*SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS *
Rey, one of the newest characters to the Star Wars universe first appears in The Force Awakens scavenging for parts inside a downed Imperial Star Destroyer. She’s on the desert planet Jakku, dragging her finds to her red speeder, which needs a kick to get it started. She’s clearly someone who’s desperate, making a living out of the parts as she sells them for food. She’s alone, taking shelter inside an old AT-AT; her family abandoned her on Jakku when she was a child.
Played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, Rey is many things – a survivor, a scavenger, a mechanic, a pilot… and a girl. Her femininity doesn’t interfere with her character; she is just as strong as the other male leads in the franchise. She’s just as, if not more of a female warrior than Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and that’s immediately noticeable in the first moments we see her on screen.
We discover her goodness as she refuses to sell the droid BB-8 for food, and her strength when she first meets Finn (John Boyega) as she single-handedly disarms him using her spear. Soon after, she’s saving them both from stormtroopers, rescues him – “Stop taking my hand!” – and flies the “garbage” Millennium Falcon. She proves that she’s just as clever as Han Solo (Harrison Ford) knowing about the mechanics of his spaceship to the extent that he even offers her a job (she has to get back to Jakku though, she’s waiting for someone there).
But it’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who understands how powerful she really is. She’s able to resist as he tries to read her mind and even breaks into his, reading his fears. Later, she performs her own mind trick on an ill-fated stormtrooper to escape (“You will remove these restraints and leave this cell with the door open”). This leads Ren to run to his mentor Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) to tell him that she’s strong with the Force. Their final battle in the snow sees her fending him off using Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) lightsaber from Episode 5. Did we really believe that she would beat a jedi knight without any training herself? No. But the battle did prove one thing – that she will be the first female jedi who’s a major character in the Star Wars franchise. A female jedi. Now, that’s a big.
Rey isn’t a sexualised character – there’s no fancy dresses or gold bikini’s in sight. Her beige tunic trousers and cloth wrapped arms are perfect and believable for the life of a scavenger while her hair is messy – and realistic. Her weapon of choice is a staff, which she uses to wield off creatures attempting to attack her, much to Finn’s surprise as she fights them by herself. She’s a woman who doesn’t need saving.
She’s a smart, brave and resourceful character with abilities that even surprise other characters. Rey breathes new life into The Force Awakens, and into a saga that’s always been dominated by the actions of men. As a female, Rey is an empowering character, possessing the ability to change the landscape of women in science fiction films, and in future Star Wars sequels (Felicity Jones will be playing a rebel in the first anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story out 16th December).
But the biggest question that clouds Rey is… who is she? Why was she abandoned on Jakku? Who are her parents? Will she learn the ways of the force? These are all questions for the next film. After all, people’s parents in Star Wars are never strangers.
Star Wars: Episode VIII is out 25th May 2017.