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50 Shades of Skywalker: Or maybe MarySues aren’t that bad after all

ReyTFA(Ok, it’s been a few days since the Force… uh…. awakened… but I’m going to attempt to continue to observe the SPOILER embargo. I’m going to try to go out of my way here NOT to be too spoilery about the new movie here. I make no such promises about anything in the other six movies in the series. But anyway, just in case, fair warning, I’m giving thoughts on the new Star Wars movie here, so some minor stuff is bound to come up).

I saw the first Star Wars in a drive in movie theater with my mom and my uncle when I was three years old in 1977. It is MAYBE the earliest movie-going experience I remember. I loved it. Part of it was probably because I didn’t have a lot of experience with movies. Part of it was because Star Wars was fucking awesome. The point is, like pretty much every kid who grew up in the 70s, and apparently, most kids since then, I loved Star Wars.

Before I say anything else, I want to say, I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I really did. I didn’t love it. But I liked it. And by saying I didn’t love it, that’s by no means a knock. I’ve always countered criticism of the Star Wars prequels by pointing out that Star Wars movies are for kids. They always have been. The reason you liked Episode IV so much but hated Phantom Menace is because when you saw Star Wars the first time, you were either three years old or really fucking stoned! Yes, Jar Jar is an annoying fuck. But so is C3PO. Admit it, if you had to deal with 3PO on a daily basis you’d punch him in the face. Regularly. Two seconds into Star Wars, R2 gets so fed up with him that he starts tries to go off and do the whole damn mission alone… TWICE! In Empire, both Han covers 3PO’s mouth to keep him from talking and Chewie gets so annoyed with him that he actually shuts him off. But 3PO reminds us of a simpler time when we had childlike innocence or some really good bud and a Pink Floyd album. So we let it go. Anyway, the point is, Star Wars was never meant to be the high watermark of culture that people like to treat it as. It’s a fun little flick.

So was this one.

That said, I’ve seen something really weird going on the last few days. After seeing the premiere of the film, Max Landis, a famed internet hipster and the writer of another big sci-fi movie from a couple years ago (Chronicle) “bashed it.” Except he didn’t so much bash it. He basically tweeted that he didn’t like it and why. Specifically he, didn’t care for the lead character, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, whom he called a “Mary Sue.”

For those unaware, “Mary Sue” is an internet term. The basic premise is that a fan fiction author inserts an avatar of herself into a previously established fictional mythos as a new character who has new adventures with the canon characters. Over time, the definition has mutated a bit. Since the original term is decidedly female, a counterpart term was added (Gary Stu or Marty Stu) for males. And the term has mutated a bit so as to not just include author analogs. Because of the manner in which they are often used (as a central character who the plot suddenly revolves around) the terms are now derisively used to refer to any character (especially female) who has nigh-perfect plot-contrivance powers. It is almost always used negatively. And that’s how Landis meant it.

And so, the Internet lost its shit.

First there was a rush of people calling him a misogynist (Landis often self-identifies as a feminist, but he admittedly has a big mouth and he has fallen into this pit before). Then there was the much more intelligent slew of web columns explaining why Landis is wrong and why Rey is strong female character. A somewhat visibly shaken Landis posted a vlog to his Youtube channel attempting to explain why he is right and she is a Mary Sue.

I won’t go into what he said too much because of spoilers, but the short of it is, he didn’t find Rey engaging because she is too perfect. Without going into details beyond what appears in the trailer, she’s is a completely self-sufficient, drop dead gorgeous, extremely intelligent athlete with impressive fighting skills and frankly a slew of other abilities. The promo materials have all made it clear that she’s replacing Luke Skywalker as the new main character. Even her outfit is extremely reflective of Luke’s original garb.

But she’s not Luke Skywalker. At his heart, Luke isn’t any of those things. He’s a putz. He’s a corn-fed hick, who despite the movie continuously telling us he’s good at things (he’s supposed to be a great pilot, he’s supposed to be good with machines, etc.) for the most part he continuous fucks up throughout the entire original trilogy. He’s brash and reckless. There are about a billion ways that he probably should have died in Episode IV if Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan, R2, Leia or the Force weren’t continuously saving him. One of my biggest problems with the original trilogy is that when you think about it, Luke becomes a Jedi Master with exactly four days worth of training (a day of light saber instruction from Ben and four days of swamp running and X-Wing lifting from Yoda). It doesn’t actually work. Luke gets his ass handed to him by both Darth Vader and the Emperor. Luke never defeats the Emperor. Vader does. He really isn’t good at much of anything. He’s just lucky/magical and has some good friends. Rey is not Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen is Luke Skywalker. Seriously… she is. Think about it.

But Rey is not Luke Skywalker. She is competent. She is self-sufficient. She is kick-ass. She’s Captain Kirk. She’s Bella Swan and Anastasia Steele. She’s Squirrel Girl, Deadpool and John Cena. She is a magical girl who is good at everything. She cannot lose.

5a005cd356e0cd88719e37950f197bb5She is the goddamn Batman!

And Batman is a Mary Sue. On the first day of the English 101 class I teach, I often make my students debate who is better between Batman and Superman. Then, once they’ve given me their answers, I joke with them that if they said Superman, they fail the class, because I like Batman better, and everyone knows that he is. The thing is, that’s a joke. I don’t actually care that much for Batman. I’m actually a huge fan of Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, Oracle and the pantheon of flawed characters that surround Batman. To me, Batman himself is the least interesting part of the equation. That said, one of my favorite Batman stories ever, the story that I think defines the character, is Justice League: Tower of Babel (also adapted as the cartoon Justice League: Doom). In this story, we learn that Batman has detailed plans ready to defeat all of his friends and allies… just in case. Why? Because he’s the goddamn Batman.

And that’s ok.

The thing is, this isn’t really about sexism. Or at least, it’s not just about sexism. Landis’s cardinal sin wasn’t thinking that that Rey was a weak character. His cardinal sin was daring to disagree with the assembled geekdom of the Internet.

Recently, at the request of one of my professors, I read the novel Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner in preparation for my PhD exams. It is a complicated epic about deeply flawed characters interacting over several generations. It touches on a host of social issues of race, sexism, incest and family relations as they plagued the 20th century. It is commonly regarded as one of the most influential and important novels of our time, and my professor specifically mentions it as one of his all time favorite books. I hated it. I hated every single page. I couldn’t wait for the stupid thing to be over. I suppose that makes me a bad literary critic.

Except it doesn’t. Faulkner is a genius. I recognized that. I got it. I understood what he was doing with the book like 15 pages in. Unfortunately for me, that meant that I had like 370 more to read. The problem is, I just wasn’t interested in the story. I don’t have to be.

The Internet in general (and geeks in specific) makes this general assumption that taste is homogenous. It’s not. The Internet thinks that if you don’t like the same thing it does (whether that be politics, sports or science fiction movies) then something is wrong with you. It’s not. Landis didn’t like the movie because he was hoping to see a Joseph Campbell style heroic journey of a flawed character who grows to meet the insurmountable odds that are stacked in front of him. He wants this because he is a trained fiction writer and frankly, it’s the kind of thing that writing training teaches you to do. This isn’t that movie. He called her a Mary Sue, because she is. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I don’t know that I think Rey is an avatar for the writer. JJ Abrams has proven that he is completely capable of writing complex characters in flawed situations and imagining worlds that have nothing to do with us. Rey isn’t JJ the writer. Rey is JJ the Star Wars fan. Rey is every Star Wars fan. Landis compared the storyline progression of Force Awakens to a video game. I would have compared it to a Dungeons and Dragon RPG. Maybe we split the difference and call it Final Fantasy. Rey, an already formidable character, moves through the narrative becoming better and better as it goes along. You can almost see her level up from scene to scene. She is a chance for the audience to say “oh my god, if I got to live in the Star Wars universe, I would be just like her!”

And that is what the audience wanted. The original trilogy, for what is good and bad about it, IS a classic literary tale. That’s why it maps so well to Campbell’s hero’s journey. And there’s a lot going on there that makes it unique and interesting. Landis was looking for compelling and flawed characters that he wanted to watch grow. But that’s not what sequels and reboots are really about. Critics other than Landis who have complained about the movie are mostly arguing that it has too many thematic allusions to the original film(s). They’re right; in a lot of ways, it really is a very similar beat-for-beat retelling. And that is what the fans wanted. Fans haven’t been clamoring since 1983 for more Star Wars because they wanted to explore the universe more and see different stories that flesh out the mythology. They may say that, but it isn’t what they really want. They got that before with the prequels and they hated it. They got it with the expanded universe novels, but only the most hardcore fans ever read them. For most fans, they wanted to see a fun blockbuster where space planes fly around and blow shit up and people have awesome battles with some laser swords. This movie had that.

When my wife, Stephanie, and I walked out of Star Wars this weekend, she asked me what I thought of it. My answer was “well, that was a movie.” That’s not really as disappointing as it sounds. I don’t think I can really give the same praise to the last three times I went to a theater and saw Star Wars. It was a completely serviceable film. There was some good and there was some bad. There were some things I liked and there were a couple things that I absolutely hated (no details, since like I said, I don’t want spoilers, but if people care I can say). But, for two hours and fifteen minutes I was thoroughly amused. But I’m not going to pretend that it was “good.” It was enjoyable and I had fun. There were fights with laser swords. Some shit blew up. Wanting to punch characters in the face was kept to an absolute minimum. But it wasn’t actually “good.” If it was a movie unconnected to the Star Wars franchise called “Rey the Space Ranger” I would have thought “hey, that was a fun time” and moved on without much thought after that (this isn’t true of all franchises films if Man of Steel were unconnected to the Superman Franchise I still would be like “that was kind of a crappy alien invasion movie”). But, it is connected and given what needed to happen to please the Star Wars community, I think this movie did everything it needed to.

But she is a Mary Sue… and that’s OK.

★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

51 comments for “50 Shades of Skywalker: Or maybe MarySues aren’t that bad after all

  1. avatar
    December 23, 2015 at 9:52 am

    A lot of the same thoughts I had. Trying not to suck the joy out of it for my sons.

    It is very difficult to make a movie that lets you relive wonder as an adult to the same level you were able to as a kid.

    I hated Brussel sprouts as a kid and love them now. But, short of a zombie apocalypse I cannot imagine wanting to eat spaghettios, which were a magical food as a child.

    My older son has read so much of the expanded universe to the point he can probably name more Darths than presidents. In a lot of ways I am actually ok with that. Having a sense of wonder and learning by allegory is an important part of growing and better than having to make all your own mistakes. The themes and the passion in good stories and good storytelling is probably the most important part, and this reboot will become that for another generation.

    Very good read, thanks.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 4:12 pm

      That is certainly another issue. Star Wars was certainly a magical event, for whatever reason… Whether the original trilogy is good or not, for whatever reason, it most certainly is “special”

      Any attempt to extend it is essentially trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

      But don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it. As I said, I enjoyed it more than the last three Star Wars movies that came out. Maybe even the last four. But if I had to give it an honest letter grade, on its own merit, it’s probably a B. We’re talking 3 out of 5 stars… it’s…. “Better than average”

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Exactly.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      I enjoyed this movie about as much as I expected, and I expected a fun movie with battles and lasers and robots.

      And while I would love a SciFi epic that inspired the level of wonder this would have for me when I was 9, I really don’t think such a movie would sell well. It would still cost a ridiculous amount to make, but 2/3 of the potential expensive SciFi movie audience probably wouldn’t much appreciate it.

  2. avatar
    December 23, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    I don’t think I can get into a proper argument without spoilers (also I don’t really disagree), but a couple things. 1) Rey is not without flaws that good writers will hopefully explore in future movies. Basic competency just isn’t one of them. 2) You’re not giving Luke enough credit. He’d actually really good at most of the flying and shooting and fighting and blowing things up (with notable weaknesses to Wampas, compactor monsters, landing in swamps, and remotes when blindfolded). He just doesn’t *seem* like it because he’s so goddamned whiny. Rey isn’t, and that has a big effect on how she’s perceived.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      I think Spoilers are ok in comments… I just didn’t want to do it the main post. I’d certainly say “SPOILERS” first. But anyway:

      ***SPOILERS***

      1) I’m really curious as to what flaws you see…. Maybe she’s a little bit mean to Finn? A little…. But not really…. He is a stranger who just dropped out of the sky and tries to drag her around. She shouldn’t trust him at that point. And yes, she has a few abandonment issues which lead to her initial rejection of destiny. But those are nebulous.

      Really, I think the thing is. JJ Abrams is a good writer. He’s dealing with something problematic and he did it in an above average way. But That still doesn’t make her a truly compelling character *in THIS film*. I think in franchise world of 2015, we are very quick to say “oh well, there’s more in the next movie that we’ll see in 2 years” but I don’t think that’s a good thing. The movie needs to stand on its own. And this really didn’t. Empire is the best of the films and it’s also the most incomplete until this one because of the cliff hanger ending, but the narrative of Empire *feels* fully formed and the characters feel real in a way Rey (and honestly, the boys too…. but she’s the main character) aren’t.

      But it’s not so much about not having flaws as it is about being perfect. She’s an athlete. That I buy. But she’s also an expert pilot, she fixes the Millennium Falcon, in flight, while rolling around, she’s clearly never fired a gun, but is as good a shot as anyone else, she masters force hypnosis in 3 tries. She masters light saber combat in like five minutes. Seriously, granting that Kylo is NOT Darth Vader and an easier opponent, he’s still a Jedi/Sith and has practice. And Rey was better in that fight than Luke has ever been. Actually… so was Finn (so really, that’s a difference in film making styles between 1983 and 2015…. but still it’s an issue)

      I’m not even saying it’s “bad.” It’s what we’re looking for in this film. But She is a Mary Sue. She doesn’t have the emotional depth of a more fully formed character. I don’t think that’s bad. I don’t think she’s supposed to. Remember, I liked the movie SuckerPunch too. This was better than that.. Basically, I think she was Die Hard 4&5 John McClane rather than Die Hard 1 John McClane.

      2) Luke is whiny, but Luke also isn’t good at most things. Yes he’s a good pilot. And he’s OK with a blaster, but that’s about it. He has to work hard. Whiny is a big part of that. But he’s also a pretty bad Jedi. What works about the film is that it doesn’t matter if he’s bad. He’s the only one. I think over the years we sort of build him up because he’s the hero. But he isn’t GOOD at Jedi’ing. He’s a kid with 5 days of training. He struggles. Like you said, weakness to Wampas!

      It’s just a different message. At the end of the day, the message of the original trilogy is really “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Luke cannot win without Obi Wan, Han, Leia, Chewie, R2, Lando and in the end even C3PO and Vader. He needs every person he meets on the journey from the beginning til the end.

      Rey’s message is that “this girl kicks ass!” Finn is ultimately inconsequential and… Han, while she likes him, doesn’t really mentor her the same way Ben does with Luke (she even tells him that she can take care of herself and he agrees… Luke never could and Han was always quick to point that out). Unless I’m misremembering… she never actually shares a scene with Poe. The only person who’s help she ever ACTUALLY needs is Chewie to pick her up on the Falcon after the big battle, and I sort of feel like she might have been able to figure something out if he hadn’t.

      These aren’t BAD things. It’s a different movie. It’s a movie about a kick-ass heroine rather than a putzy farm boy. But remember, we used to always call the base story of Star Wars “hapless wonder saves the world.” And this isn’t that. She’s not hapless… She got hap bursting out of her ears. Where Luke is a hero like Katniss or Harry Potter, Rey is more of a Rocky type… if you skipped all the way to Rocky III at the start. And that’s not necessarily BAD but it might not be as good.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      *SPOILERS*———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–is that enough lines of dashes? The abandonment issues you mention, but mostly she was about two inches from joining the dark side in that last fight, and she didn’t even know it. Now she’s going to be trained by a guy who, it’s just been established, is bad at that. I don’t think Disney would in a million years make her evil, but there’s the potential for her to struggle with that in a much more interesting way than we’ve seen before. Also a couple more things about her superpowers–not really an argument but on my mind, 1) we don’t actually know that she doesn’t have Jedi training, and 2) her skill with the Falcon was to me a really hamfisted way of telling us that she’s Han’s daughter. I know the internet disagrees with me on that, but the internet has been known to be wrong from time to time. We’ll have to wait and see. Ultimately, like I said I don’t really disagree with you. I think Finn is the hapless guy in this story, and I’m okay with that. I’m also OK with it not being the same story we’ve seen before–in fact I think the biggest flaw of the movie was its stolen plot. But I think Rey’s story as a Luke analog is picking up from where he was between Empire and Jedi, either because she was trained at a very young age and doesn’t remember it consciously, or because the Force just likes her better. And why wouldn’t it? I certainly do.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Also, with the prequels and the off-screen stuff in mind, this whole “Jedi” idea is just seriously screwed up at this point and it may take somebody hypercompetent to fix it.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Right. I don’t think any of what you’re saying here is incompatible with what I said (or what Landis said).

      The real thing is, Landis doesn’t like her because he doesn’t like overpowered characters, and she certainly is that. I’m in the middle somewhere and you and most of the fanbase likes her for that reason. I mean, a lot of people like Batman.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      I would certainly like to see her face bigger challenges and maybe screw up from time to time. But I enjoyed the time she spent on my screen.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 1:57 am

      It was fun. I was entertained. But I had some problems with the movie. In regard to Rey specifically, for the lost scrub of a scavenger we are introduced to, things came awfully easy to her.

  3. avatar
    December 23, 2015 at 5:19 pm
  4. avatar
    December 23, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I seem to remember you hating the viewing of trailers and links in your FB feed knowing that the movie would suck. Are you saying that you were wrong??? It did not suck? Or perhaps, the only reason it may not be as good as the first one or two, is that you are no longer 3 years old?

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      I didn’t really hate the trailers for this one. They were fine. They got me interested in the movie and that’s their job.

      As for how the movie was, it didn’t suck. Like I said in an earlier comment, it was a solid B. Maybe not a B+. But a solid B. I enjoyed it. It was fine.

      Can it ever be as good as when I was 3? No… I’m 41 and have like 3 and a half degrees in “stories” basically. I look for different stuff 38 years later. But I do still like genre fiction. I still read comics. But to look at recent movies, I liked antman better than force awakens. But I liked force awakens better than age of ultron. But to take another recent geek movie, the Martian was a definite A+. Much better than any of them.

      I’m just saying not all movies HAVE to be high art. It was good. It doesn’t have to be excellent.

      I’m the guy who liked Suckerpunch. And that’s a C at best and maybe a D in terms of actual story, but I thoroughly enjoy it.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Btw, maybe it was Batman v Superman that I said I hated the trailers for?

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      The first SW trailer was pretty lame, maybe you hated that one?

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Maybe. I don’t recall hating it. I do recall worrying that the movie would suck. And I’m happy to say it certainly doesn’t suck.

  5. avatar
    December 23, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    Tried reading it. Apparently my work has your website listed as “pornography” /facepalm

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Hah! Really?!?!? That’s kind of amusing.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      I mean, I do post photos from time to time and some of them are naked… so sure.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Yeah but… how do they know that :O

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Usually there are web crawlers that look for sites and tag their content and then a company subscribes to a list of sites to ban. I guess I ended up on yours.

      I bet you can probably get to cosmichellcats.com even though it’s technically the same machine.

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Yeah cosmic hellcats works. Interesting. Anyway, hope all is well with you. I’ll peruse your article tonight

    • avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      Yeah. That makes sense. We try to make sure that site stays pg-13. But my personal site is less limited.

      Which is funny because for the most part I’m pretty work safe. But I guess the times I go over the line are enough.

  6. avatar
    December 24, 2015 at 2:47 am

    Kay Kauffman commented on ChrisMaverick dotcom:

    As a somewhat reluctant Star Wars fan, I found this assessment of the movie very intriguing. Mostly, I want to see it because my family loves Star Wars so much and I want to share this with them. But all the hype has certainly roused my curiosity, and I’m curious to see if I’ll like this movie any better than the Star Trek reboot that I thought was okay right up until Vulcan exploded and they didn’t fix it.

    Anyway, I have a feeling I’ll be thinking of this post when I do finally get around to seeing the movie. And thanks for linking to mine! 🙂

    • avatar
      December 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad I was able to provide some insight. And please come back and share your thoughts after you’ve seen it.

      As for linking to you… Of course. I love the related articles feature. I think it goes a long way to providing context to the conversation.

  7. avatar
    December 24, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Off the Star Wars topic (really liked it), my Dad just shared your exact reaction to Faulkner last night & my Mom was upset because it’s a favorite 😉

    • avatar
      December 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Hah! Awesome. Was it the same book?

    • avatar
      December 26, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      Not sure, I asked him & he said he thinks he blocked it out of hiss memory

  8. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Kay Kauffman commented on ChrisMaverick dotcom:

    My family went and saw it Christmas night, but I missed it thanks to an ill-timed migraine. My son was livid when they returned – to say he was not a fan of the ending would be putting it mildly. My daughter insisted on a marathon on Saturday, though, and your remarks about Jar-Jar and C-3PO kept popping into my head every time one of them was onscreen for more than 30 seconds. It’s true – if I had to deal with either one of them in real life, I’d have to punch them. Repeatedly. 🙂

  9. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 1:48 am

    I agree, she is a Mary Sue.
    It’s also a kids movie. It made me happy because once we show the 6 year old ep. 5&6, we can take him to see 7. The prequels I don’t consider to be kids movies. They appear to be so, but then drop in a mass killing of 6 year olds, or the amputation and burning of a main character. (bad enough that it would be there at all). When he’s older, and wants to see them, sure. Current fandom movies have all been catering to 16+, which as an adult, I love. As a parent, it pisses me off. I want to take him to see a good Batman movie, because he loves Batman. Not for a while though.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Exactly. It’s a kids movie and it’s good for what it is. I think because it’s Star Wars, people want to make it more than that. Many are acting like its the second coming. It’s not. Others are disappointed because it’s not some great and innovative thing. It doesn’t have to be. It’s good for what it is.

  10. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    (Mostly minor spoilers)

    I hadn’t heard of a Mary Sue when I left the theater thinking too much of the movie was cheap. (Though I enjoyed it, perhaps a tad more than you, Mav.) You’re right to say that some people want flawed but compelling characters who develop and didn’t find that in Rey. That’s probably why I liked Kylo Ren better. (Btw, it’s weird people are saying he’s not a very good Jedi, in order to make Rey’s victory more in order. When you first see him, he stops a blaster bolt in mid air and then leave it there interminably without paying it any mind. His issues aren’t that he’s a bad Jedi.) But I didn’t think she was too perfect. On the Falcon, I figured an experienced scavenger would have to have a reasonable knowledge of how a random ship works. Instead, I blamed Abrams for taking shortcuts to fit in too much movie. The shaking lightsaber calls back to Luke’s process of mastery, but doesn’t show a process. It’s shorthand. Maybe an actual training sequence would be too boring in a reboot, but that’s not really an excuse. Like you say, it also has to stand on its own.

    –actual spoiler here–
    When she tricks the stormtrooper, that was particularly awkward. What she learns in two failed attempts was that she needed only try a little bit harder, as if it were being played for laughs despite being an important plot point.
    –end actual spoiler–

    She doesn’t feel like the main character. (It’s possible I’m being sexist, ignoring her, and then wondering why there’s no true main character. But I think it’s because she doesn’t develop.) You point out how Luke’s training was pretty short. (In my memory, it certainly feels a lot longer, as if Dagobah were a training montage with the same rules of condensed time.) But also, as you also point out, Luke fails repeatedly. The limits to his training limit him, and by the contrapositive his training is important. It’s possible he might fail, because he repeatedly does. Possible at least in the sense that failure of a truly meaningful sort is never really possible in a movie, but there’s tension there. The only tension I found in The Force Awakens came from wondering when, how, or even if the film will deviate from A New Hope. That was kind of fun, but it won’t stick with me.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Just to be clear, I did actually like the movie. Really I did. I liked it fine. I was thoroughly amused for two and a half hours. It wasn’t the best movie ever. It wasn’t even the best science fiction movie of the year. But it was good enough and I was happy while watching it.

      I do think Rey feels like a main character. At least to me. Part of that is the acting. Daisy Ridley was really good. in fact, I think the high point of the film was her performance. But I also think that it is clearly her story. She is the one we are following and she is the one we are meant to identify with. YES, I think she’s a little too perfect, but that’s kind of a personal preference. She might have been even more interesting if she struggled. But my point was, being a Mary Sue isn’t really bad. People love Batman.

      The Second best part of the film was the writing and direction of Kylo Ren. What could have been hokey and ridiculous turned out to be perfect. Rather than creating a watered down Darth Vader, we got a different kind of villain and I liked that. It could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn’t.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Yeah, that’s about how much I enjoyed it.

  11. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Hah! Well, I’m sorry you were sick and missed it. But I’m glad I opened someone’s eyes to the 3PO/JarJar comparison. 🙂

  12. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    “you were either three years old or really fucking stoned!” Guess which one I was.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      It’s possible I’ve seen it both ways. Probably not at the same time.

  13. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Kay Kauffman commented on ChrisMaverick dotcom:

    I’d never really thought about it before. Sure, Jar-Jar’s annoying, but I think 3PO might be worse. Perhaps it’s the voice… 🙂

  14. avatar
    December 29, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Her flaws were not on the surface, but she was certainly not perfect. There were two things that bothered me about this movie:

    1. The side plot involving the bad guys
    2. The short period of time in which everything happened.

    Yet as I thought about it, those two things make a lot more sense if you think about it less as a heroes journey and more of an extended teaser for what is to come.

    The thing that the prequels lacked was a tangible connection to the originals. This movie was a true transition from old to new. And I think in order for that to happen, there had to be a reason why these people(old and new) were called into action and that reason had to be some sort of ticking clock from the moment the movie started.

    That is about all that can be said without going into spoilers. But there is more to this movie than what it was seemingly missing.

    And for what I think is to come, Rey was perfect, and the way she was introduced was awesome.

    • avatar
      December 29, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      I don’t mean to say that she is without flaws. Batman has flaws too. That’s not what I mean when I say she’s a Mary Sue, and I don’t think that’s what Landis meant either. The point was that she is flawless as an action hero. There is no point in the film where I am sincerely worried about her.

      Look at it this way. In Empire, the best of the films, Vader and Fett toss Han in Lando’s freezey hole and you’re like “nooooo….. not Han!!!” and by the end of the film he’s still frozen and you kind of worry if he’ll be ok (this was actually a practical matter. They weren’t sure they’d be able to get Ford for Jedi). Granted, Han isn’t a main character. But when Luke leaves Yoda after 4 days of training, Yoda basically tells him “kid, don’t go… you’re gonna get your ass kicked” and as an audience member, you worry that he will. And he does. Even in Jedi, when Luke goes off to face Vader and Emperor, as an audience member I feel like “wow, this might be too much for him. He might not make it this time.” And basically, once again… he really doesn’t. He survives because Vader saves him.

      With Rey on the other hand, there’s no point in the entire film where I’m really worried about her. She gets attacked by a bombing run. “Eh. She’ll be fine.” She get kidnapped. “Eh, she’ll be fine.” She has to fight Kylo. “Eh, she’ll be fine.” I had total faith in her for every second.

      That doesn’t make the movie, BAD though. I just thought of another good Mary Sue example. A perfect one, actually. Brian Mills. There is no point at all in Taken where I am worried that Mills won’t get his daughter back. “He has a very particular set of skills, skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for people like them. If they let his daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. He will not look for them, He will not pursue them. But if they don’t, he will look for them, he will find them, and he will kill them.” Twenty eight minutes in and Neeson literally explains the remaining hour of the movie in that ten seconds. Yes, he has problems (he is such a workaholic that he has destroyed his relationship with his wife). Yes he has stakes (if he fails, his daughter dies). These things make him engaging. But he is a Mary Sue. Everything he does works out. He is the best there is at what he does. And I fucking love that movie. But I’m not looking at it as a great literary expression. It’s not good writing. Its a simple premise designed to hang an amazing set of action sequences off of. If it were book it would be like 5 pages long.

      The problem is the internet likes simple. Mary Sue is a “bad term” because that’s how it was intended originally. It was derisive. Since the geeks like the movie, she must not be a Mary Sue because geeks hate Mary Sues. There’s all kinds of flawed logical thinking here that comes from not really understanding how critical analysis of literature (including film) works, but wanting to do it anyway.

      And it’s also Star Wars. So by deriding it, Landis committed a cardinal sin to geekdom. He shit on something they like. He doesn’t like the movie because it doesn’t do they things that he wants out of a movie (and actually he never said that… in his actual review he said he liked it fine. He just didn’t love it because…). Star Wars is sacred. So in geekdom it gets more of a pass than other similar movies do.

    • avatar
      December 30, 2015 at 12:47 am

      Luke was never in credible danger in ANH either though.

      Looking forward to VIII and IX.

    • avatar
      December 30, 2015 at 3:31 am

      It’s not so much that I think he needs to be in life or death danger. It was more that I worry about his chances for success. He needed Ben to get away from the sand people and to survive the bar fight. He needed R2 to avoid being crushed to death in the trash compactor. So it’s completely plausible that he might not make the Death Star shot at the end. He’s scrappy but fallible.

    • avatar
      December 30, 2015 at 3:34 am

      There definitely was no real fear of Rey not succeeding. But then again, she wasn’t invested in the fight until after Fin went down. The only reason she is at the base is because she was captured.

    • avatar
      December 30, 2015 at 3:44 am

      So in that respect I don’t see her as a parallel to Luke, IMO she was more like Han. She had her own agenda right up until her back was figuratively against the wall, in her case the ravine. It was only then that she steps up and fights her enemy. Not just because she has to, not for vengeance but because her heroes journey has begun.

  15. avatar
    December 30, 2015 at 3:46 am

    While I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and definitely will see it again, it was definitely flawed. And while the question of whether Rey was a little too perfect or not did occur to me, it was nothing that couldn’t be adequately explained, and it was not even close to being one of the bigger problems with the movie. However, I cared far more about these characters than I ever did for any characters in the prequels, and the I loved the cinematography.

    • avatar
      December 30, 2015 at 3:50 am

      The characters were awesome IMO

  16. avatar
    December 30, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I think the best comparison that I’ve come up with I’d that Rey is Thomas Covenant to Luke’s Taran the Pig Keeper. It’s message isn’t as much that she kicks ass as that you’ve got to give a shit making the world a better place if your want to actually do more than bounce from disaster to disaster, even if you can win at anything your apply yourself to.

  17. avatar
    December 31, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I just saw it again after reading this thread, and liked it at least as much as the first time (very rare, for me). I didn’t find her to be overpowered. Especially in comparison to Luke in iv. She’s clearly a prodigy with the force, like Anakin. I don’t recall Luke ever being called exceptional (only strong) in the way Anakin was. Like Zuko and his sister in the Last Airbender series. Presumably, if Ren hadn’t been wounded, their battle would have ended differently.

  18. avatar
    Andrew
    February 10, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Too many language mistakes for someone who teahes English) Please proofread your articles.

    • avatar
      mav
      February 10, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Oh snap! Righteous burn there…. I guess you schooled me, bro!!!

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