When a bunch of new Star Wars projects were announced at the 2023 Star Wars Celebration, there were mixed reactions, to say the least. Apart from Ahsoka, which, shockingly, has built some hype after a total lack of it for the last couple of years, new projects have been received with telling ‘meh’s.
It’s understandable. We’ve sat through a grueling stream of Star Wars Disney Plus shows that were fine enough at the time but had zero staying power or rewatch factor. And The Rise of Skywalker left audiences underwhelmed with its “Somehow, Palpatine returned”-ness and hammy Kylo Ren redemption.
It makes sense that people didn’t jump for joy when a new Rey project with Daisy Ridley was announced. But the lackluster finale to her trilogy (well, it was hers to some extent, at least) is why I’m open to enjoying a new movie with her in it. It has been a sucky few years in the franchise, and TROS fumbled the bag, Rey is worthy of another shot.
Rey is one of the good parts of the reboot trilogy. And despite how many people loathed the third, the expedition was overall a success. The Force Awakens was an exciting if not unoriginal foray back into a galaxy far, far, away, and The Last Jedi was a subversive and empathetic entry that took the story to corners previously unexplored. TROS was a bit naff, sure, but it wasn’t enough to erase all the positive stuff, of which there was plenty.
One of the frustrating things, however, was all the focus on Rey’s lineage. TFA was compelled by the idea of legacy, TLJ spat in that idea’s face, rendering her a nobody, and then TROS did a U-turn because Disney couldn’t handle disgruntled fans.
Had TLJ put to bed the mystery around her family entirely, TROS may have been something entirely different, and it may have spent the time giving her a worthwhile goodbye instead of chasing after that thread and developing its predictable Kylo redemption arc.
Under it all, there were untapped levels to the story. Rey is a likable character. Ridley brings a cutesy veneer to her that’s delightful but equally can imbue her most special on-screen moments with some of the fantasy magic that first made me fall in love with Star Wars as a kid.
Rey didn’t have particularly compelling dynamics with any of the other new Star Wars characters; Poe was more connected to Finn, Finn doesn’t do much of anything, and the romance with Kylo brings to mind all the souls inexplicably lost to the allure of sad bois. It’s not a bad thing he’s gone. Not because Kylo was a poor character (this isn’t a Kylo hit piece), but because Rey was underserved due to how inextricably tied to him she was.
It’ll be curious to see her on her own, having Jedi adventures where her attention won’t be pulled in the direction of quasi-interesting supporting characters or Kylo, who was engaging enough to be able to overshadow her somewhat. What will her new life look like, now that we know who she is and we don’t necessarily have to anchor her to legacy characters? This is space, so we can go anywhere.
Flashes of her exploring lush green planets, having The Mandalorian-style adventures, or meeting sinister Sith we’ve not seen in live-action yet on lava-rock terrain cross the mind. Perhaps it’s not that everyone has fallen out of love with Star Wars, but rather that Disney has been failing to capitalize (there’s a first time for everything) on the magic. It’s still there, under all this dull rubble.
Disney has put an exciting director on the project, Pakistani-Canadian journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who’s known for her activism as much as her filmmaking. If we’re hoping for fresh vision to breathe some life back into the proceedings, we can’t ask for much more than her. Set fifteen years after the fall of The First Order, the plot follows Rey as she attempts to rebuild the Jedi Order.
It sounds a bit ‘been there, done that’, but a quality filmmaker and screenwriter pairing will know how to work with Star Wars’ always-present core themes while giving the audience an undeniable and distinct reason to reinvest. You do that with solid character writing.
If I can still have fun playing Jedi: Fallen Order — which uses Star Wars’ limitless bounds to great effect — reading a Doctor Aphra comic book, and even revisiting the space opera that is the prequel trilogy, then surely Disney can muster up enough force to deliver something worthy of our attention, instead of the middling muck we’ve been wading through — I’m talking about you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You weren’t bad, but I remember nothing.
Stop wasting characters with potential, relying on but squandering readily available nostalgia, and thinking setting stories in the universe is enough depth on its own. Give us interpersonal drama, a sense of wonder, and some isolated storytelling! And sure, use Rey to do it. Why not her?
We last saw her wandering sandy dunes, robot companion at her side but alone in her quest to begin a new path, untied to previous insecurities related to expectations or her family tree. In a movie stuffed to the brim with attempts at pathos and connection, this scene held a small glimmer of hope with its refreshing stillness and lack of direction. So, let’s see what her next step looks like without the weight of a reboot trilogy on her shoulders.
Or, fly on over to our guides on the best movies of all time, the new movies coming soon, or our thinking on the ideal way to watch the Star Wars movies in order. If you’re still excited about what’s coming, we’ve also got the details on the Ahsoka release date.