Of all the polarizing aspects of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, most divisive of all might be Adam Driver's villainous Kylo Ren. He spends a solid two-thirds of The Force Awakens shrouded in a Darth Vader-like helmet, and when he finally removes the mask, Daisy Ridley's expression mirrors the expression of audiences everywhere. This is our evil counterpoint to talented protagonist Rey? This boyish figure is the heir to Darth Vader, a man so menacing that he never took off his helmet? To my mind, that's exactly the point — it would be redundant to just rehash Anakin Skywalker's story two generations later, and Kylo Ren is a far more human villain (petulant, prone to tantrums, childish, albeit a child armed with a deadly weapon). But I am just one fan, and other fan reactions to Kylo Ren show that we haven't yet reached a unified theory of Ren.
Over the weekend, "Kylo Ren" was the most-visited page on Wookieepedia, Wikia's English-language Star Wars hub. Fans took to Twitter to express adulation or outrage, and the playfully satirical Emo Kylo Ren pokes fun at the supervillain's occasional immaturity. Writers on Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and our own Bustle have analyzed the best theories out there right now, from his origins to where he'll go next. Here are just a few of the best responses to Kylo Ren on the Internet right now.
1. Some People Think Kylo Ren Might Not Be As Evil As He Appears
One fan took to Tumblr to explain (in all-caps) what Buzzfeed has touted as the "perfect" theory for how Kylo Ren turned to evil. Basically, he hasn't: He's committed himself to the dark side in order to help the light take it down. He's finishing what his grandfather Vader began but ultimately succumbed to. Honestly, there's nothing this theory doesn't account for and it really is fairly brilliant. It also casts Ren as the Snape of the Star Wars universe, and there is nothing wrong with that.
2. Others Think He's Not Evil Enough
The Vatican's newspaper has already criticized The Force Awakens villains Kylo Ren and Snoke for not being nearly villainous enough. "Darth Vader and above all the Emperor Palpatine were two of the most efficient villains in that genre of American cinema," L'Osservatore Romano wrote, according to The Guardian. Kylo Ren and Snoke pale in comparison to their original trilogy forbears, the Vatican paper argues.
3. And Still Others Think He's Just The Villain We Deserve
David Betancourt of the Washington Post compared Ren to Hamlet and wrote, of the big reveal when he takes off his mask, "Kylo Ren has given us arguably the most heartbreaking Star Wars moment." Tortured expression revealing his inner turmoil and the interior battle between the forces of dark and light, Kylo Ren will go on to (spoiler!) kill his own father. He's almost the anti-Vader, a villain who ultimately finds the light in order to not kill his own son.
4. Some Fans Were Just Distracted By Adam Driver's Face
My screening last Thursday night was far from the only one populated with fans who let out a chuckle when Kylo Ren finally unmasks. Twitter reactions following the release have ranged from worship of Adam Driver's face to incredulity that this pallid, clean-shaven dude was the most menacing figure in the Star Wars universe.
5. While Others Just Took Note Of His Lightsaber
Kylo Ren's cross-guarded lightsaber, which, as the rumors go, he made himself, attracted a lot of attention leading up to the release of The Force Awakens, and it's continued to prompt reactions and theories about its origins. Disneyland displayed the lightsaber over the summer and included a plaque alongside the presentation that read, "Kylo Ren's unusual lightsaber is an ancient design, although the one he carries is a recent construction. The crossguard blades, or quillons, are raw power vented from the primary central blade." The explanation legitimizes Ren's weapon, which had drawn criticism over the summer (including from Ewan McGregor, young Obi-Wan Kenobi, who spoke to MTV at the Sundance Film Festival). So Twitter responses have primarily praise the revolutionary design, referencing the weapon's heightened menace.
The creators of The Force Awakens had to balance the sheer weight of fan expectations with the more universal expectations of plot and character unity and plausibility. So it would be near-impossible for them to create a villain that spawns consensus — audiences never reached agreement regarding the original series, either. Some continue to worship the prequels as canon, while others (perhaps rightfully?) lament the direction that the series took in its Hayden Christensen days. The volume of responses to Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, even if they're dispersed over a variety of theories and approval levels, indicate that audiences are still listening to what Star Wars is saying.
Images: Walt Disney Studios, Giphy (5)