Kylo Ren is the villain this time around, but there is more to him than what is made clear in The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren is J.J. Abrams new vision of villainy, and his backstory is complex.
If you haven’t yet seen The Force Awakens, you can consider this a spoiler. If you aren’t planning on seeing the film, already saw it, or simply don’t mind a spoiler or two, then please continue.
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Adam Driver stated that he doesn’t see the character he plays as a villain. Though Kylo Ren removes his helmet multiple times, his face is fresh, innocent, seemingly untouched by real evil. He leads the First Order and has brought terror back to the galaxy. Despite that, he still battles internally with his conscience. Even former stormtrooper Finn puts up quite a fight, and Rey almost destroys him on her first movie outing. As ComicBook.com reports, Kylo Ren isn’t yet the Darth Vader-type he makes himself out to be.
“Well I didn’t think of him as a villain. I guess when we were working on it, through J.J., kind of hearing what he had to say about him, tried to hopefully make him as human as possible. So that’s where I started, I guess where we started, as opposed to an end result we tried to think of how that person began.”
It seems Kylo Ren’s current mission, and the main storyline of this movie, is part of a training stage. When Darth Vader first came on the scene, he was already turned. He was also enormously powerful. It took Luke great effort to turn him back. Though Kylo Ren dons a ragged mask, he isn’t nearly as powerful, nor as far gone. Perhaps one reason Kylo Ren wears such a battered mask is because his appearance without it is far from menacing. He couldn’t scare a mouse with that face. Even while confronting his father, it’s hard to predict what comes next from a face that pristine. That’s why it’s such a shocking moment, and the climax of the movie. Driver further explains to USA Today what meaning could be hidden within the costume.
“The costume is powerful, but also, just getting it on is a lot of information. Why does that person feel the need to cover themselves or be concealed is also a lot of information.”
It’s a given that he, along with Rey, will undergo massive development. If this is only a training exercise for him on his way to the dark side, then it’s terrifying to predict what’s in store for him after his training is complete.
Though Kylo Ren doesn’t seem nearly as menacing as Darth Vader, his master, Supreme Leader Snoke, is absolutely terrifying compared to Darth Sidious. There’s a rumor in the Star Wars fan universe that Supreme Leader Snoke is actually Darth Sidious’s former master, the one he killed after he received his training. But that connection isn’t explicitly made in any Star Wars films. The upcoming episodes will clarify the relationship, if any.
Of course, this is a new type of role for 32-year-old Adam Driver, best known for his Girls character. As Driver develops his versatility as an actor, his depiction of Ren on film is sure to grow along with it.
Driver has some very big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the most recognizable bad guy in film history. But how his story will play out, and if Kylo Ren’s ultimate fate will resemble Darth Vader’s is sure to keep moviegoers coming out to see Star Wars for years.
[Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney]