Daisy Ridley Gives Powerful Performance, Catalyzes New Legacy For ‘Star Wars’ And Beyond

Daisy Ridley was the beautiful centerpiece of The Force Awakens. For Director J.J. Abrams, having Daisy Ridley was critical to making this all work.

Never for a moment did her wonderful performance leave room for any doubts about the new cast. Ridley was impressive and on par with a young Luke Skywalker. As Episode VII plays out, she incites inspiration and creates questions, paving the way to answers that will need new Star Wars films to resolve.

Daisy is a 23-year-old native of London who graduated from the Tring Park Theatre School in 2010. She’s now on her way to a career of epic Harrison Ford proportions. Ridley’s career began only in 2013 with a few TV and short film appearances. Work on Star Wars: Episode VIII has already begun. That next film should propel her even further. Casting directors across England are probably beating themselves up for not putting young Ridley in bigger roles earlier.

This new Star Wars movie shines on many levels, but without a strong younger cast to pass on the legacy, this just wouldn’t work. But with tenacity, strength, and subtle acting sensibilities, Ridley completes the hand-off. Ridley is all the difference here, and holds the energy, charisma, and idealism of a much younger Luke, Leia, and Han all at once, confirming what they established and transporting it swiftly towards the next journey.

While J.J. Abrams carries the hopes of Star Wars fans everywhere on his cinematic back, he directs a mostly capable cast. It’s definitely possible the cast that The Force Awakens presents will have their time to prove themselves as the new Star Wars adventures unfold. Despite Ridley and her awesome output, this movie does have its deficiencies. But it’s not something you can glean unless you painstakingly compare it to the original trilogy. What the original trilogy brought to the table, this film continues, but not in a totally new, totally fresh way. It leans on the side of caution.

What is new is refreshing. What is old is like connective tissue. Stormtroopers are more sinister. The new evil, the First Order, is illustrated more outright. Innocence and righteousness shine even brighter. But as the New Yorker discusses, this movie definitely wears familiar clothes, in both a good and bad way. J.J. Abrams strikes a better balance between old and new than George Lucas could do at this point, but it definitely leans towards the old, perhaps to compensate for past prequel failings.

A huge question coming out of this film is how things got to this point. Looking at how Return of the Jedi ended and how this one begins, episodes of critical importance have played out in the meantime. Wouldn’t the good in the galaxy have prepared for and prevented a second intergalactic dictator from rising? Either this will become clear later on, or fans will have to guess at the most logical reason.

As the Washington Post describes, stalwart fans can breathe again. J.J. Abrams didn’t ruin Star Wars. He did one better and added a major protagonist in Ridley. More discerning movie critics, ones less concerned with Star Wars lore, may have less positive things to say. But not all of them want to go and bring down everyone’s celebratory mood.

Though this was by no means a perfect movie, it does what no one thought could happen after seeing the prequels. It doesn’t take a whole lot of chances with the plot, but with Daisy Ridley, they’ve shown people the future face of cinema and left previously distraught faithful fans with new hope.

[Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney]