WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, OBVIOUSLY
We need to talk about Rey. Specifically, we need to talk about how Star Wars: The Last Jedi fails Rey’s narrative at every turn. How the film sidelined its own main character for reasons I still don’t understand. If you want a more detailed analysis of why I didn’t like The Last Jedi in general, you can read about that here. Otherwise, let’s dive in y’all.
First things first, who is the main character of The Last Jedi? Your knee-jerk reaction (and mine) would be to say Rey is. Star Wars: The Force Awakens codified Rey as the protagonist. She is the everyman (everywoman) that gets pulled into a larger world and discovers her potential; that she has a larger destiny to fulfill, if only she dares to reach out and grab the ring. A ring The Last Jedi snatches away like Lucy with the Charlie Brown football.
Everything that made Rey who she was in The Force Awakens is stripped from her in The Last Jedi. Yes, she has a lot of screen time, but it is spent in the service of moving the narrative of the men forward. Rey arrives on Ahch-To ready to learn the ways of the Force. Instead, she finds herself coaxing a terrified old man into rejoining society to save the galaxy. Luke never teaches Rey how to control her power or use it. He’s no Yoda. He simply tries to scare her away from the island. Even her trip into the to “Dark Side” cave is a waste of time. Unless the Dark Side is trying to tell her she’s the next Space Jesus™ (which it better not have been). Rey leaves Ahch-To the same as when she arrived, only more deflated. And why does she leave? To help Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo with his man-pain. If Luke won’t help, then Ben is the last hope for the galaxy. Not Rey. Ben.
Once aboard Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship, Rey and the audience learn some shocking news. Snoke explicitly tells Kylo that he knew this day would come. The Force abhors uneven scales, striving for Balance. Since Ben is so obviously strong with the Dark Side, the galaxy would need to birth a foil. Rey is reduced to being an effect caused by the birth of Kylo Ren. While I’m bummed The Last Jedi chose to give Rey parents from nowhere*, the real punch to the gut is how the narrative uses to that to reduce her from hero to sounding board for the men around her. Rey spends the entirety of The Last Jedi as a surrogate mother to men: first Luke, then Ben. She is there to be an emotional sherpa, a plot device with a lightsaber and good listening skills.
*While Chosen One narratives are old as time, most of them have been about white men. I will stand by my guns that women and PoC deserve this power fantasy and Episode IX can make a liar of Kylo Ren.
Even the final battle on Crait strips more of Rey’s hero status from her. Where The Force Awakens showed that Rey is a crack pilot on par with the best in the galaxy, The Last Jedi can’t be bothered to let her shine. Instead, Chewbacca becomes the heroic pilot while Rey is reduced to the gunner. Reversing their positions in the Falcon would’ve been more in character, but for some reason, The Last Jedi is intent on diminishing Rey’s light.
So where does that leave her story? Nowhere. You could wipe Rey from Episode IX with little fallout to the narrative. Another Force user could step in to take her place; either another lost Jedi such as Mace Windu or Ahsoka Tano or another “nobody” with Force powers. Had Luke died during the original trilogy, the story would’ve hit a wall from which it could not recover. The same with Anakin in the prequel trilogy. So who is the main character of The Last Jedi? Whose removal would cause the wheels to come off and the narrative to grind to a halt? Kylo. Fucking. Ren.
When Ben says Rey has no place in this story; he’s kind of right. The Last Jedi made Rey superfluous in her own hero’s journey. She deserved better than that.