find Luke:
(a) “They’ve been there for thousands of years,” according to Johnson, and they’re supposed to recall the look of a convent. “They’re all female, and I wanted them to feel like a remote sort of little nunnery,” he added. “Neal Scanlan’s crew designed them, and costume designer Michael Kaplan made these working clothes that also reflected sort of a nunlike, spartan sort of existence.”
(b) They are animated with humans inside — one of Daisy Ridley’s friends played a Caretaker.
(c) They communicate through “a blubbery sort of Scottish fish-talk” (extremely same). In the film, we get to know the Caretakers after Rey accidentally blows a hole through a temple with a blaster, and they gather around to fix it and get mad at her. The Caretakers are not interested in her tortured backstory or her deeply middle-school emo telepathic AIM love-hate relationship with Kylo Ren. They just want things to look nice.

Though the Star Wars films tend to hinge on operatic battles between light and dark, The Last Jedi finds time to spend with creatures who exist outside that conflict, and seem generally uninterested in it. Aside from the Caretakers, the film introduces the Porgs (whose main priorities are not be eaten and to squawk at things); the Fathiers, a rabbit-horse hybrid subjected to terrible animal cruelty on the one-percenter city Canto Bight; and Vulptices, crystal foxes that are definitely just Pokémon (specifically Alolan Vulpix, *pushes up glasses*). None of these creatures are in any way essential to the plot, but their presence does wonders to fill out the film’s universe. Where The Force Awakens and Rogue One were streamlined to the point of breathlessness, The Last Jedi expands past the good guys and bad guys to hang out with the cute, the gooey, and the ugly. It makes the universe feel more expansive, and makes me excited for the possibilities of Johnson’s own Star Wars trilogy.

For that reason, one of the great joys of the space nuns is that their existence brings up so many questions. Why have the Caretakers agreed to spend their lives doing unpaid labor and cleaning up after the Jedi? How do they reproduce if they are really all female? Is this a Jurassic Park thing? Are the Caretakers radical queer separatists? I do assume they are massive Space Joni Mitchell fans.

Most pressingly, we know that the Caretakers are natural predators to the Porgs (it’s not discussed in the film, but it has come up in a delightfully disturbing coloring book), which makes you ask what Porgs taste like, and how the Caretakers like to cook them. The little island where Luke lives, Ahch-To, you realize, contains a intricate ecosystem. Imagine the development meetings, where the developers workshopped how fishlike they would make the nuns. Imagine the committee that discussed what color milk would come out of the creatures with udders. (They went with greenish.)

In one of The Last Jedi’s best little recurring jokes, Rey keeps accidentally offending the Caretakers, and at one point, while training, she breaks one of the carts some Caretakers are carrying around the island. It’s a minor cutaway, but like most of the business with the space nuns, a reminder that the space nuns don’t really care about you. The Porgs are desperate for your attention. The nuns couldn’t care less; they have their own lives to deal with. Rian Johnson, please make a movie about the space nuns.

The Last Jedi’s Best Creatures Are the Judgmental Fish-Nuns