Star Wars: The Force Awakens was officially released last Friday, leading to a record shattering box office and introducing a new generation of characters to the beloved saga. In a recent interview, director J.J. Abrams took a moment to reflect on the series’ newest villain, Kylo Ren, sharing his insights on some of the most pressing questions fans still had after seeing the film.
By the end of The Force Awakens, Star Wars fans had been treated to a number of allusions regarding Kylo Ren’s past, specifically regarding his fall to the Dark Side. The film revealed that Ren isn’t yet a fully trained Sith, but dreams of following in the footsteps of Darth Vader. Pre-release marketing focused heavily on the fact that Kylo Ren was somewhat obsessed with Vader, with Abrams even directly mentioning that fact in an interview. In the film, we learned the reason behind his obsession: the fallen Sith lord was his grandfather.
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) December 19, 2015
Ren’s fixation on Vader is expressed in a variety of ways throughout the film, yet never does it seem that Kylo considers his grandfather’s eventual renunciation of the Dark Side at the hands of Luke Skywalker. In a recent interview with IGN, Abrams directly addressed this point, revealing that Kylo Ren draws a sharp distinction between the dual identities of his ancestor.
“Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker. He idolizes what Vader represents and what Vader was trying to do. And 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.”
Audiences were also given a front row seat to the conflict and pain that rage within Kylo Ren, revealed during a brilliant scene in which he confronts his father, Han Solo. One of the franchise’s most powerful and heart-wrenching moments, this scene does more than any other to hint at the events which caused the fall of Ben Solo and his eventual turn to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren.
In the same interview, Abrams sought to address exactly what it is in Kylo Ren that made him susceptible to the temptations of the Dark Side.
“An incredible power, an incredible force, and incredible potential that was, like many young people, sort of misguided and unclear. And the story for him is one of conflict, not just internal conflict but external conflict. And it’s what makes him a rather interesting villain.”
— TIME.com (@TIME) December 14, 2015
The Force Awakens never directly reveals why Kylo Ren fell to the Dark Side (though with two sequels already in the works, it remains only a matter of time before that story is told in its entirety), as Screenrant points out. What we are left with, however, is the knowledge that Supreme Leader Snoke, one of the most enigmatic characters in the film, was responsible for turning Ren away from the light, a fact known to his family (and possibly the reason behind Luke Skywalker’s as-yet-unexplained exile).
As The Force Awakens draws to a close, the heroes of the Star Wars universe are victorious, but the film also leaves Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Snoke all alive and well. The Supreme Leader orders Hux to bring Kylo Ren to him, so that Ren’s training might be “completed.” With a raft of questions still unanswered about his past (for instance, who are the other Knights of Ren that Abrams mentioned in pre-release interviews?), Star Wars fans have 18 months to eagerly anticipate and debate the return of Kylo Ren when Episode VIII bows in theaters.