I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a kid growing up watching the original trilogy on VHS back in the 80s and then watching the prequels on screen as a teenager, I was excited when I heard of three more Star Wars movies, albeit a little worried as well. After some issues with the prequels, I didn’t want to get overly excited only to be disappointed in the end. Happily, The Force Awakens did not disappoint. That being said, I’m taking to my keyboard to take a look at some of the various aspects of The Force Awakens from a literary and storytelling perspective in a series of posts. This does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want it to be ruined, then bookmark this and read it later. You’ve been warned.
I'm a big fan of the new cast of this Star Wars trilogy. Rey, Finn, Poe, even Kylo Ren, provide some fresh new takes on character archetypes used in the earlier trilogies. They bring some new life into a storyline that parallels the earlier movies.
Our new protagonist in The Force Awakens is Rey, a young, orphaned scavenger living on the desert planet of Jakku. Rey spends most of her days raiding the remains of an old Star Destroyer and other star ships wrecked in the sands from the battle of Jakku. She’s clearly an outcast on Jakku, but refuses to leave because she’s waiting for someone to return, I assume a parent or two. She crosses paths with a cute little droid, BB-8; a renegade stormtrooper, Finn; and two heroes she’s only heard of in stories, Han Solo and Chewbacca. After meeting this group of misfits, a series of events unfolds that awakens Rey’s latent Force potential inside her.
By the end of the film, Rey has begun to understand some of the rudimentary workings of the Force. After Kylo Ren kidnaps Rey and attempts to pry the map that leads to Luke Skywalker from her mind, Rey learns how to use Force Persuasion on a nearby stormtrooper who is guarding her. It may initially look like Rey comes across this usage of the Force on her own, but I imagine her experience with Kylo Ren influenced her in some way. Ren has just tried to penetrate her mind using the Force to extract information. Knowing that she has a strong connection to the Force, she uses this to attempt something of her own. She does a similar thing later when she is able to use the Force to manipulate Luke Skywalker’s old light saber and pull it into her grasp instead of Ren’s.
I love the idea of having a female Jedi protagonist in the Star Wars saga. Even though we know that there are female Jedi, they haven’t had much focus in the series. There are some quick shots of female Jedi in Revenge of the Sith being taken out by clone troopers, and the Clone Wars animated series has a female character in it. My favorite was Adi Gallia in the old Playstation Jedi Power Battles game. Probably because she wielded her light saber with a reverse grip. It’s not about a female lead for me, though, so I won’t speak about the feminine, or lack of, aspects of Rey’s character that I’ve read about. I’m curious to know what Rey’s fighting style will be. The original Jedi fighting style in Episodes 4-6 was based mostly on Japanese samurai sword technique, which focused on a few quick and powerful strikes that made for quick fights. Rey doesn’t seem to be the power type of fighter, so maybe she’ll utilize a more fluid style of fighting that redirects others’ strength against them. Something along the lines of a kung fu style.
Having Rey as a focal character provides an interesting perspective to the idea of the Force in the way she comes to know her Force talents. It brings up the question, is there a difference in an “awakening” and the way typical Force users are identified? In the past films, seasoned Jedi identified young children who showed a strong connection to the Force and took them on as disciples. Rey isn’t so lucky as the only Jedi in existence has gone into exile. Rey’s latent Force abilities manifest within her in dire situations rather than her being identified and trained by someone else. There is this raw power inside of her that we really haven’t seen in anyone previously. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Rey.