I finally saw the new Star Wars movie last week. Somehow, I’d managed to not read, hear, or see any spoilers except the official trailer, which offhandedly hinted that Finn (the stormtrooper) would be learning to use the Force, since it showed him fighting with a lightsaber. Which would have continued the Star Wars tradition of having few female roles and pretty much no female Jedi. (This film has more women than its predecessors, but still not nearly enough; for example, of the 13 major characters listed on its Wikipedia page, only three are women.)
So it came as a pleasant surprise that Rey (the scavenger) was the one with the Force, and seems to be the most central of the main characters.
Though I must say that compared to how hard mastering the Force was for Anakin and Luke in the previous movies, Rey had it ridiculously easy. That did give her the means to escape captivity on her own rather than having to wait for the (all-male) rescue party, but still... I’m hoping this will turn out to be because she’s actually had some instruction as a child before being left on Jakku by her family or something, but considering other similar lapses, I’m guessing no. There are a bunch of them; for example:
- The Resistance learn of the First Order’s Starkiller Base, which is like the Death Star except bigger and badder, and immediately embark on a whimsical plan to destroy it, rather than do the sensible thing and try to escape. The last time they attacked a planet-sized battle station with a handful of X-wings, they at least had a plan for how to destroy the thing... Unsurprisingly, though, a sequence of miracles lets them succeed after all.
- During said fight against the Starkiller Base, Finn has claimed he knows how to disable its shields. Once inside, he confesses to Han Solo that he doesn’t, he just wanted to go there to rescue Rey. But rather than being upset because Finn’s lie will very likely lead to the death of all the rebels, including Leia, Han cheers him on. This is in character for him in this film, though—he generally behaves as though he knows he’s a main character and cannot die. Possibly this is intentional, to make his death come as a surprise, but it’s still very annoying until then, and that’s near the end.
- Finn and Rey are both able to lightsaber with Kylo Ren and not lose immediately. This is particularly improbable in Finn’s case, since Ren earlier in the film demonstrated the ability to use the Force to immobilize an opponent who can’t use the Force in defense. But Rey is completely untrained in the Force and in lightsabering, so it makes no sense that she should be able to hold her own either.
So, didn’t I like the film? Yes, I did. It was good enough to survive all of the above and still be enjoyable. And compared to the previous films, it’s miles ahead in gender equality. It’s just quite visibly still not all the way there yet.