A Critique: Star Wars VII (Part 1)

Since the 70s when it was born, Star Wars has been a part of culture. From the references that assume everyone has seen the movies (even though not everyone has) to the people who go to midnight premieres, Star Wars continues to play a role in society today. And like most movies, Star Wars tells a story. From a farm boy to a slave boy to a scavenger to a team, the story continues onward albeit with some different characters. And as with most things, I have an opinion. So without further ado, here it is:

Star Wars VII—better known as the Force Awakens—was (in my opinion) the worst Star Wars movie. While most people enjoyed it, I had many problems with the movie. I came out of the theatre disappointed and wondering what exactly went wrong with the movie. Sure, I knew that I didn’t like it, but many of the reasons why remained a mystery to me. Now, I have a fuller understanding of what went wrong in the movie. One of these things that was poorly done was the characters and more specifically (for this post), Rey.

Rey is what is commonly known as a Mary Sue, which is a character that isn’t balanced—Mary Sues are too powerful (they have no apparent or not a strong enough weakness). Rey’s one apparent weakness is she is afraid to leave her home-world since she believes that her parents could return at any moment. However, ultimately, this doesn’t change any of her actions; she still leaves. Furthermore, this isn’t a very strong flaw. It is not internal. While fear can sometimes be a good way to balance a character (when fear does and doesn’t work as a flaw is such a big topic it could be a whole other post of its own), Rey doesn’t seem to have an issue with fear in general. She goes on battling the First Order without a second thought.

And when compared to Luke, a more balanced character, she is way more powerful. Consider, Luke got his hand chopped off even after training with Yoda while Rey won against Kylo Ren and even injured him after she had received no training. While I’ve heard the argument (that I disagree with) that Rey is just strong in the force, even simply handling a sword takes skill. Furthermore, Rey simply can’t just be that strong in the force without training. Luke wasn’t that strong or intuitive with the force and look at who his father was. Even Anakin, the chosen one himself, needed training.

However, what this all comes down to is that the audience (or at least I) needs a character that they can relate to. A character who can be vulnerable. A character who is flawed. Because ultimately, a flaw stems from some sort of emotion. For example, Rey could have a fear of being abandoned because her parents abandoned her, and as a result, she purposefully remained distant from people and tried not to trust anybody so she would never be hurt by somebody she trusted or loved abandoning her. However, this is not the case with Rey, who lacks this sort of vulnerability.

The only time we see Rey vulnerable is Kylo Ren force freezes her. And while she panics, it doesn’t emotionally resonate with her. As a result, it doesn’t resonate with the audience either.

Ultimately, though, flaws make the story more engaging and suspenseful. We don’t see Rey fail. We see Luke fail in The Empire Strikes Back when he goes to confront Vader; Luke barely escapes alive and has one less hand than he started with. However, with Rey, because we don’t see her fail or believe that she could fail, we just assume that everything will turn out okay. There are no stakes.

Therefore, we can’t connect with a character who doesn’t fail because we, as real humans, will fail. And something inside of us knows that in reality, we will always fail at some point.

The take-away?

Characters need to be balanced. So, write characters who have both powerful strengths and flaws to balance.

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