One more thing about The Force Awakens

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Spoiler warning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Having seen The Force Awakens three times, a small character beat stuck out during this trifecta screening that I think is getting lost in all the theorising over the film and every ‘hot take’. It’s a moment that’s humbling in the scope of this character’s story arc and a credit to J. J. Abrams’ subtle storytelling which most overlook in favour of the ‘he adds nothing’ critical narrative around the film. There lots to pick apart in The Force Awakens but the artistry of the film, that so many claim is missing, lies at the heart of this character.

The moment is when Rey (Daisy Ridley) is cleaning the part she has scavenged from the fallen Star Destroyer early in the film. She is furiously cleaning the hunk of metal and looks up to notice a tired old woman sitting opposite her doing exactly the same thing. There’s a beat here where Rey realises she’s seeing the embodiment of her future self on Jakku. Rey has a few of these moments which are meant to be the equivalent of Luke Skywalker watching the twin suns setting in A New Hope, but this is the one that aches the most with the futility of waiting for her family to return—they’re never coming back and the film is explicit with this outcome.

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When people question the foundations of a character—especially the ‘Mary-Sue’ tag around Rey which translates to people saying they don’t like her because she’s a woman—it’s these moments that are the building blocks of motivation. Rey has a lot of skills, granted, but her extensive knowledge is the by-product of someone becoming resourceful after being abandoned on a planet as a child. I repeat: a child. When Rey first meets BB-8 trapped in a net by a passing scavenger, she remarks that the scavenger only wants BB-8 for parts and says, “He has no respect for anyone.” Rey treats BB-8 with the same respect as a living entity even though it’s a droid. You’d expect Rey to be ruthless after being left alone on a distant planet to defend for herself but she maintains a moral code that naturally lends itself to heroics. We’re learning that she’s good natured which will later define her actions in the scope of the age-old narrative Star Wars farms from that is the battle between the light and the dark.

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We learn more about Rey from her moments of fear and self-reflection that I believe is the essence of Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan’s influence on the film outside of action and spectacle. The moment where Rey force-grabs the lightsaber as she prepares to duel with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a powerful moment because it’s Rey’s leap into the unknown that—by the look on Ridley’s face alone—is one that begins with fear but grows with confidence as the character realises her potential. During the lightsaber fight, Rey pauses mid-duel to close her eyes and reach out to the force. So many blockbusters race to the finish line with a wham-bam finale, you’re more likely to see a character pull the pin on a grenade in slow-motion than any moment of zen, but we get it with Rey because she’s a character that thrives in these smaller moments.

The Force Awakens is as blockbuster-y as they come but it’s a blanket definition that disregards attention to detail in favour of gigantic explosions. One of the reasons why the film manages to buck the repetitive nature of the narrative is because of the nuances of characters like Rey.

Cameron Williams

The Popcorn Junkie

 

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