I was born in the late eighties, over a decade after the release of the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope. As a result, I arrived totally late to the hype party. The first Star Wars movie released in my lifetime was The Phantom Menace, and while I was kind of intrigued by it, it was… well, it was Phantom freaking Menace.
When it comes to legendary space-tacular franchises, is Jar Jar Binks the first impression you want to give? No. Fortunately, my parents stepped in to right this horrible wrong; I was introduced to the original trilogy (the original originals, not episodes 1-3, if you follow). And so my faith in the series was restored.
That’s the story of my Star Wars fandom, and my lifelong support for Luke Skywalker. The sheltered farmboy’s rise to the hero of the Rebellion is the stuff of legend, and the series captured my young imagination like none other.
As I say, though, that was decades ago. Children today are being captivated by a new generation of incredible stories, such as the Harry Potter series. The new Star Wars trilogy that began with The Force Awakens has a new story to tell. It also has a new frontwoman, of course, in Rey.
What makes her different to Luke? Is this just a rehashing of past successes? Not at all; Rey brings all sorts of things to the party. Let’s check out 25 things she can do that the great Luke Skywalker never could.
25 Piloting The Greatest Hunk Of Junk In The Galaxy
Now, nobody’s disputing Luke’s abilities as a pilot. Let’s not go crazy here. After all, his talents are unquestioned. He had a humble start, true enough; wanging harmless wildlife between the eyes with a laser isn’t the most auspicious start. It’s like beating your kid brother in a fight by kicking him in the man-plums, then declaring yourself a UFC champion. But by the end of A New Hope, after he’d pulled that exhaust port trick, he’d been declared one of the Rebellion’s greatest pilots.
For Rey, no such character development was needed. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat, as the meme goes. She was straight in there and away, pulling all kinds of stunts. She even got Han’s approval to pilot the Millennium Falcon.
24 Insta-Mastery Of Complex Jedi Mind Tricks
Jedi mind tricks are a complex business. In the movies, comics and video games, these abilities are shown to manifest in all kinds of different ways. In a similar fashion to the Doctor’s TARDIS in Doctor Who, we’re shown only a fraction of what those in command of the Force are able to do.
Don’t get me wrong here. Convincing the Stormtroopers that these aren’t the droids they’re looking for, just by waving your Alec Guinness hand Alec Guinnessly, is pretty darn neat. Immediately from that, I could see numerous practical applications of this talent.
On being imprisoned by Kylo Ren’s buddies, super early in her Jedi career, Rey busts out a complex mind trick. A long string of commands, which her Stormtrooper captor is powerless to resist. I didn’t see Luke rivaling that so early on.
23 She Can Keep Her Darn Yap Shut
As I’ve mention before, Luke Skywalker is one of my favorite movie characters. While I had no beef with Mark Hamill’s performance itself, the part that I liked most about this character was the fact that he was flawed. Pretty darn deeply flawed.
There’s been talk that Rey is a Mary Sue, as we’ve covered, but Luke is a long way from that. He was a whiny little dude, by all accounts, and entirely unsatisfied with his lot in life. Bustin’ those womp rats and screwing around on the farm wasn’t the life he’d picked out for himself, and he made darn sure that everyone knew it.
Luke wasn’t remotely endearing at first, to me, but the development of his character won me over. Rey, meanwhile, was in a similar situation in a lot of ways, she just didn’t whine about it.
22 Striking A Blow For Tough Ladies Everywhere
You’ll find a lot of wild and wacky things in science fiction. A futuristic police department able to ‘see’ crimes, apprehending the killers before they even commit the act? That’s a thing (Minority Report). Tiny dolls roaming a post-apocalyptic world, having been given the last sparks of their creator’s life? That’s also a thing (9). Just about anything goes around here.
Huge tentacle monsters from Neptune’s candy-coated ninetieth moon are all well and good, but where are our female protagonists? Alien forged brave new ground in this regard, with Ellen Ripley, but there haven’t been a great many others. Even Star Wars, an equal-opportunities employer where any freakish lumpen alien gets some limelight, hasn’t done quite enough in this regard.
Rey may be flawed, but she’s a strong and independent character who rises to the impossible challenge ahead of her.
21 Wield A Staff Like Freaking Donatello
Looking at our man Luke early in A New Hope, you can see that he’s about as green as the Hulk. Wearing a gigantic sickly-green suit. On his most envious of days. He was the kind of noob we all were when we first played Pokémon Red and Blue, busting out our Ember/Flamethrower/Fire Blast/Fly Charizards.
In short, a combat veteran this guy was not. Totally understandable, of course, but there it is. When he first handled that iconic Lightsaber, he was liable to lose his hand a couple movies too early. As for Rey? Granted, she’d never so much as touched a saber before either, but she was certainly lethal with that staff of hers right out of the gate. Her tough lifestyle made her a formidable melee fighter.
20 Understanding Freaking Droid
For newcomers to the franchise, Star Wars can seem a little heavy going. The timeline, the great range of freakish aliens, the sudden revelations about Luke’s parenthood… not to mention the sudden merciless deaths of characters who could well have been your favorites, with no effs given. It’s like freaking Game of Thrones around here.
Nevertheless, Star Wars does try to temper all of this darkness with a sense of humour. Early on, a lot of the comic relief comes from Droid duo C3PO and R2-D2, and Luke’s inability to understand what R2’s saying. Later, thanks to some fancy tech in his X-Wing, he’s able to understand the ‘bot to a degree, but other than that? It’s tough going.
Meanwhile, Rey can happily chat away with BB-8 like she’s known the little guy her whole life.
19 Actually Impress Han And Get Him On Board
Now, sure. I hear what you’re saying, I really do. This one’s a bit of a grey area. Did Han immediately like Luke on meeting him? Nope. Did he immediately like Rey, on meeting her? Well, no. But heck, that’s Han Solo for you. If you’re familiar with the whole ‘Han shot first’ controversy (that encounter with Greedo at Mos Eisley makes him look super, super bad depending on the edit you’re watching), you’ll know that there’s a case for him being a mild a-hole.
Nevertheless, I would argue that he seems more pro-Rey than pro-Luke, early in their respective meetings. That whole almost-getting-everyone-killed-by-releasing-the-Millenium-Falcon’s-deadly-cargo thing was unfortunate, but anyone can make mistakes. Soon, both Han and his furry-butted sidekick are firmly in the Rey fan club.
18 Mary Sue-ing To Infinity, And Beyond!
As sci-fi (or should that be syfy) fans will, a lot of thought has been put into the Rey vs Luke debate. Who would win? At which point in their timelines? The Empire Strikes Back Luke, or Return of the Jedi Luke? How much more powerful will Rey become as her story continues?
There’s no real answer to these questions. It’s all theoretical, hypothetical and nerd- rage-ical. One thing we can’t deny, however, is that Rey is presented as great at just about everything, right from the off. This has led to another debate: Is she a true Mary Sue?
This term refers to a character who is pretty well perfect, idealized; able to do just about everything without help or instruction. There’s an obvious lack of realism about a character like this, and some have disliked her because of it. But the debate goes on.
17 Make Some Cheesy Look Ma, No Hand(s) Joke
As anyone who’s seen the original Star Wars trilogy will tell you, our poor old buddy Luke has been through the mill. Right through. He’s lost his parents, lost his foster parents, been lumbered with C3PO, the most irritating golden-butt droid in the universe… it’s been a rough ride.
And that’s before you get to his incestuous lust for Leia. Or the time daddy just up and cut his motherfreaking arm off with a lightsaber. It wasn’t much of a fight, in the truest sense of the word, so it’s tough to tell which of these Jedi bested the other. In terms of who came out with a blood-leaking stump at the end of one of their limbs, though, I guess I’d give the edge to Vader. And, by extension, to Rey.
16 Avoid All Manner Of Hand-Related Controversy
So, there it was. During the climactic confrontation of The Empire Strikes Back, there were Luke and Vader, duking it out over the Cloud City’s central air shaft. Yoda had warned Luke’s dumb self not to go and confront Darth. As had Obi-Wan.
We all know how this story ends. The movie’s final scene is of Luke’s spangly new prosthetic hand. However (The Force Awakens spoilers ahead, if you still haven’t seen it), the first time Rey and Beardly Mullet Hermit Luke meet, he is pictured with an entirely different-looking hand. Is it just damaged from battle? Is it, in fact, a whole new model? This is almost as big a deal as Rey’s parentage in some Star Wars circles.
15 Even Understand Crazy Gibberish Wookie
Now, Droids are all well and good. Throughout the series, we’ve seen several other characters who could totally follow just what the hell their droids were bleeping and blooping at them. Or get the gist, at the very least. Rey’s not alone on that one, true enough. But Wookie? WOOKIE?
If we’re going to get pernickety about it, Wookies speak a couple of different languages. Xaczik is spoken on the Wartaki Islands, and Thykarann is a regional dialect of Kashyyyk. Generally, though, Shyriiwook is understood to be the language of the Wookies. Those hilarious howls and grunts are part of what makes Chewbacca another of the comic relief characters.
Very few are able to understand the Wookies’ own language, Han Solo being the obvious exception, and Leia after years of knowing Chewbacca. When we first meet Rey, she already has knowledge of Shyriiwook, which has got to be impressive.
14 Mentor Shmentor, She’s Just Fine On Her Own
Speaking of Rey’s childhood, upbringing and current lifestyle, that’s another crucial difference between these two protagonists. While both grew up without their parents, their paths through life were dramatically different.
Luke Skywalker never signed up for this whole Jedi business, but is thrust into the conflict with the Empire after they murder his aunt and uncle. He has only a brief time with mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, but the studly old dude with the beard that won’t quit gives him crucial instruction in the ways of the Force.
Precisely zero of which is given to Rey. As the Force slowly awakens within her (see what they did with the title of the movie there), she’s left to gradually try to come to terms with her abilities.
13 A Strong, Independent Woman Who Don’t Need No Man (Snaps Fingers In Z Formation)
Which is nothing new for her, naturally. When we first meet her, she’s a lonesome scavenger who calls the planet Jakku home. This barren, lawless wasteland of a planet (I won’t make a comedian-style jibe about anyplace in particular here, you feel free to insert your own here) is located somewhere down Satan’s clogged galactic U-bend, and is not the kind of place that an orphan should be trying to scrape a living.
But needs must, and here she is. Being the indomitable badass she is, Rey lives inside the burnt-out skeleton of an Imperial walker, and gets by primarily by scavenging items that may be of value. The planet was the setting for the Battle of Jakku between the Rebels and the Empire, you see, so there’s all manner of debris in the desert waiting to be found.
12 Come To The Dark Side, We Have Free Wi-Fi
Through the course of the series, the whole Dark and Light side of the Force thing is pretty cut and dried. Everyone likes a nice, heart-warming story of good triumphing over evil, and that’s what we’ve got here. With a couple of hiccups along the way, naturally.
For the most part, the lines between the sides are drawn pretty firmly. As with Harry Potter, though, there’s still a bit of a gray area. Much of Return of the Jedi focused around the moral battle between the two ideals, as the Emperor and Darth Vader try to turn Luke to the Dark side and he fights to redeem his father.
For her part, Rey mostly stays out of this push-and-pull of ideals. Dark side? Nuts to it.
11 Befriending A Stormtrooper
Great as it is to see a strong, independent female lead in the genre, I have to say that the character of Finn was the most interesting to me. Going into The Force Awakens, I was looking forward to seeing something of the human side of the Stormtroopers. These identikit, shiny-armored goons are often seen as faceless, merciless, robotic killers, and I enjoyed seeing someone who defied all of that.
Finn (FN-2187, as he’s officially known) isn’t some flowery, innocent hero. The sun doesn’t shine out from between his buttcheeks. He’s human and flawed, but he’s human. I totally dug this.
So, Mr. Skywalker. When was the last time you convinced a defecting Stormtrooper to join your merry band and fight the good fight? Never, that’s when.
10 No Daddy Issues (Well, Possibly Not)
I think this has been touched on in the past. You know, by EVERYONE EVER. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’m going to lay it out for you right now. I apologize if anyone’s world is forever turned on its darn head by this doozy of a revelation but… Darth Vader? He’s actually –get this—Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father!
That’s behind us now. Let’s scoop our jaws off the floor and move on with our lives. For Luke, this knowledge was the most mind-bending thing possible level. Not only was his papa a great wheezy-voiced a-hole, but there were all kinds of implications for Luke’s own abilities and destiny. The way his journey apes Anakin’s own is well documented by fans, and it’s enough to screw the guy all the way up.
9 Where Are All Of The Ladies At?
We’ve already spoken about the diminished roles that females tend to play in sci-fi. They tend to be love interests, bit-players, also-rans, and distressing damsels. Why was it such a great darn shock to learn that Samus was a woman, at the end of the original Metroid? We just weren’t used to that stuff.
In many ways, we still aren’t. This isn’t just a sci-fi thing, of course, look at action movies. Who do you generally have in the lead role? A hulking, swearing, ain’t got time to bleed dude like Arnold Schwarzenegger, that’s who.
Across all of Star Wars history, there have been female Jedi. Leia being the most obvious example. It’s a small and exclusive group, though, and it’s another element that brings Rey out of Luke’s shadow a little.
8 Accio Lightsaber!
Now, here’s yet another fancy trick that Rey seemed to just instinctively know. Remember in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the first task in the Triwizard Tournament? To get past the dragon and retrieve the golden egg, Harry realizes that he needs his broomstick to fly around the great lizard. He isn’t allowed to bring his broom with him, but magically summoning it to him via the Accio spell is totally cool with the judges.
Harry Potter and Star Wars, I hardly need to tell you, aren’t the same thing. However, whether you’re using magic or the Force, the principle is the same. In the confrontation with Kylo Ren, Rey is able to call the weapon to her, despite having about an hour’s worth of Force experience. This is something that Luke struggled with (retrieving the saber in the wampa cave) after years of training.
7 When Kylo Ren Tries To Mind Probe You, But You Aren’t About That Life
At this point, I’m not sure whether the Star Wars/Harry Potter parallels are easy to draw, or I’m just a huge nerdly fanboy of both (I am, by the way). I guess it doesn’t matter. Either way, here comes another.
Throughout the film, Kylo Ren is seen delving into the minds of various people, seeking information and memories that will be of use. In the Harry Potter world, this skill is called Legilimency, and Voldemort practices it often to see if people are lying to him. So he can butcher them horribly, of course, because he’s a massive a-hole.
Back here in Star Wars Town, this is an aspect of the Force that we haven’t really seen yet, an ability of Ren’s that could be very rare. Regardless, Rey is able to resist the mind probe, and even turn it back upon Kylo himself.
6 Give Her Nemesis A Darn Good Whuppin’
It’s hard to say whether Darth Vader was truly Luke’s enemy throughout the original trilogy. They did, of course, have opposite ideologies that divided them, and set them on course for a final confrontation (movie plots being what they are). We all know how that went, though, with Anakin’s redemption and all.
With that being the case, I guess you could say that Luke was robbed of a definitive one-on-one triumph over his enemy. Rey got her moment at the close of The Force Awakens. Sure, Kylo Ren was heavily injured at this point, but did you see how he just manhandled Finn, a veteran with years of combat training? The ex-Stormtrooper was cast aside, like an empty packet of embarrassing failure-flavored potato chips.
Rey stepped in, and the rest is history. She could have dealt a fatal blow, had she chosen to.
5 Engineer Extraordinaire
As we’ve seen throughout this piece, Rey might have had a super tough upbringing, but she certainly made the best of her sorry situation. Life on a barren desert planet hardened her, made her strong and resourceful out of pure necessity, but there’s much more to it than just that.
The planet being the site of a great battle between the forces of the Empire and the Rebels, there’s all manner of machinery lying around to be salvaged. Functioning bits and pieces raise more food portions from the local dealers, and so Rey spends much of her time tinkering with machinery and fixing things up. This is all the more impressive, with her being entirely self-taught, and is a step above Luke in that regard.
4 Screw Up The Plan In Spectacular, Hilarious Fashion
Now, we’ve heard a lot about Rey’s talents. How they arose seemingly out of no-damn-where, through the magic of plot armor, loosely explained away by some BS about her upbringing and life experiences… something of that nature. From this, some critics have seen her as an unrealistic character. She’s just too damn good at everything.
If you have an older sibling like this, you’ll know just what an issue this can be. Let’s not get it twisted, though. She’s certainly not perfect. When he screws up, she screws up super big. That mistake with the fuses on the Millennium Falcon released the Rathtars, which could have devoured all of our heroes. That’s the kind of faux pas that leaves you with a movie about twenty minutes long.
3 Trophies? We Don’t Need Any Stinking Trophies
Some people relish fame, fortune, and attention in general. Take a quick scroll down your Facebook timeline, and you’ll see about fifty of these people straight off. The compulsive selfie-takers, the 'here’s a photo of my lunch-ers,' the OMG can’t believe-that-just-happened-ers (who give us no details of what actually happened, naturally)… that’s social media in a nutshell.
Some people are just in it for the glory. For the spangly medal that you get for saving the world (all of the worlds). What did Rey get? A consoling hug from Leia, that’s what she got. That’s more than enough for some of us. Just doing the right thing and moving on, that’s what it’s all about. I can see her being a great Doctor Who-type figure, myself.
2 Destroy The Much-More-Awesome-Sounding Starkiller Base
Some would tell you that the Death Star was a great, hulking, Godzilla-wearing-exploding-underpants fearsome weapon. They’d tell you that it was the most powerful weapon ever conceived up to the time of A New Hope, and Luke’s destruction of it was an incredible feat. No guidance system, a two-metre area, an impossible task. But he did it.
Sadly, these people are all filthy liars. Death Star? Come on. Death Stars are so 1977. My grandma could destroy a Death Star, and she sleeps 23.5 hours a day. Starkiller Bases are where it’s at these days. They’re the Empire’s new favorite toy, the hot Christmas gift this year. If you’re not getting your Starkiller Base on, you’re just not cool. Along with Poe, Finn and the rest of her squad, Rey took this fearsome beast of a base down.
1 The Sorts Of Things Eminem Wrote ‘The Way I Am’ About
And here we are, at the final thing Rey can do that Luke Skywalker never can. I’m going to keep it simple here, and just go ahead with: she can actually fly under the freaking radar every now and then.
Luke’s fame, his accomplishments, his significance, the notoriety of his father… he can never get away from these things. Sure, you can pretend; hiding away on the lonesome planet and growing a pretty impressive hobo beard and mullet, but your own legend is going to catch up with you eventually.
This is, as I say, the press and groupie-hounding that Eminem spoke about in The Way I Am, and it’ll always be with him. I don’t think this can ever affect Rey to the same extent. After all, as it stands, she only has the one name, like Madonna.