Saturday, December 26, 2015

Who is Rey?: She's the 'New Hope' for 'Star Wars'

Daisy Ridley's Rey is the break-out, kick-ass star of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

If you don't know that or haven't realized that, you either haven't seen the seventh episode of the "Star Wars" saga, your soul is full of the Dark Side of the Force or it has too much carbon scoring. The last option is you don't have no soul; take your pick.

First of all, Ridley's British accent will make any guy's knees weak. And judging from any in any interview she does or Instagram she posts, the young actress is instantly likable and delightful.

But there's so much more to her character.

From the first time Rey is onscreen, it's obvious she's a resilient young lady.

She is living by herself on the god/Force-forsaken sand world of Jakku (not unlike our hero from the first "Star Wars" film) and been, uh, forced to live by scavenging parts for crappy exchange rates. Rey has been keeping detailed track of 1) how many days she's lived on Jakku and/or 2) how long it's been she's seen her parents (something I'll get into after the break).

There are traces of her knowledge of the Rebel Alliance's war with the Empire from decades ago. Besides the crashed Star Destroyer and X-Wing fighter she travels by in her speeder, she lives inside the remnants of an Imperial walker.

In her make-shift living quarters, there's a handmade doll of a Rebel pilot and after she eats her bare-bones meal, she puts on a discarded Rebel pilot helmet.

But it's when Rey interacts with others where the character and Ridley's performance shine. (Beware of major spoilers from here on! If you're not OK with spoilers, move on, watch the film and come back. Otherwise, you've been warned — and here's my non-spoiler review.) She knows how to handle herself in a fight; by the time the AWOL Stormtrooper Finn reaches her when other scavengers attempt to take the likable droid BB-8, she has dispatched her attackers.

Photo courtesy of VANITY FAIR
Rey is the only woman I know besides Princess Leia Organa, now known as General Leia Organa, to put Han Solo in his place. She is THE only person in the "Star Wars" galaxy (aside from Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian) to tell Solo there's something wrong with his beloved, but much maligned, Millennium Falcon. And not only does Rey say it, she does something about it, finding herself in-sync with Solo's gut instincts about possible repairs.

She's a natural in the pilot seat of the Falcon, a definite tip of the blaster to the smuggler. The scavenger's go-get 'em attitude definitely is in line with Leia's take-charge and take-no-crap way of living. Fans are giddy to see Rey's ying-and-yang with Solo — yet another throwback to Leia. Solo even offers Rey a poor-paying job of being a Falcon crew member because in his words, "Chewie kinda likes you."

But then late in "The Force Awakens," Rey suddenly has a light-bulb moment that she can use the Force. Without ever realizing what it is.

So just who is Rey? And why doesn't she have a last name?

Ultimately, by the time the credits roll on "The Force Awakens," we're dying to know who is Rey's father.

The easy answer is we will find out those answers by the time the "Force Awakens" trilogy ends. We're left to guess until then.

As I said in one of my "Hope is not lost" review of the Japanes trailer, it would be a massive cliché and cheap storytelling device to find out Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia or even Luke Skywalker. (But after all, isn't "The Force Awakens" just one long extended remake of "Episode IV: A New Hope"? And like any installment of the saga there are so many similar circumstances and schtick, it's easy to do the "Star Wars" Drinking Game while watching "The Force Awakens") 

Fans have the same question rolling around in their heads: Isn't Rey Skywalker's daughter? To be honest, I'm inclined to agree.

But for the sake of fairness and the sake of argument, let's say she's Han and Leia's daughter.

How else would she know so much about the Falcon? Could it be that Solo's piloting and mechanical skills have been passed down to his child? And just like Solo's take on the Force, Rey thinks of the galactic civil war and Skywalker as nothing short of myths. And wouldn't Leia's daughter have the same fiery way about her? Ridley has the same dark hair and pale complexion as a young Carrie Fisher.

But yet, Solo and Leia don't give any indication they know who this young lady is. Solo doesn't recognize Rey once he regains ownership of the Falcon — a ship she tells Finn she's never been on before their escape from Jakku. Rey says she's waiting for her family to come back for her.

Even though she was left on Jakku as a young girl (judging from her Force-vision she has when she touches Skywalker's lightsaber), she would recognize her father and mother — even after all those years.

The camera pulls away from Leia and Rey's touching and long hug once Rey and Chewie return from Starkiller Base, where Kylo Ren kills his own father, Solo. Could it be then that Leia takes that time to welcome Rey back into the family and/or reveal who her parents are?

I'd say it's all in the lightsaber and how much of an obvious Luke Skywalker figure Rey is. (I first proposed she was "the Luke Skywalker-type figure" in November — more than a month-and-a-half before "The Force Awakens" was released.)

Once Rey touches the lightsaber (which originally belonged to Anakin Skywalker), she has a rush of disturbing visions — from being left on Jakku, to Luke Skywalker reaching out to touch R2-D2 and the rain-soaked Kylo Ren and his followers standing among many dead bodies.

(Doesn't that ship that flies away from Jakku look identical to the one in which Leia arrives when we first see her in "The Force Awakens"? Could it be Leia who left Rey? Or she did at someone's request — her brother maybe?)

Rey also sees the future — the forest battle with Kylo Ren. What else could explain this except Rey's connection to the Force and possibly the Skywalker family? (Ren, after all, is Skywalker's nephew.) If she's not Force sensitive, how else could she see the future of her and Finn's lightsaber battle with Ren?

This image, taken from the teaser trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens,"
isn't in the movie. But what does it mean? Who is handing whom this lightsaber?
It's when Rey is Kylo Ren's captive that she first uses the Force. She uses a Jedi mind trick to dupe the Stormtrooper guarding her to uncuff her. And leave his blaster! It's similar to what Obi-Wan Kenobi did to a Stormtrooper on Tatooine to make him think that Artoo and C-3PO "aren't the droids you're looking for."

And Rey does it instinctually!

Rey fan art via
It's Rey's even more impressive instinctual use of the lightsaber that's the tipping point for me she's a Skywalker.

Like Luke Skywalker using the Force to pull his weapon to him in the Wampa's cave in "The Empire Strikes Back," she grabs it out of the air and away from Kylo Ren, who just defeated and mortally wounded Finn.

Rey then goes on to duel with Skywalker's once-premiere Jedi Padawan. She doesn't just hold her own; she nearly defeats Kylo Ren, a man who is strong with the Force! It's when Ren taunts her about being sensitive to the Force that the battle turns her way.

Could it be that Skywalkers are so strong with the Force they need little to no training to use a lightsaber and the Force? (Keep in mind Luke was only a partially trained Jedi Knight when he chose to face Darth Vader on Cloud City in "Empire." Finn is trained as a Stormtrooper, so he has military training and would be comfortable using weapons.)

Similar to Skywalker facing Vader the second time in "Return of the Jedi," Rey has the Vader-esque Ren down for the count, but she chooses to be merciful and not kill him. Of course, the destruction of the planet plays a factor, but work with me here …!

The final clue that Rey could be Skywalker's daughter is when Artoo comes alive on the Resistance base. Threepio earlier tells BB-8 that Artoo had shut himself down with no sign of life in the astromech droid since "Master Luke" had exiled himself.

Artoo doesn't come back to life until Rey is in the same room. Is it the Skywalker blood that Artoo recognizes? Or did his master simply program him to snap to attention only in the presence of the rest of the map? (The map revealing Skywalker's whereabouts was stored in BB-8 after all.) Or did Skywalker give Artoo most of the map, giving him orders only to reveal if and/or when his daughter was in his presence?

Ultimately, my money is Rey on being Skywalker-esque instead of being an actual Skywalker.

We'll see. As I've said, there's a reason Rey doesn't have a last name yet.

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