Skip to main content

Why Veering Away From Chosen One Stories Is A Great Thing For Movies

Rey Star Wars The Last Jedi

If you spend enough time watching movies, you will eventually come across storylines involving heroes who rise from legend to fulfill a prophecy. This concept of the "Chosen One" is an popular narrative device, but recent years have shown increasing willingness to incorporate it into significant blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and even individual films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has worked for some films, but it has hindered countless more. However, 2017 provided us with several stories that either subverted or downright ignored the idea of the Chosen One, and they were all the better for it.

Arguably the most prominent example of this phenomenon is also one of the most recent. Many fans had an insane number of questions about Rey's parentage in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the film threw all of those theories of her as the Chosen One (echoing the arcs of Anakin and Luke Skywalker) out the window by telling us that she's nobody, and that the Force belongs to anyone who can harness it -- such as the Broom Kid at the end of the film. She's merely a Force-sensitive "nobody" who chooses to do the right thing based on her own set of principles and the values that she brings to the table. Like Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), Rey is the hero of the new Star Wars trilogy because she chooses to be, and for some fans that's a far more compelling and organic framework that lines up with the broader ethos of the franchise.

That said, 2017's willingness to break away from the Chosen One archetype was also significant in Blade Runner 2049. Not only did Denis Villeneuve's long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott's science-fiction touchstone provide a great plot twist by revealing that Ryan Gosling's Officer K was not the human/replicant hybrid that we had been led to believe, but it also struck a major emotional chord by showing us that the lack of anything special about him did not prevent him from becoming a hero and saving Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the film's final act.

Ryan Gosling Officer K Blade Runner 2049

Ultimately, that might be the most significant reason why the idea of the Chosen One needs to take a step back. While it's interesting to watch someone follow his or her destiny and achieve greatness (we don't expect it to go away altogether), the sheer number of movies that have been relying on the storytelling device has started to make it feel disingenuous. The mathematical likelihood of Officer K accidentally stumbling upon a mystery that leads to his reveal as the son of Deckard is staggeringly unlikely, and Blade Runner 2049 achieves greater thematic heights by embracing that fact. He wasn't born to be a hero and lead a revolution; he chose to become a hero and follow the hero's path.

Beyond that, we also need to address the fact that there are just other forms of storytelling out there for movies and filmmakers to take advantage of when creating stories. With so many films embracing the idea of a single person following the path set by fate, things have become predictable. If every movie is telling the same type of story, then the narrative dial isn't being pushed forward. New kinds of heroes won't rise to prominence if we rely on a popular storytelling model, so if we value originality, we need to learn to shift away from oversaturation of narrative devices that have historically worked.

Of course, at this point, we will just have to wait and see what the future holds for this particular storytelling device. The last year showed a notable willingness to steer clear of it with excellent results, but only time will tell if the many films set to debut in 2018 will do the same. For now, you can catch the latest example of Chosen One subversion in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is currently in theaters.

This poll is no longer available.

Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.