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The Star Wars sequel trilogy failed its characters, but we aren’t ready for this conversation yet

I fell in love with the Star Wars universe a few years ago; my brother introduced me to the series. The original trilogy made me fall in love with space and with technology. I dove into the hype around that universe; the animated series and the LEGO games were particularly memorable. I made fun of the prequels, and Rogue One is one of my favorite movies ever. 

When the sequel trilogy was announced, I was honestly excited – a female Jedi, with a whole trilogy to herself? It sounded incredible, and I was glad that Disney took steps to make Star Wars diverse. It’s been a year since the final part of the trilogy released. Though I was expecting quite a bit, I can now say that I have been thoroughly disillusioned by the end of it.

The sequel trilogy felt like a form of ‘passive wokeness’, where it seems like the studio is trying to be diverse, but ends up with characters that are watered down or simply excluded. Rey’s character, the supposed protagonist of the saga, shows almost no growth and is too perfect for her own good. Finn’s trajectory is wasted and results in complete failure, with even the actor openly criticizing it. There’s a same-sex kiss between two forgettable characters in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which appears on screen for a second and you’ll miss it if you blink.

Rey is no Jin Urso or Leia, because she’s not really her own person.

Rey is no Jin Urso or Leia, because she’s not really her own person. Leia and Jin propel the story with their own actions. Leia becomes wiser and more thoughtful. Jin Urso grows to become a compassionate fighter for the rebel cause. 

Rey just follows the Skywalker arc, and she doesn’t seem to have a story for herself. She somehow flies the Millenium Falcon better than Solo, is a better Jedi than Luke, and her ‘raw power’ matches Kylo Ren with almost no training. It pains me to say that, unfortunately, she’s a Mary Sue. The Rey we see in The Force Awakens is almost the same Rey in The Rise of Skywalker

Though Rey is an idealized woman, her character is still likeable. Of course, there are complaints that calling Rey a ‘Mary Sue’ is sexist, but that’s unfounded. It’s a valid critique of a character that shows no growth in three films. There’s a male term for a perfect character that’s static, too – it’s Gary Stu. The most notorious example of Gary Stu in pop culture is Superman – he’s the embodiment of perfection. In the Star Wars universe, there isn’t a strong Gary Stu character. Luke Skywalker in the sequel trilogy is flawless, but we see his struggles in the original trilogy, so it’s justified.

It’s annoying to see Disney create female characters that are supposed to be empowering, but they can’t be bothered to create a well-written character. Just because someone can do everything perfectly and wins all the time doesn’t make them interesting, or admirable.

Fans aren’t the only ones disappointed by the trilogy.

Fans aren’t the only ones who were let down by the trilogy. John Boyega, the actor who plays Finn, spoke out about his disappointment with Star Wars. His character Finn is a Stormtrooper that goes rogue, joining Rey and Poe in the fight against the empire despite being trained to be a Stormtrooper since birth. He has a change of heart and fights the good fight: Finn’s character arc was set to be monumental but gets watered down. It’s disappointing because of the hype Disney built, despite Boyega experiencing racist backlash.

One of the biggest teases was a promotional poster featuring Finn with a lightsaber. It was a new direction for the franchise. The focus also panned on three heroes – Rey, Poe, and Finn – a nod to the original trio, Luke, Leia, and Han. It was exciting because this was the first time a Black actor would have such a prominent role in Star Wars. The idea of a Stormtrooper being able to use the force was thrilling, and it was set to establish a major arc in The Force Awakens. However, it was nothing more than bait.

A poster featuring Finn with a lightsaber.
[Image Descriptoin: A poster featuring Finn with a lightsaber.] Via Disney.
The resulting film was disappointing for fans and for Boyega. There’s almost no follow-through for Finn. Though there are a few scenes where he wields the lightsaber, the movie ultimately focuses on Rey. The three hero-arc is abandoned to focus on Rey and Rey alone. Even in The Rise of Skywalker, the entire movie is spent with Finn trying to tell Rey something, but that conversation never comes. In later interviews it’s revealed that Finn tried to tell Rey he was Force-sensitive, but the fact that it’s not revealed in the film makes it feel irrelevant. Many fans even speculated he wanted to confess feelings. 

What else? Kelly Marie Tran’s character Rose was completely erased from the narrative. It prompted remarks from Boyega about Disney sidelining non-white characters. Rose was a prominent character in The Last Jedi, but by the time we get to The Rise of Skywalker, she’s pushed to the side, having only a couple of minutes screentime. Her smaller role raised criticism from fans and critics, and it became a point of contention. Some argue that her role was cut down after she was subjected to racist attacks, but the director says this wasn’t the case. Regardless, there are instances of non-white characters being pushed to the side, stories ignored, for Rey and Kylo Ren.

The trilogy was disappointing for fans for so many reasons. Rey was poorly written. Finn had his character arc squandered away. Looking at the larger Star Wars universe and how detailed, plot-driven, and well-written some other stories are, it’s a shame to see the sequel trilogy fall so flat, when it looked so promising at the beginning. 

The sequel trilogy honestly tested my love for the whole universe. The reason I still love Star Wars is because of Rogue One and the animated series. It’s sad to see the Skywalker series end on such a sour note, but I am hopeful for other Star Wars projects. Their standalone films have done well, as have their TV shows. It’s too big to be bogged down by a few bad movies. I hope that this is the last we see of poor representation and poor storytelling, especially by something as big as Disney. 

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