Friday, July 6, 2018

Force Awakens: The Subverter

Well, this is different. Lightsaber crystals have been revealed to be semi-sentient things in new canon, but one calling out to someone? That's totally unprecedented. Whereas Luke was handed his father's lightsaber and pretty much ignored it Rey actually bonds with the darn thing. However Maz got it is irrelevant, she has it and that's all that matters. What matters is that crystals don't just go and bond with new people. In fact, Sith usually break a crystal of this bond and forge a new, perverse, bond with it, which is why it bleeds red. Ahsoka Tano has lightsabers without color because she undid the damage, but there's no evidence that the crystals actually chose this. With Rey, however, the crystal calls out and bonds to her, even after having been bonded to Anakin. Rey, to her credit, is as puzzled as we are, although a good deal more scared. She runs off, vowing to never touch that bloody lightsaber ever again. Can't say I blame her.

And with this, she starts the beginning of the end of the New Republic, undoing Luke's affirmation of who he is. Most of this movie is about Rey not being Luke and everyone suffering on account of it. Analogically she denies her calling and the world suffers on account of it. With the New Republic gone the First Order can now have a field day with the rest of the galaxy. Good job Rey, this is all your fault. Get used to it, too. The Sequel trilogy brings back the tragedy of the Prequels: personal failures lead to galactic failures. Or, as the Emerald Tablet of Hermes says: "As it is above so it is below and as it is below so is it above". Rey doesn't yet understand this principle. Unlike Luke and Anakin she has no guide and the narrative is propelled forward, without their guidance. I may have ragged on Obi-Wan and Yoda for being bad mentors but the Sequel Trilogy makes a powerful case for the superiority of a bad mentor over none at all.

But it's not just Rey's failure that makes things worse, but Finn's. Finn, who can't see any way to beat The First Order, abandoned Rey, who was left alone and defenseless against Kylo Ren, who easily takes the scared and confused Rey. Finn pays for his cowardice by losing the connection that made his turn from The First Order mean anything at all. Finn had found meaning with Rey and in losing her rediscovers it. But it's too little too late. Finn is forced to re-live the loss he had faced at the beginning of this movie. By failing Rey Finn has failed his friend.

Han and Leia's reunion is sad but informative. Like I'd said in the previous post, we know what the issue is and everyone but Rey and Finn have known for a long time what happened and why it did. Leia tells Han he can reach their son. It's from the right. We know she's wrong, and so does Han, sadly, but he doesn't want to believe it. It's at this point where Han knows he's going to die and, if we're being honest, so does the audience. But Han knows he has to try, as does Luke in RotJ. This subverts that conversation, undoing it by the knowledge that Han is destined to fail where Luke succeeded. Each and every stroke of this movie has been designed to take RotJ and cut it apart, revealing that the people were of the previous trilogy are just that, people. Heroism is not an inborn trait, it's a gift, and when that gift leaves you there's no faking it. Heroism left with Luke and nobody (and I do mean nobody) else in this entire series has had it so far. It's a hard pill to swallow.

And finally we get the conversation between Rey and Ben. What's important to note here is that Rey has been dreaming of Ach-To for years, probably since before Luke went there. Ben picks up on this odd dream and tries to address it, but his attempts at empathy are limited by his role in The First Order. But something wakes up inside of Rey. As she fights back against Ben they both realize that they share a connection that they do not understand and that is most unwelcome. But connections come with knowledge of the other, including their methods. And Rey is a fast learner. She takes the knowledge she begins to glean from Kylo Ren and turns it back on him. In a similar move from Empire Rey learns about the Force by connecting to Ben and adapting to it. This is not someone who's a virtuoso, but a desperate attempt to fight off mental invasion. And the thing is that Ben, on some level, knows it as well. He doesn't ask how she does it, Ben knows full well how she learned how to fight back against him! And, with this new connection, Rey questions Ben's ability to live up to his idol, Darth Vader, thoroughly shaking him to the core. Now Ben doubts in a completely different way. He doubts his own identity and needs to find a way to prove to himself that he is who he says he is.

No comments:

Post a Comment