The Force Awakens Gives Us The Heroine We've Been Waiting For

Photo: Courtesy of Disney.
Earlier this fall, we said goodbye to Katniss Everdeen when her saga of female heroism came to an end with Mockingjay — Part 2. But there is a new young heroine waiting in the wings: Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Rey, played by Daisy Ridley.

Before we go any further, we should warn you: mild spoilers ahead.

After the premiere Monday, reports emerged that the latest installment of Star Wars passes the Bechdel test. It does. But the movie doesn't just pay lip service to women. The Force Awakens starts a new Star Wars trilogy in which the hero — the person we should root for — is a woman. Hers is the journey we most care about when the movie ends. She's the reason why Episode VIII is a must see.

Rey is not just the Leia of the movie. She's the Leia, Luke, and Han rolled into one. She's got Han's scrappiness. When we meet her, she is scavenging on the desert planet Jakku, living in solitude, and waiting for a family that abandoned her and is probably never going to return. She has her own moral code, which is not defined by an allegiance to any particular organization. As the movie progresses, we learn that she's also a damn good pilot, and has an intuitive knowledge of the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, the Millennium Falcon. Han takes a shine to Rey, maybe because he sees something of himself in her. In the original trilogy, Han calls Leia "sweetheart" a lot, but he does not patronize Rey. She is the chosen one of this narrative, giving her something in common with Luke. She has fierce self-defense instincts, and every time she's in peril, she finds resolve within herself.

Rey may be a warrior with a tragic, mysterious past, but Ridley injects her with a ton of joy. She's having fun on this adventure, and as she guides us along, we are, too.

Star Wars remains an ensemble movie, offering other cast members moments to shine as well. Oscar Isaac apparently read the Harrison Ford Hottie Handbook, and cultivates his own heartthrob swagger as the Resistance's ace pilot, Poe Dameron. John Boyega's Finn, a stormtrooper who goes rogue, becomes Rey's closest friend and has an intriguing backstory all to himself. Lupita Nyong'o makes an impression even without showing her face, playing a motion-capture character, Maz Kanata. Maz is wise and weathered in a Yoda way and also happens to be a ball-busting bar owner. And, of course, there's Harrison Ford, still exuding charm and bantering with Chewie, and Carrie Fisher, gracefully assuming a Leia with gravitas.

We won't spoil anything here, but there's one moment toward the end of the film that indicates a passing of the baton between the two leading women of the franchise. Leia has always been a hero, and now we get to see her beaming with pride at Rey, who will take the lead in restoring order in the galaxy (and perhaps the Force).

It is fitting that Rey should make her debut in the same year that gave us Katniss' final chapter, as well as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road and Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Confident, strong, funny, and full of — shall we say — metaphysical promise, she is the intergalactic heroine we've been hoping Star Wars would introduce.


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