What Makes Kylo Ren Great in Star Wars
A New Generation & New Villain
In 1977, America needed Darth Vader—a cold killing machine, and a character that would go on to define pop culture and cinema forever. In 2015, Star Wars needed something new. It needed Kylo Ren. The Star Wars franchise is filled with memorable villains - Characters like Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett and of course Darth Vader. So why did the world biggest franchise need something new? When I listed the memorable villains in this rich franchise, did you notice something? None of the names listed are villains from the prequel films. That's because, villains like Count Dooku, are just character copies of Darth Vader. When J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over, they knew that it was time to bring something new to the table. When it came to making the new antagonist for Star Wars, both men ended up creating was not just a new villain, but arguably the most complex and conflicted character in cinema. (Spoilers Ahead!)
Seperating From the Pack.
In today's Hollywood blockbuster the villains are introduced to do one thing, cause conflict for the protagonist of the story. Some villains blow up buildings, some want become rich, and others want to take power or take over the world. Most antagonist don't get the elaborate backstory or development that the protagonist has, because the antagonist is a writers tool to drive tension. That's where Kylo Ren breaks the mold, as he is introduced with a surprising amount of inner turmoil. Yes, Darth Vader also ends up having a lot of conflict in him, but It took three films for Vader start having his own character complications. Lawrence Kasdan knew that Kylo Ren would never live up to Vader's legacy as a character, so instead of trying to do so, he made chasing Vader's legacy as a cornerstone of his character.
A New Vader
What drives Kylo Ren as a character and sets up his fascinating arc, is his own insecurities about life. Kylo Ren is unable to let go of his past and that weight takes a toll on him emotionally. The struggles of Kylo Ren are shown throughout in Episode 7: The Force Awakens. We learn that Ben Solo, Kylo Ren's birth name, is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Fearing the darkness that was in, Han and Leia sent the young Ben Solo to his uncle, Luke Skywalker, to be trained to become a Jedi. Ben Solo feels that his parents don't trust him and that he can't live up to their legacy. We learn that in Episode 8: The Last Jedi, Luke also begins to fear the dark side growing in Ben. Luke, in a moment of weakness, thinks about taking his nephews life which leads to Ben Solo betraying him and fully embracing the dark side. This act again makes Ben Solo feel untrusted and he turns his focus to a new teacher, Snoke, as he takes on his new name, Kylo Ren. Along with embracing the darkness within him, Kylo Ren becomes obsessed with his grandfather, Darth Vader, and dreams to become as strong has he was. This goal becomes so extreme, maybe even religious, that he starts talking to the burnt mask of Vader. (Video Above.) However, in the scene where he talks to Darth Vader’s burned helmet, Kylo Ren mentions that while he has picked the dark side of the Force, that he still feels "the pull to the light." Along with his previous fears, Kylo now fears that he will never live up to be as powerful as Darth Vader. Ultimately this is proven to be right, as he his defeated and consistently fails in The Force Awakens.
Throughout the both Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Kylo wavers between controlled evil and emotional instability. He shows the audience that he can be as cold hearted as his grandfather as Kylo can give orders that ultimately leads to destruction and death. What is unique however, is that Kylo also shows that he is prone to fits of violent rage when things don’t go his way (Video Below.) This volatility allows the viewers to see that Kylo is both a monster and a man, someone who hides his fears behind a mask and isn't as mature as we thought. He is pretending to be something he is not on the outside. He’s a vulnerable kid who doesn’t know where to put his energy, but when he puts his mask on, suddenly, he’s playing a role.
The removal of Kylo Ren’s mask in The Force Awakens lets the audience see the conflict he feels before he takes the life of his own father, Han Solo. Kylo wishes to rid feeling of "the light" so badly that he is even willing to try and kill the pieces of his own past in order to walk even further down the dark path. This action however brings the opposite emotion for Kylo Ren, who know feels an even stronger connection to the light side of the force. It’s this kind of personal strife that makes Kylo Ren so interesting, especially when it’s a villain who has an intimate connection to our hero.
Connection With Rey
One of the most intriguing things about Kylo Ren is his relationship with the protagonist of the story, Rey. Throughout The Last Jedi, we see the two develop a deep relationship with one another. Both Kylo and Rey are trying to find their place in this large galaxy, a sense of belonging. Director Johnson boldest move is in his framing of the relationship between hero and villain. Light years apart for much of the movie, Rey and Kylo Ren communicate through the force itself. In one of these scenes, through the miracle of the Force, these two lonely and conflicted figures touch hands. This relationship continues to develop to a point where Kylo even begs Rey to let the past die and to join him to make something new. It's ironic because killing the past is the one thing Kylo can't seem to do. It will be interesting to see the role Rey will play in Kylo's arc in the third film of this trilogy.
Kylo Ren is the character I never knew I wanted. I think what makes Kylo Ren such a special character, is that we are rooting for the Ben Solo that is still in him. We all really want to see him turn this story around but that his angry and actions have made him to far gone. I also think we all carry a bit of Kylo within us, because we can relate. I truly believe that we all have days that we feel like a disappointment, and wish we could burn our past down and start all over. Kylo Ren is the character I care about the most in this new trilogy, and it will be exciting to see how it all ends.