Kylo Ren is a fascinating character who serves as a counter to Luke Skywalker.
One of the great performances in The Force Awakens was Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren / Ben Solo. He is a conflicted and half-baked villain who is faced with several key choices through the course of the film. He’s moody (in a similar fashion to Anakin) and determined (as we’ve come to expect in Leia).
What’s also interesting about him is that we don’t get a sense of his personal talents. We don’t know if he’s a great pilot (he’s never flying). We don’t see him as being great with mechanical objects. We only see his determination to be powerful in the dark side. This seems, however, to be a limitation just as Rey’s (very Skywalker-like) talents are a strength.
Perhaps the most interesting element to Kylo Ren is his stark contrast to Luke Skywalker. Luke, in the original trilogy, was on a hero’s journey. In many ways, Kylo Ren is on a villain’s journey. The Force Awakens shows this vividly:
- Luke refused to Kill Vader as it would lead him to the dark side (though Yoda and Obi-wan told him he needed to kill him in order to become a true Jedi). Kylo felt he *needed* to kill his father – as Snoke wanted him to – in order to reach his potential in the dark side (and receive further training from Snoke).
- Luke (kinda) tried to kill himself rather than join Vader on Bespin, in spite of the revelation of his parentage. Ren when conflicted about returning home killed Han in an effort to show his strength in the dark side.
- Ren “pray’s” to Vader for strength as he feels the light side pulling him. Luke calls out to Obiwan after learning of Vader’s identity “Ben, why didn’t you tell me.”
These are very critical character elements for Kylo Ren and it sets him up for something really big in Episode VIII.
Kylo Ren’s character in TFA raises some other thoughts and questions:
He seems more powerful with his helmet on than off. I could just be reading into this – it may be for a practical reason like it’s hard to ‘act’ with a helmet on. But we only see him conflicted, scared, or indecisive when his helmet is off (save for him ‘praying’ to Vader’s mask). What’s more interesting (from a speculation stand-point) is that he keeps his helmet in a pile of ashes (on Starkiller Base) that for some reason seems to be Vader’s ashes. Do Vader’s ashes permeate his mask and influence him? It’s a tantalizing speculation.
It’s unclear what Kylo Ren’s motivations are. He wants to kill off the Jedi and be as powerful as Vader. But for what? What does he want after that? He doesn’t (presumably) have kids he’s afraid to lose. Is he afraid of becoming like his father? Fat chance of that – he’s got a good job and the respect of his co-workers. Not sure why murder is required for that. Is it just a thirst for power? Does he want to rule the galaxy? Did he just want to kill his father? Well that’s done. Not what? That was one of the issues with Vader that never quite made sense for me. After he found out Padme was dead and (presumably) his kids, why did he stay with The Emperor? Why didn’t he go into hiding? Was he just committed to his public service (that included murder)?
Also, I understand why Leia and Han want to bring him back to the light, but… he did kill a bunch of people – presumably the new Jedi (though they never said specifically in the film), but he did kill Lor San Tekka and those villagers. What was going to happen if he said “yeah, I’ll come home.” Was he just going to walk around like nothing happened? No trial? Jail time? He’s already gone too far to be defensible. Not sure how that works in this universe.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how Kylo Ren turns out in Episode VIII. There’s many elements that can be built upon in TFA and I hope it’s epic.