The Untapped Potential of Kylo Ren

I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a kid growing up watching the original trilogy on VHS back in the 80s and then watching the prequels on screen as a teenager, I was excited when I heard of three more Star Wars movies, albeit a little worried as well. After some issues with the prequels, I didn’t want to get overly excited only to be disappointed in the end. Happily, The Force Awakens did not disappoint. That being said, I’m taking to my keyboard to take a look at some of the various aspects of The Force Awakens from a literary and storytelling perspective in a series of posts. This does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want it to be ruined, then bookmark this and read it later. You’ve been warned.

I'm a big fan of the new cast of this Star Wars trilogy. Rey, Finn, Poe, even Kylo Ren, provide some fresh new takes on character archetypes used in the earlier trilogies. They bring some new life into a storyline that parallels the earlier movies.

Kylo Ren

Before we start jumping on the Emo Kylo Ren train, let’s take a look at his actual character and history and see there’s a little more to him than we may initially perceive. Kylo Ren, a.k.a. Ben Solo, son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. We’re told that his uncle Luke attempted to train him in the ways of the Jedi but failed. Ben then left, his father disappeared into smuggling again, and his mother buried herself in government work. Essentially, the guy who raised him in his formative teenage years has been pushing him to the Dark Side for years. No wonder Kylo Ren has no self control. He hasn’t had a parent. If you’ve ever been around a teenager who hasn’t had a parent who disciplinedthem in some way, you know what I’m talking about. Besides, the Dark Side is all about giving into emotions. Ren’s outbursts are no different from Darth Vader Force choking a guy because he came out of hyperspace too close to Hoth. Ren’s fits lines right up with an emotionally immature teen with an incredible power that he doesn’t fully understand. Let’s face it, he’s a Skywalker. They’re known for being a whiny bunch.

Ren is completely obssessed with Darth Vader, something that many die-hard Star Wars fans are guilty of, myself included. The big question is, what does Red actually mean when he says he will finish what Vader started? Is he talking about actual Darth Vader, twisted by the Dark Side and trying to rule the entire galaxy? Or is it the Anakin Skywalker who is trying to bring balance to the Force, which I’m still having trouble understanding in the context of the prequels with the Jedi have the advantage. Maybe Vader didn’t really kill the Emperor, and Ren is trying to finish that. Who knows? Regardless, Ren has some agenda related to Darth Vader that I can’t say for certain is destruction.

Ren's obsession with Vader causes him to don a helmet and mask even though it isn't necessary. We expect to see a grossly disfigured face when he removes his helmet, but instead we find the normal-looking face of a human adolescent. He is, however, scarred by the end of the movie. Vader's helmet, which keeps him alive, shows a man who has lost his humanity but is able to regain it by the end of his life. Perhaps in contrast, Ren's helmet is not just an homage to his obsession but also shows him loses his humanity.

One of my favorite attributes of Ren, though, is the raw power that he appears to have. His light saber, probably crudely built from an ancient blueprint, has incredible yet unstable power. A fitting symbol for Ren himself. Ren’s use of the Force ups the game from previous films. Instead of simply persuading the minds of the weak, Ren is able to penetrate into the mind of even a strong-willed person to coerce them. And then there’s the blaster fire. He stops a bolt from a blaster rifle. Stops it. Completely. Darth Vader only deflected shots fired at him, but Ren suspends the bolt in midair. It’s incredible. He appears to be the vessel of incredible Force power. The only question is, will be learn to control it, or will he end up being destroyed by it?

Also, did we all miss the major change that Kylo Ren’s character reveals about the Force? How many times in previous Star Wars films have we heard that once you start down the Dark Side, it will forever control your destiny? In the previous films, you make one decision to let the Dark Side in, and you’re Dark Side for life. Yet, Kylo Ren, who has already been established as a Dark Side character, is struggling with being seduced by the Light Side.

Wait. What?

So there’s more to it all than we thought. It’s not a one time decision; it’s a constant decision. We get hints of this at the end of Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader tosses the Emperor down another super deep pit. Light and Dark are not clear cut in this galaxy.

All in all, Kylo Ren could easily become one of the most complex characters in the Star Wars saga. I don’t know that it’s fair to jump all over his character based on this one movie. Everything depends on where his character goes in future movies.