A Renewed Hope

This is the part where I’m supposed to warn you about spoilers, but honestly, what are you doing reading reviews of the movie if you don’t want spoilers?

J.J. Abrams, congratulations. That was easily better than any of the prequels. And some, including myself, may even argue it was better than parts of the original trilogy.

There were so many things I liked about this film, from the Millennium Falcon chase scene to the infinitely better dialogue. And, let’s face it, I could really go on forever about John Boyega. But today, I want to talk about two major things; Rey and the parallels from the original Star Wars.

Let’s begin with Rey.

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Rey, oh Rey, you feminist dream. You magnificent space child. You… wait, I’m starting to sound like Leslie Knope. Anyways, Rey was wonderful. As I watched her, I thought of one of my favorite documentaries, Miss Representation, and how a young girl laments that women are never the protagonists in grand epics. It’s always about a man going off to find his destiny, but rarely do we get a narrative that focuses on a woman doing such. Progress has been made, don’t get me wrong. Many supporting female roles have become more complex, and things like Supergirl, Agent Carter, and The Hunger Games are bringing women to the forefront of their own stories.

But this, this was something else entirely.

Star Wars is not a niche market. While yes, it is SciFi, I think we can all admit that Star Wars transcends it’s genre much like Harry Potter does. There may be hard core nerds, but at the end of the day, it’s a cultural staple. It was incredibly powerful to see the next installment of this grand space opera shift its focus to a woman. A woman with practical clothes and no makeup. A woman with feelings and power and a past and what I hope to be a magnificent future.

While it’s clear she’s being paralleled to Luke, I’m not overly concerned with who’s child she is, although I know that her linage will be one of the “big reveals” in the upcoming films. I’m simply happy she exists, and however she came into that existence is fine by me.

These similarities she has with our initial protagonist were not the first plot points I saw that intersected with A New Hope. At first I thought they were just a nod to the fans. A way to make us smile and forget that the prequels happened, since this felt so much like the original trilogy.

And then they got stronger and stronger, to the point where as soon as I saw Chewy hand Han that coat reminiscent of Obi-Wan’s cloak form Episode IV, I just though, “Crap. I’m about to watch Han Solo die.”

While I’m sure that some will shout that this movie was too derivative of it predecessors, or even lazy to recycle old plots, I disagree. There was too much for it to be simple fan service. I once heard George Lucas describe the franchise as “the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker.” I can see that. There were some things in Revenge of the Sith that were sad. Tragic? Ehh. But with this, the similarities evoked that sense of tragedy I never felt in any of the other movies. It felt as if this family was caught in a revolving fate endlessly playing out across the galaxy. When the Resistance was destroying the planet re: Death Star in episode IV, it was not really the focus. Rather, it was Rey and Kylo Ren’s fight. Somehow, no matter how they try, the Skywalker’s would always end up either falling from the light, or destroying each other. Perhaps it’s because I’m so attached to free will, but the idea that their lives are inevitable is so much more heartbreaking to me.

The theme of fate fits well into the overall universe though, as we accept The Force to be this great cosmic entity meant to bring balance. Perhaps something went wrong the first time, and it is attempting to redo what went awry. Maybe the balance that it sought was never truly found and it intends to keep trying over and over until it gets it right. This of course raises the question, what truly is “balance” in The Force? If the word peace had been chosen, we could assume this meant obliterating The Dark Side, but balance implies that both sides are needed. However, how can this equality be found, since from what we’ve seen of The Dark Side, it always seeks to dominate? Its very existence rejects anything other than complete control.

This moves into my theory of where things are going. Why did Ben Solo fall? Why did he turn away? Is it possible that Luke had also realized both The Dark and The Light must exist in harmony? I think he did, and he attempted to teach Ben in all the ways of The Force. He likely saw him as he one who could bring that ultimate balance, acting with power from both sides. But he was wrong and The Dark Side won, creating Kylo Ren. I imagine holding power from both would be incredibly difficult as he described still holding a draw to The Light as “tearing him up.”

But now enter Rey. I don’t believe she will be a Jedi that operates sole in The Light. Eventually, I believe Rey will be the on who will simply “use The Force” and all that entails. Light and Dark. Rey will break the cycle and become the balance that could not be found in Anakin or Ben. How we’re going to get there? I’m not sure. But I have a renewed hope going into the next two films, and will eagerly await to see more adventures of Rey, Finn, and Poe. 

Regardless of individual opinions on plot points, I think most can agree that this was incredibly fun. It was funny, exciting, and something the whole family can enjoy. The effects were wonderful, and it evoked what we loved from the original trilogy. We keep telling this story from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, and that is because it brings us all a little more joy into our lives.

Merry Christmas, and may the force be with you.

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