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Rey (Dark Side Vision)

SWIX: The Rise of Skywalker
by yo go re

Imagine there were such a thing as professional tee-ball, and that you were on a team. When it's your turn at bat, you hit a triple, bringing in the runners and setting your team up to win the pennant. The ball is teed up perfectly; the next batter steps up to the plate, winds back... and manages to crack himself square in the nuts, throw up, and fall over face-first into an anthill. Anyway, let's review a Rise of Skywalker toy. With spoilers.

While searching for the Sith wayfinder, Rey envisions her turn to the dark side. Wielding a double-bladed lightsaber, her rage and immense power is frightening.

Shouldn't that be "are"? Her rage and immense power are frightening? Rage and immense power are two separate things, not one. Much like JJ Abrams' script for Episode IX ham-handedly crammed in every idea he'd had for eight and nine, which is why the aforementioned search for the Sith wayfinder involved going to one planet to get a knife, a second planet to get a translation of the text on the knife, then going to a third planet to finally get the wayfinder to lead them to the fourth planet they actually needed to go to. At least when Rebels did this plot first, Zeb only had to combine a weapon he already had with a staff someone else already had, and then they went on instinct from there. And they weren't even Force sensitive! Needlessly complicating something doesn't mean you didn't steal it, JJ. You want a streamlined version? The Emperor forces Kylo Ren to leave his half of the shattered kyber crystal on Exegol, Rey has to use her half to guide herself there. Boom, done. In one step. And it ties in with the existing story, something JJ apparently forgot he was supposed to do.

You do get the feeling that, before the story was cobbled together in the editing bay, "Dark Rey" was supposed to be a much bigger part than it was: in the final film, it was only a few seconds, the equivalent of Bilbo freaking right the hell out when he sees the One Ring again in Rivendell. She's even got the same pointy teeth! Though this toy doesn't. In fact, it doesn't have anything - not the sharp teeth, not the hollow cheeks, not the red Sith eyes, nothing. It's just a plain Rey in new clothes.

The clothes are nice, admittedly. Rey has always been one to dress simply, so even in her imagination/view of a potential future, she's keeping it low-key. There was a lot of fan art of Darth Rey (it wasn't exactly a huge leap in logic to assume she was headed that way), but most of it put her in some kind of fetish gear, because as we know, only evil people dress sexy, and we nerds aren't always the most imaginative sort. What we actually get is a simple black robe with a horizontal weave. She wears normal black pants beneath it, and a hooded cape over top. The skirt part of the robe is PVC with slits all the way up the side, in the hopes that it wouldn't block the legs. Though the cape is softgoods, the hood is sculpted, and it's glued directly to the shoulders, so the head has to move inside it, not together.

Rey has balljoints at the top and bottom of the neck, swivel/hinges in the shoulder, elbows, and wrists, a balljointed chest and hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. The dress absolutely limits the legs, but there's no way around that unless you're going to make the entire thing cloth (as we've seen before). So they should have made the whole thing out of cloth, because even if she only appears in, like, 13 frames in the released film, she still does more than stand around boringly.

Her only accessory is her lightsaber, which in her Force vision is a red, double-bladed wepaon that folds in the middle like a butterfly knife or switchblade. Or a flip phone. Darth Nokia. That's an interesting idea, and the toy retains that functionality, but why only come with that and not the dang Sith wayfinder her whole scene revolved around? The thing that looks exactly like a Sith Holocron, an accessory we've never had before and would be really cool to get? Normally we'd say that she didn't include such a thing because the script wasn't finalized until the last minute and Hasbro didn't know it would be involved in the scene, but the movie came out over a year before this toy did, so that explanation doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Someone once described The Rise of Skywalker as "the 9/11 of movies," in that whether you liked Last Jedi or not, it brought everyone together in hating this. It's not the worst thing we could have gotten (the embarrassing Alan Dean Foster spec treatment, for instance, has [rightly] been called "tragically bad," and Colin Trevorrow's script wasn't significantly better than what we got, but at least didn't ignore everything that happened in Ep.8), but there are tons of missed opportunities. For instance: imagine if, after Rey accidentally exploded Chewbacca, Kylo had revealed more of her backstory, telling her she'd done the same thing to her parents - Episode 7 showed her crying and reaching out to their departing ship, so what if she'd subconsciously used the Force the same way back then? It would have explained why she blocked her own powers for years after, and it would have given Kylo another opportunity to say "look, you're just like me, join the First Order." Even in the movie as it is, she keeps doing things that are pretty Dark side - savagely beating her combat droid, Force-throwing Finn away, coldly stabbing Kylo in the gut when he's clearly not trying at all to hurt her - but every time, she's over it by the next scene and it's never brought up again. Even when she hides on Ahch-To because she feels a little bad, Luke just ghosts in to say "nah, it's fine, you're okay," and she accepts it. Let the woman face some internal struggle, JJ! Imagine if Rey was still carrying all that baggage when she went to face Grampa Darth Scenery-Chewer, the way Luke was carrying his when he did the same thing. Watching the climax of Return of the Jedi, you worry that Luke might fall the rest of the way to the Dark side, like has been hinted all movie long; watching Rise of the Skywalker, you worry that the good guys might not blow up the magic spaceships fast enough, like has been hinted for the last 30 seconds.

So in a streamlined movie, Rey still spends a lot of the story acting dark, then uses her kyber shard to guide herself to Exegol without telling anyone else how to get there. Facing Palpatine alone, she gets turned, like this toy shows. The cavalry arrives in the form of Ben Solo, who used Force Healing to temporarily hold himself together, and the Resistance, who got the map off D-O. Ben dies teaching her the thing Anakin never learned: that becoming a Sith isn't a one-way street, that she can still choose a better path, handily mirroring the fact that she already taught him that worthiness is about you, not about your family legacy (yes, I personally hate the Rey Palpatine thing, because it's a stupid as hell idea that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how storytelling works, and this is my dumb fanwankery, so I'll take it out if I want to). She then kills Sidious by herself, striking him down not in anger, like he wanted, but out of compassion for her friends and a desire to protect them - in other words, she wins not by destroying what she hates, but by saving what she loves. (Sound familiar?) There are other changes that would need to be made, but the film would have weight, would flow better, and it would make Dark Rey into an actual character instead of one more wasted opportunity in a frothing sea of them.

-- 03/21/21

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