One of my main issues with TLJ is Rey’s character. She doesn’t actually go through any training, nor does the movie focus on her personal journey / inner struggles. Most of her time she spends just trying to get through to Luke and Kylo. Thus we are left at the end with a pretty bland protagonist heading in to the THIRD MOVIE, which is a shame because it feels like such a wasted opportunity for what could have been a really cool character.
Abrams didn’t do much better with her in TFA, but the first 10 minutes or so where she is introduced on Jakku - I thought that was a great introduction for the character. In fact, for me that’s really the only section in any of the Disney SW movies that feels like “Star Wars.” It features really solid, visual storytelling and we learn a lot about Rey in just a few short minutes. (John Williams’ theme here adds a lot as well).
The blue elephant in the room here is ROTJ. In ANH and TESB, the Force was basically space-yoga. It was something that anyone with the correct discipline/attitude etc could learn and perfect - the only caveat being that it was really difficult. It was implied that Luke might follow in his old man’s footsteps and have an aptitude for it, but that’s no crazier than potentially being a great footballer 'cos your Dad was. There was also nothing to suggest that Obi Wan and Yoda had plans for Luke. Obi was in retirement and Yoda seemed to have quit the Jedi business entirely.
ROTJ threw this all out the window by making Luke and Leia a potential threat by birthright alone (necessitated by making Leia the ‘other’ despite no previous Jedi connections whatsoever) and creating that ‘hidden from the Emperor’ nonsense. So now these abilities were inherited. Suddenly Leia was all cosmically aware (“he wasn’t, I can feel it”) purely because she was a Skywalker.
The prequels confirmed that it’s strictly genetic. Now it was all down to your midichlorian count, and Anakin happened to be loaded with these things. This accounted for his reflexes, his premonitions - plus it turned out that he was created entirely from midichlorians to fulfil a Jedi prophecy.
Don’t get me wrong - I like that TLJ tried to return the Force to its roots as just an energy field used by space-Yogis. But it’s too late because Rey exhibits exactly the kind of exaggerated powers implied by ROTJ and the prequels - inherited abilities that belong to a chosen few even in the complete absence of Jedi intervention. The best defence for her Mary Sue-ness in TFA was post-ROTJ logic - you don’t have to live in space-Tibet and meditate for 6 months to hone these powers because you can automatically have a genetic predisposition.
Which is why everyone thought she was a ‘Kenobi’ or a ‘Skywalker’ or even a ‘Palpatine’. It’s annoying (to a fan like me who hates this notion of inherited Jedi-ness) but it follows logically from what’s been established.
But Rey gets to have her cake and eat it too, because she’s a nobody. She’s an everyman/woman like Luke was in ANH with the Force as a ‘mere’ energy field, but she has prequel-level powers. This in turn trivialises the Force because, if it’s no longer genetic, then it simply must be infinitely more accessible than the first films implied.
Conclusion? TLJ is silly, but ROTJ screwed things up in the first place!