Star Wars: The Force Awakens was finally unleashed into the galaxy, turning one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year into one of the most widely seen movies of the year. The Force Awakens had a lot to live up to, but one of the major challenges the Star Wars sequel faced was whether or not it could create a villain to rival that of the original trilogy, Darth Vader. Enter Kylo Ren, a tall, intimidating and masked man who, along with the less interesting General Hux, was introduced as the new villain of the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens . Ever since details of Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) were first teased, fans have been clamoring to know more about this new mysterious villain. When his crossguard lightsaber was revealed and his mask was shown, viewers went crazy. And when we heard the raspy, modulated quality of his voice, we were done for. The parallels between Kylo Ren and Darth Vader are inescapable and purposeful, but one aspect of this new villain remained a mystery even as the final credits rolled: what does Kylo Ren really believe in?
Spoilers ahead! It is revealed in The Force Awakens that Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and General Leia, whose call to the Force was corrupted by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke when he was a boy training to be a Jedi with his uncle Luke Skywalker. (Yep, that really happened.) But what made the pull to the Dark Side so irresistible to the son of Star Wars' original heroes?
EW reported that at a press conference before The Force Awakens was released in theaters, Adam Driver said that his character was not just your average villain, but was "morally justified" in his actions. Driver noted that he, along with director J.J. Abrams, made an effort "not to think of him as being bad, or evil, or a villain. Something that was more three-dimensional." That said, watching The Force Awakens, I couldn't help but be confused as to how, exactly, Kylo Ren felt morally justified in what he was doing.
Based on his tense relationship with General Hux, it doesn't appear as if Kylo Ren has much stake in the politics of The First Order. Furthermore, his desire to remain hidden behind his mask suggests that he doesn't want to be the man in charge — he isn't looking to rule the galaxy as a power-hungry dictator. Kylo Ren's only identifiable desire in The Force Awakens is to uphold the legacy of his grandfather, Darth Vader, as evidenced by his confessions to Vader's mangled mask. Abrams confirmed that Ren's drive to the Dark Side originated from his desire to honor his grandfather, telling IGN,
"Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker. He idolizes what Vader represents and what Vader was trying to do. The idea that Vader didn't succeed, if you look at it from Ren's point of view, he was seduced by the enemy and failed because of that seduction. So the idea is that Ren wants to complete the thing that Vader started."
If Kylo Ren's strange sense of loyalty to Vader, or his self-identification with Vader, is his only motivation to be a soldier for the Dark Side, then wouldn't that make him less of a three-dimensional villain and more of a kid who hates his parents? Kylo Ren's story in The Force Awakens lends itself more to the interpretation that Ren is a petulant teenager, desperate to abandon his parentage. This is most evident in Ren's final transition to the Dark Side, when he kills his father, Han Solo. If renouncing his identity as Ben Solo is the true test of his allegiance, then doesn't it stand to reason that Kylo Ren's moral motivation for being evil is, to put it simply, that he doesn't like his parents?
To be fair to Kylo Ren, it doesn't feel like he is motivated solely by some misguided attempt at teenage rebellion. That might be what it looks like on the surface, but something tells me there's more to Kylo Ren than meets the eye. There is certainly more to the newest Star Wars villain than what was shown in The Force Awakens.
The decision to literally sever all ties with his family by killing Han Solo, coupled with the fact that the film ends with Snoke ominously declaring that the time has come to complete Ren's training, suggests that Kylo Ren's motivations might be further explored in Episode VIII . Hopefully his desires will expand outside of his complicated family dynamic, and his original pull to the Dark Side will be exposed as the franchise continues.
Given the enthusiastic response to Driver's instantly iconic villain, it would be a crime not to explore Kylo Ren's psychology further. And I, for one, cannot wait to get some answers as to what morality is really motivating Ren. Let the countdown to 2017 begin now.
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