Star Wars: My Top 3 Issues With The Modern Trilogy
With the catastrophe that is the modern Star Wars trilogy finally concluded, I want to finally say my piece on how this journey has unfolded. Critics, big and small, have torn into these movies and at this point, there’s nothing you can really say that hasn’t already been said in regards to the state of this franchise.
In light of this, I still would like to vent my own personal frustrations with this string of movies. These are just the three biggest issues that irk me the most and are by no means the largest issues of the entire trilogy. Here’s your spoiler warning!
I think we can all agree that the mishandling of Rey’s character is an understatement. The entire argument of a ‘mary sue’ character erupted largely because of her. The ripple effects of a STRONG. FEMALE. PROTAGONIST. can probably be sourced back to her. Rey has a lot of problems, in that she has near to none at all as a character.
Rey’s only interesting trait is how goddamn overpowered she is. With each movie, she only got even more unreasonably powerful. Any justification that Rise of Skywalker tried to shoved into my face for why she’s this powerful just kind of falls flat at this point. I really don’t care whether she’s a Skywalker or a Palpatine, I don’t care how talented she was in the Force in the first place, I don’t care about any sort of half-assed run-in she has with the dark side because I don’t care about her.
And I wanted to care about Rey. I really did. The story just does not give me a reason to do so. I think the biggest reason I don’t care about her is because this Star Wars trilogy’s story basically robs her of the most important arc she could’ve had. Rey doesn’t learn anything. She barely grows or struggles with anything.
I could honestly forgive some of her overpoweredness if the story just gave me a chance to actually understand who Rey is outside of just being an uber-talented badass. What’s her personal hopes and dreams? Why does she want to become a Jedi outside of the generic excuse of destroying the dark side? She felt like a character who had all this responsibility thrust upon her the moment she found BB-8. How does she feel about all of that? Does she think she’s really cut out for it all?
Take the lame red herring of who her parents are out of the equation. I care about knowing who she is as a person. Her parents are just a byproduct of that. They were only an issue because it was the only tangible piece of information given to us about who she MIGHT BE in episode 7. I don’t care about who she might be in the future. I care about who she is now. Her journey should take us to who she WILL BE in the future, regardless of her parents. That’s what episode 7 forgot about.
Her being good at everything she does destroys her characterization. When she learns, the audience learns along with her, but since she doesn’t learn anything or get better at stuff through substantial practice and genuine understanding, the audience starts wondering about WHAT she is instead of WHO she is.
2. The Force
The Force is no longer this nuanced, mysterious entity Star Wars anymore. Look, I’m not totally against this whole ‘everyone has the force’ thing. I think there’s a reason why the phrase ‘The Force is Strong with this One’ exists. This implies a power scale. The Force could be inside you, but you can be incredibly weak with it to the point where its tangible power is inaccessible to you. I’m okay with the Force being inside anyone. It’s about whether the person in question can feel it and bring it out of them to utilize its power.
But these films take it a step too far. Now, just about everyone and their grandma blames everything on the Force. Rey’s extra powerful in episode 7? Blame it on the Force in episode 8! Finn went against stormtrooper protocol in episode 7 to rebel? Blame it on the Force in episode 9! Children are just able to Force push and pull things just because now.
Look, I can accept Rey being able to tap into the Force a little bit without any formal training. It’s natural talent. Luke did it and so did Anakin before they were ever formally trained. I can even accept it a bit of stretching since the extent of their untrained power was only marginally tapped into at the time. But these movies just go unreasonably far and the Force becomes less of an overseeing entity and more of a full-blown Deus Ex Machina. At most I could accept Rey being able to do very, very weak Force pulls by just focusing or doing a trick she taught herself as a kid or something.
There’s too much in these movies explained away, solved or caused by the Force. Not everything in the Star Wars universe explicitly has to be the Force’s fault you know. It steals away genuine character agency and becomes an irritating contrivance. It robs almost every major character in the trilogy an interesting bit of development in some way when the excuse is just the Force. And yeah, I know Rey is effectively a Palpatine. This essentially retcons the explanation of her powers in episode 8, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. Not everything can be pure talent. Every single Force user had to work for their power, even Sith to some degree. Whether Rey was born with it or the Force just said so, it’s still an incredibly stupid reason to rob her of her learning period as a character.
1. Anakin’s Lightsaber
Everyone tosses around Anakin’s lightsaber in these movies like some sort of two-dollar ho. Maz ends up with it for reasons that go completely unexplained. Last we saw it leads me to believe someone probably found it somewhere near Luke’s chopped off hand. So yeah, I’d kind of like to know how she got her hands on it. Then it gets passed around between Rey and Finn before Luke chucks it off the side of a cliff.
Then it’s split in half and rebuilt for some reason. I guess all hos need to be broken and remade. Luke wields it as a Force projection to fight Kylo? Why wouldn’t he just use his own lightsaber? This will only serve to confuse new fans and make them think that it was Luke’s lightsaber the whole time when it wasn’t.
Then Rey gives it to Leia before she gives it right back to Rey like a scene later. And then when Rey does her healing Jutsu on some worm monster, she passes it off to Finn like he was going to do anything with it in that scene. Why wouldn’t she just sheath the goddamn blade to let the creature know she meant no harm? Goddamn it, you’re a Jedi, Rey! You don’t just pass your lightsaber off to some flunkie! I don’t care if he used it before. By this point, it’s officially hers now.
Then Rey tosses it into a fire before Luke’s Force ghost saves it. Bringing the ho back to its angry pimp. Again, this will only further confuse fans into thinking that this has always been Luke’s saber when it hasn’t. Then it gets passed off to Kylo, which is a bit more fitting, I suppose.
But only because Rey now has a new ho in Leia’s lightsaber, confirming that Luke did indeed train Leia at some point. This really only gives minor credence to that horrible scene in TLJ where Leia goes all space Mary Poppins. This makes it hard for me to accept that Leia’s training is genuine and it feels more like J.J. trying to retcon the mistakes that Rian made. It’s also an excuse to give Rey a second lightsaber so Kylo can have one after he stupidly throws his away as if suddenly using a red-bladed lightsaber is the be-all-end-all of being a dark side user.
Finally, after it passes through as many hands as a damn basketball, Rey buries Anakin’s lightsaber on Tatooine along with his daughter’s. I’m sorry. Do I feel something at this moment? Because the way the story treats this incredibly significant lightsaber throughout this Star Wars trilogy makes me feel like this is just any old generic lightsaber from any old generic, clone wars-era Jedi. The narrative portrays it as having about as much value as Grievous found in his entire collection of the fucking things. Just a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.
Why is it even here then?! Again, this object robs Rey of what could be more of her character. A Jedi’s lightsaber is important to them. It’s the reason why Obi-Wan makes such a big stink about it when Anakin loses his in episode 2. It’s why he explains the importance of it to Luke in episode 4. More happens on Ilum than the events of Starkiller base. This is where Jedi got there kyber crystals, the things that power them there laser swords. How come Rey doesn’t just build her own sword then? Sure, it might be a bit harder what with the bad guys all in the way, but I’m sure if Rey is this in tune with the Force, she could easily find a crystal for herself while they were there.
Rey could find a crystal that’s calling out to her. She doesn’t know why at first, but she claims it anyway. Later she builds a lightsaber out of all the junk she collected as a scavenger on Jakku. That would’ve been a pretty satisfying way to build her character. It could reinforce the resourcefulness we saw in her at the beginning of episode 7. Help her, and the audience, understand how these gadgets work as well. Bring her logically closer to becoming a Jedi in more than just name.
When she builds it, maybe she does so in a way that accommodates how she wields her staff. Maybe she then wields in a way that Luke doesn’t agree with (If he actually fucking trained her.) and her reasoning is because it’s what she’s most comfortable with. Boom. Now, you’ve not only given Rey an original object that characterizes her, but you’ve also stressed the importance of what these objects mean in the lore of Star Wars beyond them just being cool weapons. It also helps to make this new character more significant and unique. It’s easier for fans to accept new characters when they can identify with genuine reasoning as to why they do what they do, especially when it’s in line with how the story establishes them.
But no. The films just throw Anakin’s lightsaber around like the cheap toys Disney is pumping out for these movies. I don’t care about fan service if the story uses previous paraphernalia in a way that makes sense to the narrative. Anakin’s lightsaber makes no sense being here and the way the story treats it only makes it worse.
Rey finally has her own lightsaber at the very end of episode 9. We barely get to see what it looks like and it feels like it’s just shoved in at the very end to say ‘Look, guys, Rey’s officially a Jedi or whatever,’ when she really should’ve had her own lightsaber by episode 8.
This Star Wars trilogy has a lot of problems that I’m sure go beyond my understanding as a Star Wars fan and bleeds its way into just general film critique. So, feel free to leave your comments below on some of the personal problems, if any, you have with these movies, Star Wars-related or not. Do you love them? Do you hate them? Would you watch them over as much as you would the OT or the prequel films? If you’re a Star Wars fan and also a gamer, check out my review on the latest game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
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Follow James on Twitter @DatBlackGhost.