Disney’s much-hyped Star Wars: Forces of Destiny web series began this week. It’s a series of short (very short) stories that fill in the gaps of the Star Wars films and animated series.
Each episode stars one of the women of Star Wars. As previously reported, many of them are voiced by their original actresses. In fact, the first one just came out, and it stars none other than Daisy Ridley. She’s reprising her role as Rey, the mysterious Force-sensitive star of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Lupita Nyong’o also delivers a few lines to set the scene. Presumably as Maz Kanata, but really as an unnamed narrator.
Sadly, Ridley’s performance just isn’t very good. The animation is less than 3 minutes long. In that time, her voice fluctuates in volume from very loud to very quiet, and a couple of lines are delivered with an entirely different emotional tone than the surrounding dialog. You can practically hear her shifting around in front of the mic.
It all sounds phoned in, and it might have been. Plenty of voice actors record from home and then send in the files. In a project like this, where there is less than a minute of speech to deliver and no interaction with other characters, it’s entirely likely Ridley was asked to simply speak into a computer mic from her living room or the set of her current filming project.
As for the episode itself, there’s not much to it. It takes place just after Rey discovers BB-8 in the Jakku desert. They’re making their way back to town when a giant sand creature tries to eat them. It’s very Star Wars, and the 2D Flash-style animation fits the format well. Even if it does look kind of like Metalocalypse. We get a little bit of action and a couple of visual gags involving the droid, and it’s not bad.
What we don’t get is much character development. The director of these shorts intends them to flesh out the female characters by giving them moments to shine away from the big story events. Instead, what we get is Rey and BB-8 running away for 90 seconds. There is a nice bit of foreshadowing at the end when Rey uses her Force abilities without realizing what she’s done. And the piece ends with a half-hearted moment of empathy, as Rey tosses some food back to the beast after they escape.
That moment doesn’t really work. Rey in the movie never showed herself to be any sort of animal lover, and Jedi are more known for chopping off limbs than showing mercy to their enemies.
The next Star Wars: Forces of Destiny short should show up on YouTube next week. The remaining episodes include Jyn Erso (Rogue One), Ahsoka Tano (Clone Wars, Rebels) and Princess Leia (the original trilogy). Here’s hoping the series picks up steam and does justice to these great characters.