Rey vs. Jaylah: Who's the better heroine?

This month, Star Wars: The Force Awakens reached cable TV and I had an opportunity to sit down and watch it again. I suppose I wanted to give it another look, to see if it was indeed as bad an experience as I remember. Short answer? Yes. Force Awakens is a sub-standard film, which surprised me, because I was honestly expecting to like it. What was equally surprising was the film I fully expected to hate, yet found myself enjoying. I had no intention of seeing this movie, not after the bad taste Into Darkness left in my mouth, not after I heard Fast and Furious director Justin Lin had been chosen to helm it. And especially not after that atrocious trailer. But my friend and fellow Star Trek fan saw the film and he said that it was worth a look.

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What the hell? I thought. And my gawd, I was shocked at how good a time I had with it. What was the film (as if the name of this article weren’t enough of a clue)?

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Star Trek Beyond is a fun film. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, but it is a good time. The cast delivers, the script gives everyone a moment to shine, Idris Elba is a terrific villain, Justin Lin does a wonderful job in directing (and apologies to the man for any disparaging comments I made regarding his being “that Fast and Furious director”), and I was especially impressed with Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah.

sofia_jaylah

And while I was watching Beyond, and Jaylah in particular, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast her to Rey from The Force Awakens. I found the similarities telling. They’re both young women stranded on planets, living in old vessels, possessing multi-lingual skills as well as a mechanical aptitude. And they both use staves.

02staff_comparison

But while I think there are many commonalities, it’s the differences that, to my mind, make Jaylah a far superior character to Rey. So, you may ask, what are these differences? Let’s compare, shall we?

Let me preface this by saying there will be spoilers; those are unavoidable. Also, there will be times I stray, so that I may descend into a prolonged criticism of The Force Awakens. So if it seems there are times I get off topic, I do apologize. Fortunately, I will have someone on hand to help me stay on target.

03red_leader

Thanks in advance, Red Leader!

So, where to begin? Let’s start with the least important aspect: the respective looks of the two characters. Jaylah is sporting an exotic alien appearance that’s quite striking, along with a pretty bad-ass leather and spandex ensemble…

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…whereas Rey is wandering around in her Tusken Raider knockoff rags.

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And I have to give it to Rey here. She looks like a true refugee, someone living a subsistence-level existence on a harsh planet (I only wish they could have shown her headgear more). One could make the argument that Jaylah is wearing something from the USS Franklin’s stores, as we do see Spock wearing an alternate outfit, and Scotty sporting an awesome leather jacket. But somehow, I don’t think space biker outfits are normally part of Starfleet wardrobes.

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…Okay, maybe Jaylah is wearing the outfit of the person who owned that motorcycle. Still, surprisingly (surprising to me, anyway), the first point goes to Rey.

Savor it, Force Awakens fans.

Second, we come to the aforementioned weapon of choice the two ladies sport: the staff. Rey’s is serviceable. However, Jaylah’s doubles as a gun.

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Yeah, the staff gun is not only cooler, it also makes more sense. Perhaps firearms are outlawed on planet Jakku, but for a young woman living alone on a planet of opportunistic scavengers, I think it would be not only prudent but imperative that Rey should be packing a ranged weapon of some sort. Even farm boys know to carry a boom stick out in the wilderness.

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Now, I will say that as far as melee weapons go, Rey probably does have an edge; it has maybe an extra 2” of reach. But this ain’t Dungeons & Dragons: it’s Star Wars, and the only melee weapon worth a damn is a lightsaber…

09stormtrooper

…Okay, almost the only melee weapon worth a damn. I’ll give points to JJ Abrams: that Stormtrooper was pretty bad-ass. Anyway, points to Jaylah this round.

Moving on, there was something about both films that interested me: the use of language.

03red_leader

Bear with me, Red Leader, I’ve got a point here. In the Star Trek film, pains were taken to pay attention to how people were able to communicate. The person who asks for help from the Federation can’t speak English, and she uses a translator throughout the film, with an English speaking voice superimposed over her alien tongue. In another part of the film, Uhura is surprised when Krall can speak English. And when Scotty is rescued by Jaylah, she’s initially speaking an alien language, but then switches to English when she hears Scotty speak, and he’s surprised she can speak it (props to writers Pegg and Jung for having Boutella’s dialogue sound like her English was imperfect; little things matter). The point is, language and communication are important plot elements, and they’re handled well in Beyond.

Now where Star Wars is concerned, you hear a lot of languages being spoken, and it was important once to have on hand a protocol droid just in case one had to communicate. Fortunately (he said, voice dripping with sarcasm) in The Force Awakens, every time someone speaks a different language, someone is on hand who understands what’s being said. And guess who understands every single language within earshot? Rey, that’s who. She even understands gawd-damn droid.

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Somehow, she’s able to interpret those chirps and whistles into coherent dialogue. A single beep, and she hears the name of the planet where the Resistance is located. Okay, yeah, it’s science fiction, but there’s good science fiction and bad, and this just feels like the latter. Worse, it feels like lazy writing. Then again, this entire movie is a study in lazy wr—

03red_leader

…Right. Okay, I’ll try and focus. I get it; she lives on a planet with a variety of races doing business in the salvage industry. But in cases like this, they should either have some protocol droids around facilitating business, or have everybody use a standard language. Or there’s the third option, the “cityspeak” pidgin language Gaff uses in Blade Runner.

Because referencing Blade Runner always adds a touch of class to your sci-fi article.

Because referencing Blade Runner always adds a touch of class to your sci-fi articles.

But no, apparently Rey’s time on Notooine has turned her into a multilingual savant whose skills include not only droid, but Wookie as well. Ask anybody who’s bi- or multi-lingual: it takes a lot of time, effort, and practice to become fluent in another language, and those are languages that human beings speak.

Now you might say the Force is somehow giving her this ability to understand all these language, but if so, then there should be some dialogue hinting to the fact that what she’s able to do is strange. Have Finn say, “I never met anyone who spoke droid before,” or have Han Solo be surprised that she can understand Chewbacca, suggesting that not a lot of humans speak Wookie. Otherwise, Rey’s linguistic talents are bullshit.

This goes to my next point: the overall skill sets of the two characters. Both have some degree of mechanical aptitude, and I’m fine with that; Jaylah lives inside a ship, Rey salvages ships for a living. Both can fight, and this is fine as well; it’s obvious in their respective harsh environments they need to be able to take care of themselves. The linguistics thing I addressed. This brings me to Rey’s piloting abilities.

Remember when this guy piloted the Millennium Falcon through the guts of the second Death Star?

12lando

Pretty bad-ass, right? The dialogue set up between Lando and Han in an earlier scene implied the con artiste and card sharp was a talented pilot, and one assumes navigating the guts of a half-constructed space station feat was pretty tough to do, and that it called for a good pilot with a keen eye and a deft hand. But hey, that’s no longer the case. Turns out anybody can pilot a YT class light freighter through tight spaces like that, even young women barely out of their teens who have lived half their lives on desert planets. Lando was familiar with the Falcon, and it still got clipped. Rey had never flown the Millennium Falcon before, and it came out with a scratch.

Her list of abilities is near-endless; she can even use the Force to compel a Stormtrooper to turn her loose, without anyone even telling her she can do that. And then she beats the “Sith Lord” in a fight with a weapon she’s never held before. You might be saying the Force is helping her. I say it’s JJ Abrams trying to capture every feel-good moment from the first trilogy and cram it into one film.

Rey’s skill set is just one of a litany of flaws in The Force Awakens, a film that relies too heavily on nost—

03red_leader

Sorry. Sorry. Anyway, points go to Jaylah, whose skill set is at least reasonable and logical, rather than, Rey who’s a Mary Sue. Yeah, you heard me.

I’ve been criticized before for using the term “Mary Sue”. I have been called ignorant. I have been called sexist. I have been goaded into flame wars, which I have avoided; I’m not a twelve year old. In the end, my assertion still stands, and Rey is an improbably gifted character who becomes less interesting as a result. Jaylah, on the other hand, is skilled, but no more and no less competent than the other protagonists we see in Beyond.

I don’t want my heroes to be perfect. I don’t want them to be multi-talented Swiss Army people. This is why during Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, the character became less and less interesting.

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Bats became the nigh-infallible Bat-God, always one step ahead of his enemies with a plethora of skills that after a while stretched credibility to the breaking point. But at least to some extent, I could buy into Batman’s talents, because by that point Batman was roughly 35 years old. Skills and talents, like languages, take time to master; quite often said skills and talents must be taught if one is to achieve some level of competency. Who taught Rey this vast array of abilities? The impression I get is she spent all her free time salvaging, and living a hand-to-mouth existence. When is she getting the time to learn her plethora of languages and boning up on her miraculous piloting skills?

Who’s to blame for Rey? Perhaps it’s because of late, we’ve seen a rash of uber-competent action heroes, from James Bond, to Angelina Jolie’s Salt, to Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, to Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher. Perhaps producers and directors think movie audiences want their heroes to all be Batman, or they lack the patience to watch a hero grow from wide-eyed farm boy to Jedi Knight over the course of three movies and instead want said hero to have the whole package from the get-go. Me, I blame video games. And hip-hop. And this whole social media thing. Hang on a minute, I have to go tell a bunch of punk kids to get the hell off my lawn.

So if it isn’t already obvious, Jaylah (remember Jaylah? This article was about Jaylah, too) wins this round. With the technical aspects out of the way, let’s delve into the character of the… um…characters. What motivates Rey and Jaylah? Primarily, it’s fear. In the latter’s case, the source is Beyond’s antagonist, Krall:

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He and his followers killed Jaylah’s parents, and she’s trapped on a planet full of what she rightfully sees are homicidal maniacs, the principal one being essentially a space vampire. This inspires Jaylah to want to leave the planet, and to have James T. Kirk “fix her house” and make it fly.

However, in Rey’s case, she’s been abandoned on Notooine, with the fate of her parents/guardians a mystery. As a result, she stays on Notooine in the hopes they’ll return for her.

This… is stupid. Okay, space is big, I get that. It’s immense beyond the comprehension of most laymen. When astronomers and space scientists throw around terms like “thousands of light years”, the true conception of the distances discussed are largely lost on us. Still, I can grasp how difficult it would be to find two people in a place the size of a galaxy and hope that perhaps it would be easier if they came back for me. The problem with that thinking is hoping that 1) they’re able to come back for me, and 2) they want to come back for me. So Rey is banking on her parents returning for her, even though she’s been waiting for about a decade. By then, I would assume that number one is no longer the case, and her parents need her to come looking for them (or worse, they’re dead), or if number two no longer applies, then fuck ‘em, time to move on, get your ass off Notooine, and use your mad mechanical/piloting skills to get a job on a passing ship.

What keeps Rey rooted to Notooine? A fear of change, and of disrupting the status quo. She’s grown comfortable in her position as orphan victim living in the sci-fi equivalent of a cardboard box, and that flies in stark contrast to Jaylah, or even fellow Force Awakens hero Finn, who sees fear as an impetus to improve their lots.

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Jaylah is her own person, in that when it comes to Star Trek, she’s a unique figure. We’ve seen non-Starfleet personnel play key roles in various stories over the years, such as Alfrie Woodard’s Lily in First Contact, Gillian in The Voyage Home, or David Marcus in Wrath of Khan and Search For Spock. But their roles are largely passive, acting in many cases as observers, or people in need of rescue, or to serve in some single key capacity (i.e. Gillian’s knowledge regarding the frequency of the whales’ transmitters). In Jaylah’s case, she saves Scotty from marauders and helps Kirk and Company in rescuing the remnants of the Enterprise crew from Krall’s compound, making her instrumental to the plot. In the third act, she aids the gang in setting up the transmitter to destroy Krall’s swarm.

As for Rey, let’s be honest: she’s a Luke Skywalker stand-in, right down to the astromech droid sidekick. Worse, she’s less than Luke Skywalker, vast skill set notwithstanding. Luke Skywalker wanted off his desert wasteland of a planet; he wanted to move on and up, believing he could be more than just a moisture farmer. And on the Death Star, he pushes Han into rescuing Leia. Rey, however, was quite content to wallow in her personal pity party, living a subsistence-level existence; she was a victim and was comfortable in that role. Rey is a passive character, forced by either a person or circumstance from scene to scene. Even by movie’s end, she seems to search out Skywalker not because she wants to, but because she has no idea what this Force thing is, and is likely shocked she’s discovered a skill set she can’t master on her own and wants someone to explain it to her (although frankly, she seemed to be doing just fine without a teacher). Or just as likely, Leia told her to go, and Rey meekly agreed.

And while Jaylah must be talked into aiding Kirk and Company into rescuing the Enterprise crew, the final decision is hers to make. Jaylah is a proactive, self-assured, fully realized character compared to Rey’s sad shortcomings.

So in the end, when all is said and done, Jaylah wins hands down.

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Sorry, Rey.

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Star Trek Beyond is not without its flaws, but I can say with confidence its shortcomings do not lie in its characters. Kirk and Company, Krall, and especially Jaylah are well thought out and the actors deliver solid performances. However, where Star Wars: The Force Awakens is concerned, one cannot say the same.

Po and Finn are good characters, and both Oscar Isaac and John Boyega do the best with what they’re given. But the rest of the cast, especially Daisy Ridley as Rey, are sorely lacking. If JJ Abrams had spent a little more effort on giving us an original, well-crafted story instead of trusting everything to nostalgia, and if he had focused on giving us a host of new heroes we could appreciate, perhaps he would have made a film that will stand the test of time. Instead, to my mind, it’s possible in years to come Rey will join the likes of Jar Jar Binks as characters most Star Wars fans would like to forget.

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  • maarvarq

    Ooh, comparing Rey to the most hated character in cinematic history – them’s fightin’ words 🙂 But seriously, I see what you mean about her. My vagrant thought is that perhaps her power will vastly outstrip her ability to control it and drop her over on the Dark Side, and somehow Kylo Ren might, despite his ambition to be Darth Vader’s successor, might find himself drawn back to the Light Side. The resultant pas de deux might conclude in Episode IX with, what’s the phrase, restoring balance to the Force… except that I now remember that the production of Star Wars films is supposed to outlive us all, and now I feel depressed.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I was tempted to deliver a one-two punch and compare Rey to young Anakin Skywalker, another character with a ridiculous skill set, but I deferred, mostly out of pity. 🙂

      As for what might be seen in later movies, I could care less now. The Force Awakens is probably my last Star Wars movie. But what’s really sad is I’m going to likely write a “What’s wrong with The Force Awakens” article in a couple months…and that means I have to watch it a third time.

      Pray for me.

      • Jonathan Campbell

        I was thinking of writing something that…

        (meant to write it months ago, but watching the movie again depressed me…)

        If you want to be spared…?

        • Thomas Stockel

          I kinda feel like we’re Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter, passing the revolver back and forth here…

          • Jonathan Campbell

            I haven’t wrote anything in a while; need to get back into it.

            Plus, my idea was more a full-on recap; a piece just on what’s wrong with it sounds more merciful.

          • Thomas Stockel

            I think you should do it, then. I still have the Moon Zero Two recaps to tackle and there is another project I have my eye on. If I write that Force Awakens article who knows when M02 might get done. 🙂

          • Jonathan Campbell

            (on reflection it might be better to wait closer to December since Rogue One is coming out…well, we’ll see. It will be done shortly regardless.)

  • Rocketboy1313

    I guess I just don’t care about the skill set thing. I don’t need to be told, “This is how I learned (blank)” by the protagonist. Watching someone use a skill is enough for me to say, “Okay, so they know how to do (thing).”

    I keep hearing this argument that, “(Person) would not know how to do (X), because (X) is not a thing (Person) would know.” Which is begging the question. Even if you as an audience member make assumptions about what a fictional person, living in a fictional place, knows about fictional technology… well, I can disagree with your assumptions. If someone can do (thing) and learning how they did (thing) is not part of the story I am watching, then I just accept their proficiency in (thing) and move on.

    See, there are movies that are all about learning a skill or mastering an existing talent. “Whiplash”, “Creed”, and nearly anything that has a training montage. “Empire Strikes Back” was one of those movies in regards to the force, but “Force Awakens” isn’t in regards to piloting or stick-fu. It wasn’t even that in regards to using the Force, which seems to be a state of mind rather than an actual skill set.

    You can say that Jaylah is a superior character, but I don’t think this kind of thing is quantifiable, especially when you consider their respective roles in the story. While I think both characters are fine I find the comparison to be kind of strange at the get go because (as you said) one is active in the story moving away from something, the other is passive moving back toward something and her character arc is giving up on that and then moving forward. Just because you prefer characters to have motivations when introduced doesn’t make those characters better. It is like complaining that your ice cream cone is poorly made pizza… it isn’t supposed to be pizza, it’s ice cream.

    If all protagonists/characters were active go getters with clear goals… That would be boring. In real life many people are motivated by waiting for something or trying in vein to get back something they lost, and having a story about a character who is trapped by that line of thinking and whose course in the story is to move beyond that… That is a good character and good story, just not the type of character and story you prefer. What is more I could point to this as the defining difference between Luke and Rey, as Luke wants to leave and go on an adventure and only becomes reluctant when he thinks of his family and responsibilities on his desert wasteland home, while Rey thinks of going back to her desert wasteland home, and only gives up on that when she fully commits to the adventure; Luke’s family is destroyed by the bad guys and he is cut loose, Rey’s fantasy of her family coming back are rightfully dispelled by the heroes and she is free to explore.

    I get that this is your opinion, and that is fine, but you are framing it like a math proof that ends in QED, and that kind of got me down on things in a way that spurred this rebuttal, which is not really a rebuttal but a re-contextualization.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Look, I don’t need to see a Rey training montage to discover where all her skills came from, I just need a protagonist with a realistic skill set like we had seen in other Star Wars or Star Trek movies. Jaylah didn’t get a training montage but the inferences regarding her skills was well done; she knows English because she has lived on the Franklin and has access to the computers, hence one can infer she taught herself (and her imperfect English supports this. Good Writing.) . But Rey’s skill set is just unrealistic to me considering 1) where she’s grown up 2) a lack of teachers 3) her age. As for The Force, it is actually both; you need someone to actually teach you things, otherwise why else have Masters to instruct you? The evidence bears out that yes, you do need someone to instruct you on the finer points and yeah, sometimes something might come to you in moments of desperation (i.e. Luke snatching the light saber to ward off the Wampa), but in the third act Rey is suddenly all full blown Jedi Knight. It’s too easy, it’s what I’m saying. Luke had to go through the aforementioned training montage to get to where she was by the end of the latest movie.

      And that isn’t Rey’s home, it’s her prison. Luke stays behind because of responsibility Rey stays because she is terrified of leaving, terrified of change, content to allow herself to be bullied and live on the edge of starvation. She is afraid to take that leap, to take a chance and be pro-active. That isn’t a protagonist I am the least bit interested in watching.

      And yes, I do think one can say whether or not a character is superior to another based on the roles they play in their respective stories and how well they are written. I don’t think Rey is well written, I think Jaylah is. QED. ;p

      • Rocketboy1313

        I disagree and refer back to my initial comment as I have nothing else to add.

        • Thomas Stockel

          Then I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree where Rey is concerned.

  • William Wehrs

    You don’t know how nice it is to hear from someone who also doesn’t like Star War: The Force Awakens. It was easily one of the most disappointing movie experiences I ever went through. Honestly, I preferred Revenge of the Sith because at least that film was ambitious. The Force Awakens, however, just seems content to wallow in mediocrity and not do anything new. We get no interesting planets with the four being sand, ice, forests, and jungles. We get characters who just vanish like Maz Kanata and Poe until they are useful to the plot again. Kylo Ren is woefully underdeveloped, as no reason is given for his transformation to evil. Finally, Luke acts completely out of character by just leaving everyone to cope with the mess, while leaving parts of a map to find him, which makes little sense. The only good thing about the film is Harrison Ford in my opinion.
    All that being said, however, I completely disagree with you on Star Trek: Beyond. I found it to be the worst Star Trek film ever made. Even the worst Star Trek films, such as Nemesis or Star Trek V had at the very least interesting ideas. Nemesis had the nature vs nurture theme, and Star Trek V had the interesting message that pain is necessary, as well as the idea that God may become obsolete in the future. Now, that is not say that either of these films were good, but at least both of them were trying for greatness. Star Trek Beyond was not trying to do anything other than tell a dumb action story with CGI i images to try to distract you. I will now list the things I liked, and then the things I disliked.
    Things I liked.
    1. I did like the design of the Yorktown. I thought it was extremely breathtaking, and it was great to see a Federation station rendered by state of the art effects.
    2. Michael Giacchino’s score. It was powerful and soaring when it had to be, and it was also dark and menacing when it had to be.
    3. Some of the Spock and Dr. McCoy scenes were cute, and provided the only decent character moments in the films.

    Things I disliked
    1. Kirk’s arc was seemingly nonexistent. At the opening of the film, Kirk is worried that he is not living up to his father, and that he is a failure. He also seems bored with the two year mission, which makes little sense. They are going where no one has gone before, and the opening teaser shows an exciting mission. Also, one would think after losing the ship, Kirk would be plagued with feeling inadequate, and possibly start second guessing himself. At the very least, one would think he would have a moment of reflection like Kirk does in Star Trek II after the initial battle with Khan, in which he is very visibly mad at himself. Instead, Kirk just acts like he always does, and his whole inadequacy complex simply vanishes. This is not good character development.
    2. The villain Krall. Krall was easily the worst part of the picture. There were so many plot holes surrounding him. Apparently he used alien technology to make him look like an alien, but where did he find this? There was a brief suggestion that that he found mining technology, but that would not explain finding a device to make someone look like some else. Furthermore, How did this make him live for so long? Where did he get his henchmen? How did he develop this swarm technology? If he served in both the Romulan and Xindi war, then why did he not get promoted to Admiral or something? Also, why did he not attack the federation earlier? His swarm seemed to pretty devastating, even without the radiation superweapon, so why was he just trapping people.
    3. Finally, the biggest problem was the plot. In short, there was no plot. It was just one action scene after another, and to make matters worse the action was not very exciting due to over reliance on CGI and shaky cam. The enterprise destruction seemed to go on for an eternity, and paled in comparison to previous enterprise destructions in Star Trek III or Star Trek Generations. The final battle with the use of Beastie Boys to disrupt the hive was so stupid it was laughable. Also, I had no idea of the geography of the station during the climax, so the Enterprise emerging from the water was big and dramatic, but rather contrived.

    • Rocketboy1313

      I would go so far as to say Krall is the worst bad guy, at least as far as motivation goes, in all of the Star Trek movies. I disagree with your other two dislikes, but that is the nature of the beast.

      • Thomas Stockel

        Krall’s motivation could have been better, but I chalked it up to him going all crazypants.

        Then again, crazy is a lazy motivation and it takes a helluva an actor to make it interesting (i.e. Heath Ledger and his Joker). Elba has enough charisma where he at least kept me interested.

        • Rocketboy1313

          I considered Elba wasted. I watched “Beasts of No Nation” and “The Jungle Book”. In one instance he had no make up in the other he was just voicing a tiger, in both instances he was better than Krall.

          I didn’t like “Into Darkness” but I at least understood why Harrison was doing what he was doing.

          • Thomas Stockel

            Harrison? Don’t you mean Khan? Khan Noonian Singh? You know, a Sikh superman from the 20th century? Man, casting the whitest actor in Hollywood possible was soooooo the right move there.

            Could anyone have played Krall? Eh, maybe. He certainly wasn’t the most well developed character, I grant you.

          • Rocketboy1313

            I have decided retroactively to re-write that movie in my mind. That Harrison was not a cover name for Khan, that was just the guy’s name. He was part of a Section 31 weapons research division, they used genetic tampering on him and his hand selected team of (72 is big, in my head it is just 12, cause I wanted him to have an anti-Christ vibe) and the tampering left him unbalanced, like genetic tampering has been shown to do in DS-9.

            He then begins looking at Khan as a historical figure, that the position of ruler belongs to those who are the fittest and Harrison now believes that is him. He begins sowing the seeds of a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, once that is discovered by Admiral Robo-Cop his team is captured and he is on the run trying to cause the war in hopes of taking control in the aftermath via a cult that has formed around him in the ranks of Star Fleet who see him as a powerful leader and genetic superman who has given of himself to heal the sick.

            IT IS BETTER THAN WHITE WASHING!

          • Thomas Stockel

            “IT IS BETTER THAN WHITE WASHING!”

            Amen brother!

    • Thomas Stockel

      I understand why you didn’t like Beyond, but I would disagree and say it was far from the worst Star Trek film. Into Darkness, now that’s the worst Star Trek film, having everything from a bad guy ship bigger than Enterprise to an evil Starfleet Admiral, things we’ve seen so many times before. Combined with the whitest Khan possible and it’s the first movie in years where I left the theater angry.

      • William Wehrs

        I respectfully disagree. Into Darkness has a lot of problems especially in the final 20 minutes. Kirk sacrificing himself to create a Wrath of Khan homage is clumsy, Spock becoming an action hero and chasing Khan is silly, but the piece de resistance is Kirk being brought back to life 20 minutes after he dies. Into Darkness really should have ended with Khan escaping and Kirk still being dead thus setting up a cliffhanger for the third film.
        That being said I do like a lot about the film. The evil Admiral, though as you astutely point out has been done to death, does help to convey the film’s message about the War on Terror, which I think it does well. Some might argue that this message is no longer relevant, but it clearly is with Trump gaining so much support partly due to his tough guy image. Also, Kirk does have an arc of becoming more of a mature Captain, which I think fairly well done, though it would have been more effective if he had stayed dead. Furthermore, Spock’s coming to grips with death, is also done well in my opinion. Pike’s death is also genuinely moving, due to Kirk having just lost the closest thing he has left to a father and Bruce Greenwood’s great performance as Pike.
        In terms of Khan being white I partially agree. I think it would have been good if they had actually hired someone of color, but it is not like Ricardo Montalban is a person of color either. He is a Spaniard playing an Indian, which is equally ridiculous, so I really cannot hold Into Darkness to a double standard. Furthermore, Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a strong menacing yet somewhat sympathetic performance, so I can forgive the casting decision somewhat.
        Into Darkness is not a perfect film by any means, but it is trying to be a Star Trek film with themes of death and loss, as well as a message on the War of Terror. Beyond seems indifferent to trying to be a Star Trek film, but instead focuses on solely a “fun time,” at the expense of actually saying or doing anything compelling. Beyond might work better on a superficial level, but I prefer the effort in Into Darkness. It is similar to how I view Revenge of the Sith and Force Awakens. One is trying and failing in some areas, while the other is content to be mediocre. I will always take the more ambitious one.

        • Thomas Stockel

          First of all, comparing Montalban’s casting with Cumberbatch’s doesn’t really wash with me, because at the time, fifty years ago, that was a common thing. You had Eli Wallach playing a Mexican bandit, Anthony Quinn was often hired to play Mexicans, Native Americans, Innuits, etc. It’s the twenty first century and we should be beyond that, but coming soon we’re going to have Scarlet Johannsen playing Ghost In The Shell’s Major Kusinagi,a character who in the Manga, animated movie and animated series was and is most obviously Japanese.

          And at least they tried to make Montalban look Indian with his hairstyle; they couldn’t even be bothered where Benedict was concerned.

          Now as for Into Darkness, you pointed out a great many of it’s flaws, but I will add to that Orci’s inability to write a deep or subtle script that could have effectively addressed the issues of terrorism and the use of drones in the field. Kirk and Spock’s relationship isn’t written well at all, it just feels like a rehash of what we saw in the first movie. And why is Spock outraged at Kirk’s death? These two guys barely know each other and the way they’re written is they aren’t really friends. No, JJ Abrams is counting on you feeling the friendship from decades of ‘Trek that had come before, not what he was delivering now.

          I felt Kirk’s maturation as a captain and as a person was handled far better in ‘Beyond, where he experienced doubts regarding his place in the universe and why he joined Starfleet in the first place. There were a lot of nice character moments in ‘Beyond that Into Darkness simply does not have.

          And what is wrong with a fun movie? That’s like saying Trouble With Tribbles isn’t good ‘Trek because it’s too funny. The great thing about Star Trek is there is no one tone or theme it is bound too; one week it’s a gritty war episodes (i.e. Balance of Terror) the next week it’s a Perry Mason style courtroom drama (Court Martial), and another week it’s social commentary (A Taste of Armageddon). It’s all about execution, and to my mind Into Darkness is poorly executed on every level.

          • William Wehrs

            ” It’s the twenty first century and we should be beyond that.” I could not agree more, but to be honest Star Trek Beyond bothered me ever more racially. Our first black Star Trek villain, and he is portrayed as a bestial man of passion who cannot be reasoned with. This was kind of uncomfortable for me.
            “Orci’s inability to write a deep or subtle script that could have effectively addressed the issues of terrorism and the use of drones in the field.” I see your point, but many of Star Trek’s greatest episodes and movies are not exactly subtle. Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI are both sledgehammers to the head when it comes to the messages, save the environment and the Russians might be trustworthy, respectively. Also, City on the Edge of Forever has the pretty unsubtle message that the Vietnam War is necessary.
            I agree with everything you said when it came to Kirk and Spock. One could argue that they are learning to be friends, but that does not explain Spock’s outrage.
            I disagree about Kirk’s maturation being handled better in Beyond for the reasons outlined in my initial post, but to rehash. In Beyond, Kirk gets his ship destroyed and inadvertently brings a traitor on board. This should really affect him, and make him unsure of himself. Instead he is just the same Captain Kirk he always is.
            “And what is wrong with a fun movie?” There is nothing wrong with a fun movie if it is actually fun. I quite like Star Trek IV, but I didn’t find Star Trek Beyond fun. When there is a character who get destroyed by a death machine, while Uhura is forced to watch that is not fun. When there are several poorly lit action scenes in which I have trouble telling what is going on that is not fun. When there is endless CGI destruction, such as the tedious destruction of the Enterprise that is not fun.

          • Thomas Stockel

            I suppose what it comes down to is what annoys you more, and what you are willing to let slide to enjoy a movie. I felt Into Darkness’ flaws far outweighed it’s virtues to such a point that to be honest I didn’t see any, where Beyond’s minuses are to my mind outweighed by it’s pluses. It comes down to personal taste I guess.

          • William Wehrs

            Yep, and that is perfectly fine. It is the reason movies are so interesting. If everyone saw them the same way, then they would be a pretty dull medium.

          • Jonathan Campbell

            He isn’t the first Black Star Trek villain. There have been several, including at least two other Black Starfleet officers “gone bad”.

          • William Wehrs

            Sorry, I should have clarified. I meant the first movie big bad. Admiral Cartwright was more of an accomplice to the big bad, Chang.

  • K

    Personally, I think it’s a bit tough to judge Rey or Kylo Ren or any other character in the ST just yet. After all, it’s a trilogy and we’ve only seen the first part. Episodes VIII and IX may give us more insight into how and why they do what they do. After all, Luke and Anakin certainly weren’t the same characters in their respective third movies that they were when they were introduced. I’ll wait and see.
    Oh, and it was Gold Five that was urging, “Stay on target!” Red Leader was the “Almost there!” guy.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Huh, I was sure I responded to this yesterday. I don’t think I should be forced to watch three films to see Rey gets fleshed out. Luke was in many ways the same person he was in the first movie, a fundamentally good person who grew more mature by the third film. Maybe Rey will become a stronger heroine but I’m so disinterested in her and Ren that I don’t have a desire to see what happens to them.

      As for Gold Five, you are correct sir. I’m surprised I missed that, because the Y-wing fighters were among my favorite ships in the first trilogy. :/

  • Gearóid

    Really refreshing to hear you say the new Star Wars wasn’t good. I felt no escape from the predictable hype from, what seemed to me to be everyone. Even the film critic for BBC Mark Kamode who hated the original trilogy said the new one was really good.
    So eventually I sat in the cinema was was bored I wanted it to end really fast, it was just so underwhelming.
    The only memorable thing was the enormous weapon, I found it terrifying.
    Biggist dissapointment was no big epic space battle, what was the point of Admiral Ackbar if not to kick ass with the most underused ships in Star Wars.
    Let it end, it was never that good to begin with, the universe.

    • Jeremy Pinkham

      for a smart guy, Kermode has disappointed me several times as well

    • Rocketboy1313

      This is again something I find kind of interesting talking about these movies because so many people watch them with such varied tastes. To me, the Star Killer Base was the single worst thing about the movie.

      • Thomas Stockel

        And that was one of the reasons I was entertaining the idea of writing a second article,because there are so many things I hate about this film. But to watch the movie a third time just feels masochistic. I have other things to write; it’s been a long, long time since I did a TAS recap, for example. Time to focus on something I like than to dwell overly much on things I hate.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I enjoyed the first trilogy, although I could honest do without the remakes that came out back in the late nineties. The films were fine as they were, IMO.

      As for the universe as a whole, I have to respectfully disagree. I like the Star Wars universe, just not every aspect of it. It’s a rich literary environment with so many books that everybody is bound to find one they can enjoy.

      Of course, according to JJ Abrams none of them count now… :/

      • K

        Re: the “Star Wars” EU, I have no problem with invalidating the post-ROTJ books from “Vector Prime” onwards. It had gotten to the point to where each one was stuck in “Empire Strikes Back”/”Tonight, somebody dies” mode.
        However, the Brian Daley books about Han and the L. Neil Smith books about Lando must remain canonical. And I’m absolutely against deleting Valance and Jaxxon.

  • 333: SC

    Well, I’m old enough to have seen Star Wars (I refuse to call it “A New Hope”) in the theaters in its original run and of course I love it unreservedly, despite its flaws. I also think Empire was very good. Then followed 35 odd years of sh*t as far as I’m concerned. As for Force Awakens, I liked it a lot, if for no other reason than that it is such an unashamed wallow in everything I liked about the first films. I almost don’t care what it’s about, I just like sitting and looking at it and having it feel like what Star Wars should be to me on an aesthetic level. That said, nothing that you have said about Rey can be argued. My wife and eye both almost had to take medication for the pain due to eye rolling at all her miraculous unexplained talents and abilities, culminating in her beating a freaking Sith the first time she picked up a light sabre. More or less. She’s patron saint of Mary Sues.

    I haven’t seen ST: Beyond yet. I’m just afraid to.

    • Rocketboy1313

      Kylo Ren is not a Sith. That is like saying all Christians are Methodist.

      But then I could be wrong, maybe Sith will just become the generic term for Dark Side Force user.

      • 333: SC

        I’ll lay bets he’ll be Darth Ren before this is over. But we shall see…

    • Thomas Stockel

      I don’t blame you for being hesitant when it comes to Beyond; I was not going to see it until my friend Dave twisted my arm. And of course I miss the original cast and anything JJ Abrams is involved in I look at with a jaded eye.

      But the film was fun. And the performances are all solid. And I appreciated the humor. Simon Pegg has a good ear for comedy and he applies just the right amount. If you don’t want to spend the money to see it in the theater wait for Netflix or cable; I don’t think it would be a waste of your time.

  • NameWithheldByRequest

    I had the same reaction to Rey as the writer of this article. Frankly, the term “Mary Sue” to describe Rey is more than apt. Every fix she got into, she magically (and I mean magically) had the skill to wriggle her way out of it. I could kinda sorta buy her understanding multiple alien languages. I could even kinda sorta buy her being able to pilot that hover-bike or whatever-it-was she was riding, but it starts to stretch believability that she could pilot the Falcon and with such a high level of skill and be able to repair it better than Han Solo (for chrissakes!). And then there’s her incredible level of force mastery, which came out of nowhere. It begs the question of what exactly Rey could possibly learn from Luke, considering she’s pretty much mastered the whole force thing without anybody’s help.

  • Jeyl

    The downside with Jaylah is that she’s in a Star Trek movie. A series that has a tendancy to reduce it’s female characters strictly as one-shot characters.

    Illia? Gone.
    Saavik? Great in II, but reduced to non existence by IV.
    Carol Marcus? Despite having a big part in the creation of Genesis and is onboard the Enterprise at the end of II, she disappears completely by the next film.
    Valeris? Turned traitor and never referenced again.
    Lily? Great moments, but is forgotten about.
    Anij? Sold as a love interest to Picard, but never seen again.
    Donatra? Well, she is in the movie that killed the current franchise.
    Kirk’s Mom? Only called sweetheart in the film, never shows up again.

    And without a doubt the most unfortunate entry in this list…

    Carol Marcus AGAIN! Despite literally being on the bridge at the end of STID and being welcomed to the Enterprise family, she disappears completely in Beyond and is never referenced.

    Jaylah is just one ‘writer’s excuse’ away from not existing at all in the next Star Trek entry.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Those are some valid points, but bear in mind that Star Trek already has a large cast of seven characters and it’s hard enough to write enough material for all of them, where in Star Wars the core cast is much smaller. You’ve got a point in that most of these women are love interests, old flames, or victims (You forgot Amanda, who dies in the first JJ ‘Trek film.). But there are males as well you can add to that list, like Decker and David Marcus and Sybok and Kirk from Generation and Cochran from First Contact. Star Trek films have always had one shot guest characters who come and go, it’s how they’re structured.

      As for how Rey and Jaylah are used in their respective films you do have a valid point in that it is largely Rey’s movie. Unfortunately I don’t think Rey is an interesting enough character to carry said movie. When you watch the first Star Wars film I think Lucas made the right call in making it feel more of an ensemble film rather than putting the weight of the plot solely on Luke’s shoulders. Han has a back story, so does Obi Wan. Leia is a compelling character in her interactions with Vader and Tarkin and the fact that she won’t break (Glad Lucas had the torture be implied rather than explicit.).

      One of the (many) flaws with TFA is Finn and Po’s bromance is sacrificed for a trip down memory lane with Han and Chewbacca showing up; I felt the best part of the first act was Finn and Po’s by play. If this movie had been more about the two of them and Rey rather than what we go I think it would have been a superior film.

      • Jeyl

        TFA has many flaws for sure. I’m on my knees praying to the movie gods that they are addressed/corrected in the next installments. But one area I kind of liked was how it spread out the characters in a natural way. You have a film introducing not only a new trio of main characters to the story, but also the original trio from the previous trilogy. 3 for 3. And yet, none of these two pairs are all seen together at the same time. There’s no Luke, Han or Leia reunion and no ‘banding together’ moment with Rey, Finn or Po.

        One critical point I make towards Jaylah in the film was that I found her character motivations a bit tacked on. Since you cannot have her defeat the big bad (that’s Kirk’s job), we instead have this second in command villain that we’re told through exposition that he has a bad history with Jaylah. Also he somehow knows that her being alone/abandoned is what will demoralize her ect.

        Now the same could be argued against Rey’s character. We know she has reasons for doing what she does, but her motivations aren’t enough to justify it. She chooses to stay on Jakku to wait for her family who she believes will come back for her. Ok, how does she know they will come back? How will she know them if they do come back? Why is staying on a planet that’s nothing but junk and sand (the WORST THING EVER) when she could just go out into space and try to find them? Why is she all of a sudden so accepting of the notion that they will not come back for her based on what Maz said?

        Lots of questionable character handling to be sure, but there are a lot of ways it could be explained as well should the franchise choose to explore more about it. During one of my brainstorming sessions I came up with the idea that Rey choosing to wait on Jakku was part of a plan. Simply leaving her on Jakku wasn’t going to be enough since anyone in their right mind would want to leave it. If she was going to be kept on this planet, she would have to do so by choice. So this ‘someone’ manipulated her mind into believing a falsehood that her family was going to come back for her. They don’t need to have specific memories, they just need her to believe that it’s the truth.

        We’ll see how both pan out in the long run. The only thing that will hinder Rey as a character is if they keep this whole “She’s great at everything she does” and choose not to develop her character. Jaylah’s problem will be haivng her show up at all in the next installment, and given the box office disappointment of Beyond, we may not see her or the Abrams crew at all.

        • Thomas Stockel

          “TFA has many flaws for sure. I’m on my knees praying to the movie gods that they are addressed/corrected in the next installments. But one area I kind of liked was how it spread out the characters in a natural way. You have a film introducing not only a new trio of main characters
          to the story, but also the original trio from the previous trilogy. 3 for 3. And yet, none of these two pairs are all seen together at the same time. There’s no Luke, Han or Leia reunion and no ‘banding
          together’ moment with Rey, Finn or Po.”

          And here is another point where we are going to disagree. We didn’t need any old characters returning. Having Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke coming back just detracts from the fact that this is supposed to be a New trilogy with New characters. Okay, yeah, maybe have Luke return in the Obi Wan role, but I didn’t need to see a seventy year old Han Solo.

          Did you see how clumsily they wrote Po out of the second act? He was blown clear, then somehow he was found in the desert, returned to the rebel base and had time to fly in at the head of a squadron of x-wings. All so we could have our Han/Chewie feel good moment.

          <>

          I think he motivation is certainly better than Rey’s which is to stay on Jakku and wait for Mommy and Daddy to come back. Granted, exposition can be a clumsy tool and maybe it could have been handled better, but Beyond had a bigger cast than TFA and Pegg was trying to give everybody their moment to shine, so it was a tough juggling act.

          <>

          Well, you pretty much summed up a lot of my problems with Rey. And if you recall she rejected what Maz said, running off into the woods to have a good cry.

          Like everything else, Rey is also good at crying.

          <>

          And that’s fan fiction. Speculate all you want, but whatever the reason for Rey’s being left behind, I don’t care enough about her to find the answer to those questions now.

          <>

          And I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Overall I haven’t been happy with JJ’s vision of Star Trek. If it went away then at least it’s last movie was a good one, unlike The Next Generation’s Nemesis, which is the third worst Star Trek movie.

  • Jon David

    What I found truly ironic about both films is that Star Trek is mostly known for being about ideas and plots and Star Wars is mostly a character-driven. That’s one of the biggest differences between science fiction and science fantasy. Yet here, Star Trek Beyond was very much character driven and they kept the techno-babble to a minimum, a refreshing change. All characters had moments to shine and played an important role in the story. No one person knew everything or could do everything. It’s the best Star Trek film since First Contact though I wasn’t really impressed with the motivations of the villain. Revenge…yet again.

    BUT one thing I found to be absolute: Jaylah is a much better character. Hands down.