I saw “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens”, and I thought it was pretty great! I blame the overhype for saturating my expectations, but I still left the theater feeling happy with this revival of the franchise on film and eagerly await Episode VIII. I thought there was just the right mixture of the retro and neo to satisfy my older self while also making my inner child do a happy dance.
Out of all the aspects I loved about this film, there was just one teensy-weensy issue that I had with Rey. But first, the things I liked! Also SPOILERS AHEAD. Like, MAJOR SPOILERS.
Things I Liked
The Cast Chemistry
What made the original movies so good was a lot to do with the interactions between the main trio, Han, Luke, and Leia. While I was disappointed that Poe, Finn, and Rey were never in a scene together all at once, I still loved the interactions that each shared in their individual scenes. I hope the next film has more of the three of them playing off each other.
I don’t think I need to explain why I love this. Put it to you this way: as I was walking out of the theater, a little girl (4 or 5 years old) was teary because “BB-8 was so cute!” He also reminded me a lot of Wall-E from the titular Pixar film: very expressive, despite being a droid.
Taste of Nostalgia
I appreciated that the advancements in technology in this universe did not stray too far from the original movies, as far as to be unrecognizable. Instead we got glimpses of the past in how the ships were designed, Kylo Ren’s mask compared to Vader’s, the Storm Trooper uniforms etc. I also greatly appreciated that they didn’t bash us over the head with throwaway lines from the old movies.
My absolute favorite introduction though, was the Millenium Falcon. Rey calls it garbage, and the way the camera panned over to that familiar hull was both hilarious and heart-stopping for a second.
A Believable Angsty Villain
While we still don’t know the motive behind Kylo Ren turning against his father and mentor, and reaching for the Dark Side, I actually enjoyed him as a villain. He was emotional, he was angry, he made bad decisions. I was sold on his character as soon as he removed the mask, which seemed unprecedented. But you saw him for what he was: a young adult who turned his back on his old life, for whatever reason, and is chasing power as though he has something to prove. I totally believed that his inner struggle was “You’ll never be as strong as Darth Vader.” That was a brilliant line, and was all I needed to get his backstory. He is a villain in training, what Anakin should have been in the prequels: someone who hasn’t mastered his craft yet, but is strong and conflicted. Anakin wanted to be as strong as Palpatine but came off as more of a faceless follower in the end. Kylo Ren sees Snoke as an ideal and is chasing that visage tirelessly. It definitely shows in his frustration during the final fight.
Poe and Finn
I love Rey, but also love the bromance of Poe and Finn. The opening where they escape is hilarious, although I would’ve liked to see more of Finn’s inner struggle and what made him switch so fast (was it the death of a friend?). If they’re brainwashed from childhood, in Max Landis’ words “Hitler Youth”, how did he change so fast? But for a first movie that lays down the brick-path for the sequels, I thought it was so much fun and hope we get to see more! People ask for backstory on Poe Dameron too, but to me he’s like Han from “A New Hope”: you know nothing about him except he’s a badass, and that’s ok. Between the two of them, I particularly loved the modern quips and euphemisms that were thrown in there.
The Fangirl in All of Us
Rey’s characterization in the beginning is a brilliant show of showing, not telling. You can tell she is an absolute fangirl for the Star Wars legends, just like how we used to be when the films came out. She has a doll of a rebel pilot, she wears the X-Wing pilot helmet, and lives in an AT-AT. You can just picture how she might imagine herself as a rebel, strolling through the broken hulls of the downed Star Destroyers on Jakku. Every time someone mentioned the Resistance or Luke Skywalker, her face just lit up in the most adorable and relatable way. She worships these tales, especially living on such a desolate, boring planet like Jakku. I love this kind of character, and was absolutely tickled by her charm, her dreams, and her eagerness to fix any bad situation with her new friends.
So when she agrees to take BB-8 to the Resistance, and realizes she has Force powers, it’s like a dream come true for her. She is in fearful situations, but experiments with them, like Kamala Khan in “Ms. Marvel” learning she inherited super powers. But my tiny issue with Rey and her Force powers was how she used them so well, almost instantly. She mind-melded Kylo Ren (an experienced Jedi), mind-melded the Storm Trooper guard in her cell, and so on. I believed in the ending fight where she harnessed that inner power to push back Kylo Ren but not kill him. To my memory, I don’t think Luke even understood his powers that fast, even with Obi-Wan at his side in the first movie. If the legends of the Jedi had been so far gone, as described in “Force Awakens”, I doubt she would have even known what a Jedi mind-trick was, let alone how to use it.
Imagine if Harry Potter instantly knew how to do a Patronus, a pivotal part of the Harry Potter story. Instead, he struggles with it for a whole book/movie, and only in the ending scene is he able to harness the full strength of the Patronus (but after that he passes out, proving that he has much to learn about the Patronus).
Rey does none of that.
She was so good with the Force. She’s shown at being bad with a blaster (which is fine) and then I was thinking half the time, where did her trusty staff go??? But Force powers? She’s got it. The movie as a whole was so much fun, but it was only those few scenes where Rey was suddenly a Force-master that confused me. I am what I have read and seen, and I feel that I’ve seen enough of those “the power was within you all along” moments to care for them anymore.
So does any of this detract from Rey’s character? Hell no. Do I still like her? Absolutely. She’s tough and scrappy, but also loyal and doubtful in her abilities. She’s at the top of my list of favorite characters from films this year, and I can’t wait to see what happens to her next.
What’s in Store for Episode VIII?
We’ll have to wait two years to find out! In the meantime, I look forward to “Rogue One” and I dearly hope that I don’t get fatigued from having a “Star Wars” film every year. Here’s to new hope for the franchise!