How The Last Jedi turned me against a character I embraced wholeheartedly in The Force Awakens…
Despite an overwhelming sense of disappointment with my IMAX 3D midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens way back in 2015, one thing was undeniable…Daisy Ridley nailed her performance as Rey. Stepping into the lead role of a new Star Wars saga was a daunting prospect, to say the least, but Daisy Ridley leapt into the role and staked her claim to be the new leader of the franchise.
After a few (12) additional screenings and a severe revaluation of my expectations, I focussed my attention on the many good points of J.J Abrams’ long-awaited sequel, instead of dwelling on my issues with what should have been the pinnacle of Star Wars movies. Harrison Ford was mesmerising as Han Solo, Joonas Suotamo performed admirably in his first outing as our beloved Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon looked as beautiful as she always did, despite the underwhelming rectangular deflector shield. John Boyega made an impressive start to his Star Wars career as Finn, Adam Driver was suitably menacing as Kylo Ren, and Daisy Ridley’s innocence enticed me to embrace her character without hesitation.
In short, I liked Rey.
Her characterisation was not one of my issues with The Force Awakens, and believe me, I have several “whoppers” that still eat away at me to this very day. But I digress, back to Rey. In the finale of the seventh chapter of the Star Wars saga, we see Rey sat alongside a mourning Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon destined for Ahch-To and a rendezvous with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Despite the profound loss of Han Solo, Chewie had embraced our new leading lady and was happy to be sharing the ride with her, despite only having piloted the Falcon once. However, with his four decades of knowledge and experience taken into consideration, she had the ultimate mentor at her side.
It was a poignant moment. One made even more special thanks to Peter Mayhew donning the famous costume one last time before hanging up his fur and passing the torch to Joonas Suotamo.
Fast forward to Christmas 2017, and the release of Rian Johnson’s controversial entry into the franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. My excitement for Episode VIII was at an all-time high, the trailers hadn’t really sparked my imagination in the way I’d have liked, but the many TV Spots had hit the mark and my excited inner child was ready to embrace the action post haste.
Now, to set the record straight…upon my first viewing at the Multimedia Press screening in London’s Leicester Square, I absolutely loved The Last Jedi. Granted, the story did not play out as I had expected, and the character departure of Luke Skywalker was a surprise, to say the least but, in this day and age, where so many movies follow the same tired checklist of plot points to incorporate into their narratives, I found the surprise to be a welcome one. Would I have preferred Luke to unleash his Lightsaber and take the fight to the First Order…hell yes, but I fully appreciated the freshness and shock value created by Rian Johnson’s incarnation of Luke Skywalker.
The movie itself was full of delightful highs, mixed with a few mind-numbing lows, the entire Canto Bight sequence being my most abhorred, but overall, I loved the movie in its entirety. Now, being a traditionalist who connects our current crop of movies through nostalgia, the Millennium Falcon/Battle of Crait sequence was a joy to behold. Not just because it exhibited the Falcon at her glorious best, but because the entire sequence was accompanied by a blast of the vintage Star Wars theme made famous in the escape from the Death Star in George Lucas’ classic, A New Hope.
As a proud Millennium Falcon enthusiast, I was elated with the sequence. Seeing the Millennium Falcon dash through the caves of Crait and leaving the outclassed TIE Fighters in her wake was a pure delight, one that had my pulse pounding and left the hair on the back of neck standing on end. It was more than the stuff of legend. It was pure, unadulterated Star Wars!
I recall rushing home and warning my brother, Carl, son Michael (Mini-Mandalorian) and beloved wife Zoe of what was in store for them in their first viewing, all the while ensuring not to spoil the beauty of the revelation. I simply dropped the hint that there was a sequence toward the end that would have them jumping for joy, and as we neared the sequence during our opening night midnight screening, I took great pleasure in watching the look of joy emerge onto their faces as the Falcon strutted her stuff up on the screen.
And then it happened…
As I sat there, literally loving every second of The Last Jedi, I noticed something abhorrent amidst the beauty of my favourite scene. It wasn’t a problem with the Falcon, it wasn’t an issue with John Williams’ superb soundtrack, it wasn’t even the sound effects, it wasn’t the mighty Wookiee Chewbacca either, nor the utterly irritating Porgs who I have recently discovered a new-found detestation for.
It was Rey!
At the height of my excitement, Chewbacca pilots the Millennium Falcon through the caves and owing to the confines of the crystallised salt formations, the lower gunning position of the iconic freighter scrapes along the walls of the cave. Having the Falcon suffer damage of any kind is never desirable, hell she evens loses her rectangular deflector shield to a stray round of blaster fire, but she has been through tougher scrapes, and with Chewie, at the helm, she always pulls through.
Nominal battle damage is to be expected, in some cases unavoidable. During the events of the Empire Strikes Back, the Falcon was clattered by asteroids, had her back quarter ravaged by an Imperial Star Destroyer’s heavy cannons and even suffered an untimely hyperdrive malfunction. But despite all that, she pulled through with Han and Chewie at the helm.
Back to The Last Jedi, and the crux of my irritation. When Chewie scrapes the underside of the Falcon against the cave wall, Rey suddenly yells from her gunning position and berates the mighty Wookiee for his flying abilities. Now stop me if I’m wrong, but Chewbacca has been piloting the Millennium Falcon for well over four decades alongside Han Solo, whereas Rey has sat in the pilot seat a total of twice, the first of which was a calamitous affair skimming across the sand dunes of Jakku.
Why on earth would this relationship appear normal?
We have a seasoned pilot in Chewbacca, a character revealed in the superb Solo: A Star Wars Story to be well over two hundred years old by the era of The Last Jedi and has demonstrated his unswerving piloting ability over the course of decades. And then we have Rey, a novice scavenger whose experience in the pilot seat is limited to a brief and reckless escape from Jakku in the Falcon and a “training voyage” to the island of Ahch-To.
This infuriates me.
When venting my concerns to my fellow Future of the Force writers, they suggested that in one of the many Star Wars reference books from our friends at DK Publishing, an explanation was forwarded which revealed that Chewbacca traditionally prefers to serve as the vessels first mate and therefore defers to the authority of the Captain.
If I were born of the sequel era, maybe this would serve as a legitimate explanation for Rey’s behaviour, but I’m an original trilogy kid and I wholly refuse to believe this “new canon” nonsense as an explanation for a complete lack of flying expertise superseding more than four decades of piloting experience alongside the best pilot in the galaxy in Han Solo. I dismiss this scandalous justification as the rubbish it truly is.
I now find myself at loggerheads with this sequence. Whenever I sit down to enjoy my sub-par Blu-Ray copy of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I struggle with the duality of having my favourite sequence tarnished by Rey’s unwarranted and unwelcome reprimand of her Wookiee superior. How can my favourite scene in the entire film now be as loathed as the dreadful Canto Bight sequence?
Unfortunately, my loathing of Rey hasn’t stopped there. Considering this issue, I now find myself rolling my eyes at her involvement in the events of both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. This singular sequence has tarnished my admiration of a character I welcomed into the saga with open arms back in 2015. Now to be clear, I do not subscribe to the derogatory label of “Mary-Sue” which has been levelled at the character in recent memory, but I cannot sit idly by as one of the franchise’s greatest characters is trampled over in this way.
Not only does Chewbacca deserve better, but the fans deserved an authentic representation of an adored character in the upshot of Han Solo’s demise. The fans needed Chewie! His legacy deserves no less. Having him exiled to the periphery of the story in The Last Jedi was insult enough, but having Rey exercise her non-existent authority over him in the cockpit is nonsensical.
Would Leia Organa entrust the piloting terminal of her command ship to a wholly inexperienced pilot? NO! Would Supreme Leader Snoke employ an inexperienced cadet to pilot his Star Destroyer? I think NOT! Should Rey have superiority over the mighty Chewbacca? NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS!
Such things make no sense in any universe, let alone a galaxy far, far away…
The obvious solution to this quandary would have been having Rey, working alongside Chewie throughout the events of The Last Jedi, learning from her Wookiee mentor and mastering the technical aspects of being a pilot. This would have served to facilitate the natural progression of Rey and allow her the time to demonstrate a natural ability behind the controls. Instead, her ascension feels forced and insulting. However, with her attention divided between her issues with Luke, her connection to Kylo Ren and her unrelenting search for answers to the mystery of her lineage, she was afforded little time in which to explore this prospect. The result is a characterisation infused with arrogance, resolute in an erroneous belief that she commands the Millennium Falcon where no such abilities exist.
My issue with Rey shows no sign of relenting, but I am committed to exercising these demons before the arrival of J.J Abrams’ Episode IX in December next year. I only hope that J.J Abrams restores balance to the Force and reverses the mistreatment of one of the saga brightest stars.
Until then, I entrust the legacy of Chewbacca to Ron Howard.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a glorious return to form for the Star Wars saga and I cannot wait to press play on my Blu-Ray copy for another enthralling rendezvous with Han Solo, Chewie, Lando and the pristine Millennium Falcon, safe in the knowledge that Daisy Ridley’s Rey will be nowhere in sight.
Sorry, Daisy, my issue lies not with you. My finger remains pointed at an inferior plot point added by a wonderful director and genuinely talented writer who clearly had an off day when writing my most beloved and now most abhorred of sequences.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K Ultra HD now!
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