Lately I've been seeing a lot of criticism of TFA with people asking the question of why, without any formal training, are Rey and Finn able to hold their own in Lightsaber duels. It seems to be such an issue that they see Rey as some sort of cartoon, that she couldn't possibly be able to beat Kylo Ren and therefore the entire plot of the movie is ruined.
I think there is a disconnect between people who grew up with the prequels and those who grew up with the OT. There seems to be this idea among some people that you need extensive Lightsaber training to even look at one, let alone use one in a fight, and I think that misconception lays largely with our younger friends. I do not mean that as a criticism, and I'm not saying that people who grew up with the OT are better or smarter, far from it. I just wonder if the extended universe and some of the peripheral media has given people the wrong idea of what the Force is. Either way, Rey's use of a Lightsaber without formal training is definitely in line with what we know about the Force, and I'll explain why.
Training to use the Force is mind over matter first, it is about controlling your feelings, focusing, accepting the Force as your guide, and learning to feel the energy of the Force that surrounds you. That connection to the Force is where a Jedi's power comes from. The dark side is a more seductive path because strong emotions - anger, fear, hatred, etc., can help you feel a connection to the Force by focusing on something tangible and real, making it easier for an untrained mind to gain power. A Jedi's training is difficult because it focuses largely on the intangible and unseen, and some may not understand those concepts without practice.
So what is a Lightsaber duel? It is dangerous for one. One wrong movement and you are beaten, possibly even maimed or killed. It seems to me that duels rely a lot on instinct and reflex, almost like you must feel the Force and allow it to guide you to make the right movements. Training with a Lightsaber can help you with reflex, can make you physically stronger and more adept, can help you focus in situations where your mind may be elsewhere, but what's really important is your connection to the Force. Allowing the Force to guide you, to be your ally, will give you a certain kind of strength, a power necessary to defeat your opponent. You do not need to have ever picked up a Lightsaber to feel a connection to the Force, and that connection is more important than any amount of training, physical strength, or experience. And while those things are important (General Grievous for instance), they will fail against a person with a strong connection to the Force.
So this leads me first to Finn. There's some criticism of him being able to hold his own against a Force user in a Lightsaber duel and that he shouldn't even know how to use one (even if he does have some melee training). Put simply, he sucks at using a Lightsaber. He loses twice, badly, and is nearly killed both times. He is not established at any point in the movie to have a strong connection to the Force (except for possibly when he hears screams during the attack on the Hosnian system), and loses because he is not using the Force as his ally during those fights.
We have seen other fights, including in the prequels, where the fighters ability to connect with the Force is compromised. Luke can't beat Darth Vader the first time because he doubts the power of the Force. Anakin loses to Count Dooku the first time because he is arrogant, he thinks his natural talent and training will be his path to victory. Darth Vader loses to Luke Skywalker in ROTJ because he is conflicted, the dark side has failed him and he is unable to focus as a result. Qui-Gon loses to Darth Maul because, and I have to make an assumption here, he is not as focused in a fight as someone like a Darth Maul, or Mace Windu, would be. Qui-Gon's strength is more ethereal, his power comes from centering himself and meditation, traits that don't necessarily translate well to a lightning quick Lightsaber duel, and he is killed because of it.
Which leads me back to Finn, and specifically his fight with Kylo Ren. Do any of the things listed above sound familiar? We have a Force user who has been physically and emotionally wounded, who is quickly losing his ability to control his mind and is most likely losing his connection to the Force. It's no wonder that Finn was able to get a shot in on him.
And Rey, a person who until only recently began testing her powers, is unable to match Ren until she focuses and let's the Force flow through her. Ren is not any stronger than he was against Finn, a guy who literally couldn't use a Lightsaber to save his life, and he is now facing off against another Force user whose connection to the Force, in that moment, is stronger than his. She does not need years of experience or training to feel the Force or to accept it as her guide. All of the training that Luke receives in the OT is based on letting go of your feelings, all of the doubts and distractions that cloud your mind, and focusing on the energy that surrounds and binds everything. Obi-Wan and Yoda's lessons aren't on proper Lightsaber technique or all the various Lightsaber forms, and Luke's strength doesn't come from his Lightsaber, it comes from his connection to the Force. Doesn't all of this sound a hell of lot like what Rey does during that duel?
To sum up, Rey is able to beat Ren because she has a stronger connection to the Force - which is okay considering that Lightsaber training is not as important as actually being able to use the Force to begin with.
1) Kylo Ren was hurt..badly
2) At the beginning of the movie we see that she has decent melee skills with a staff
3) she was running away from Kylo Ren clumsily most of the fight until she was cornered . It's not like she completely owned him. She just finally took a moment to focus like she did when she told 007 to let her free.
4) Kylo Ren was not as powerful as we first perceived, too much emotion and unfinished training.
4 more than anything. I see so many people whining about how he isn't a good villain, and I think they are missing the point. He wasn't supposed to be a grand master, he wasn't supposed to be the new Vader (no matter how much he wants to be), hell, I'm not 100% sure he was supposed to be 30+, and got the impression from my own viewings that his age was closer to mid twenties, at most.
When we do see him use his power, sure, it gives the illusion of power, but that bluster is part of the dark side's strength. On Jakku, on the Star Destroyer, up until the very end he is only using his powers on people who are either afraid, defenseless, his subordinates, or some combination of those qualities. That fear is what allows him to dominate them to such a degree, but once he's fighting someone who is at least unafraid enough to stand up to him, the whole thing crumbles.
In my mind, part of the point of his character is that he is too emotional, too immature, too arrogant, yet full of doubt to truly fill the shoes he is trying to, and that was just continually underlined for me in the last scene.
I get really mad when people say that Adam Driver was a bad villain because he's a poor actor. He's playing a confused, conflicted, socially awkward/outcast young man. He played it perfectly. If you felt he was weird and creepy in the movie, then you felt exactly what they wanted you to feel!
I thought he was an excellent choice for the role, and I can't wait to see how he does in the next films.
I have to admit, I was a little cautious about him when I first learned he was playing the villain. I did not like him in Girls, but after two seasons of that, I hated everyone on it, so maybe I was biased against him.
But he was great as Ren. I would have preferred a more menacing approach to the villain, but what the film gave us was pretty good. He probably has the most room to grow of any of the new characters. I'm curious if Disney will pull a Zuko with him, which I'd be okay with.