Overpowered or Force Prodigy?
How Rey’s natural ability in The Force Awakens is mirrored in the story arcs of Luke and Anakin
There have been some voices in Star Wars fandom who see Rey’s Force abilities as too powerful and not at all believable. ‘She has no training!’ and ‘Her powers must be explained’ are common arguments. At first glance, it seems like they might be right. After all, Luke needed training to do a lot of the things that Rey is able to do effortlessly. But we haven’t seen very much Jedi training in the movies in general, and those arguments don’t take into account the strengths and weaknesses of Anakin, Luke and Rey. In addition, it is clear that Rey is special — she has survived years living in the harsh environment on Jakku, mostly alone. We will take a look at what we know of Jedi training through Luke’s journey and see how that can be compared with what we know of Rey’s story. If we accept Rey as being a Force prodigy, like Luke and Anakin, then the Force ability that she has make sense.
We saw glimpses of formal Jedi training in the prequels, but most of what we know of that training comes from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The only person we have really seen trained in the movies is Luke. In A New Hope, we saw Luke struggle very little with the basics he learned from Obi-Wan. Later on he was able to use the Force to blow up the Death Star, with minimal training. Extraordinary, right? This really isn’t that different from the instruction that Rey receives from Maz:
“I am no Jedi, but I know the Force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes…Feel it…The light…it’s always been there. It will guide you.”
-Maz Kanata, The Force Awakens
During her duel with Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base, Rey clearly recalls what Maz told her and she is able to successfully let the Force guide her actions with the lightsaber to defeat Kylo. This is her Death Star moment, as she is consciously letting go and letting the Force take over. Luke was also able to put up a good fight against Vader in The Empire Strikes Back despite the viewer never having seen Luke actually in combat training with the saber or display any kind of melee combat prowess prior to that. With Rey were able to see her defend herself well against Unkar Plutt’s thugs. In both duels, neither Vader nor Kylo were intending to kill their opponents but instead wanted them to join the dark side.
Not only do we have a very limited understanding of how Force users were trained to be Jedi, we are also comparing people with different strengths and weaknesses. In The Empire Strikes Back, we saw that Luke’s main weakness was that he was impatient, that he wasn’t able to focus and that he lacked discipline. These are all qualities necessary to become a Jedi, according to Yoda:
“I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience…A Jedi must have the deepest commitment! The most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!”
-The Empire Strikes Back
These are weaknesses that Luke had to overcome. But these aren’t Rey’s weaknesses — these are her strengths. She needed those same skills to survive everyday life on Jakku. It takes a lot of focus for someone to scale crashed ships at great heights with no safeguards in place if she slips and falls. Injuring herself meant not being able to scavenge for parts and therefore not getting any food. Speaking of food, it takes an incredible amount of discipline to ration food and water to the extreme that Rey did and she probably had to do that for a good portion of her life. The fact that she stayed on Jakku waiting to be reunited with her family for at least a decade demonstrates her patience. It is almost as if she had developed skills to be a Jedi her whole life. So what are Rey’s weaknesses? We don’t have the benefit of seeing a large portion of Rey’s journey yet, like we have with Luke and Anakin. But it is fairly obvious that she will need to grapple with her abandonment issues (like Anakin) and her intense desire for belonging and connection with her long lost family. Luke didn’t really have these types of issues as it is evident that he was cared for by his adoptive parents and Obi-Wan also kept an eye on him from a distance.
Finally, let’s look at the definition of prodigy according to Dictionary.com:
1. a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy.
2. a marvelous example (usually followed by of).
3. something wonderful or marvelous; a wonder.
4. something abnormal or monstrous.
5. Archaic. something extraordinary regarded as of prophetic significance.
It is clear that Luke and Anakin fall under the first definition, as does Rey. Being a prodigy by definition doesn’t necessarily require being the “Chosen One.” If we look at using the Force as a talent/ability that can be learned, it makes sense that some will be better at using it than others. Think of it this way: everyone has the ability to play a musical instrument, just like everyone has the capacity to use the Force. However, some can play and compose music without having had much instruction (Mozart) while others need years of formal training to do the same thing and still may or may not be very good at it. This isn’t to say that Rey will never need training, she obviously does. She doesn’t understand how she is able to use the Force or even what it is. Rey is a quick learner though — she had to be in order to survive on Jakku. She learns by observing and doing, like she demonstrated during Kylo’s mind probe/mind trick for instance. Luke presumably also taught himself a lot of his abilities, like Force pulling the saber out of the snow in the wampa cave. We accept prodigies as they are — there doesn’t always need to be a reason to explain their talents.
In conclusion, if we can accept Luke’s abilities in A New Hope, then we can also accept Rey’s talents too. Both characters are prodigies but each comes with a different set of skills due to their upbringing. We have the benefit of seeing Luke’s full journey in becoming a Jedi, so we saw his struggles. We’ve only begun with Rey’s journey. We know she’s extraordinary just like we knew Luke was special in A New Hope. Rey, Luke and Anakin have these abilities because they just do. After all when the original trilogy came out, we had no idea that Luke’s father, Anakin, was the “Chosen One” and yet we still accepted Luke’s amazing talents. Rey could still come from a line of special Force users and we will soon see how she will take to her training in The Last Jedi. In the meantime we should be able to accept her for what she is: a Force prodigy.
Do you agree? Join the conversation with @animal2nd and @futureotforce over on Twitter.