[Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) has a big challenge ahead of it. With the iconic original trilogy to live up to, and the critically panned prequels to redeem, a lot of fan hopes are riding on Star Wars 7. Ultimately the film's success doesn't hinge on flashy special effects and nostalgia alone: rather, it hinges on the characters and plot that must be engaging and exciting. We're already seeing the new characters start to make an impact on pop culture, and none stand out more than Kylo Ren.
JJ Abrams' answer to the iconic Darth Vader, Ren is set to take up the role of the main antagonist of the film (though in true Star Wars fashion, there's a bigger villain pulling the strings). But can Kylo Ren really surpass Vader in his villainous appeal? New revelations from Adam Driver hint that actually, Kylo Ren might just be more interesting than Anakin Skywalker...
Motivation & Morality
Now don't get me wrong: no-one could really hope to take Darth Vader's place as one of the greatest movie villains of all time. But as a person Anakin Skywalker did not have the best characterisation. This is the fault of the prequel trilogy, which should have established Anakin as the big damn hero that Ben Kenobi waxes lyrical about in [Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope](tag:3531492).
Instead, we got Hayden Christensen's awkward portrayal that veered between the dull and the melodramatic, and a plot which made Anakin out to be an annoying jerk at best and an irredeemable child killer at worst. He's impulsive and open to manipulation, which admittedly works well for Palpatine corrupting Anakin but undermines the gravitas of Darth Vader, making it difficult to reconcile prequel Anakin with the ultimately redeemable original trilogy villain.
Kylo Ren, on the other hand, is all about fighting the good (bad) fight. As Adam Driver reveals, he completely and utterly believes in his mission, which only amps up his villain appeal.
"When they think of their actions as morally justified, it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There's no level they won't go to accomplish what they're after. I never thought of the character as an evil person."
Despite his apparent similarities to Vader, Kylo Ren's characterisation has exactly what Anakin lacked: drive and purpose. He honestly believes what he's doing is right.
Living Up To The Empire
Kylo Ren's morality is all the more terrifying in the context of this new TV trailer, which features Finn explaining why he betrayed his upbringing to defect from The First Order...
Finn's reasons for leaving The First Order will clearly be one of the driving forces of the plot, and if his words are anything to go by, the Order is definitely living up to the Empire in how awful they are...
"You don't know a thing about me, what I've seen... we all need to run."
But it's not just The First Order that has Finn scared: it's heavily implied that Finn leaves The First Order after witnessing Kylo Ren's torture of Poe Dameron, which we saw in trailer 3.
So what mission does Kylo Ren which he is willing to commit atrocities for? It's all very intriguing, and only increases Ren's villainous status. Of course, that's not to say he's totally irredeemable: in fact, Abrams' description of the character hints that later Star Wars films might see Kylo Ren's journey from a tragic backstory to a villain-turned-hero...
"There are two sides to the Force. Both sides see themselves as the hero of their story, and that applies here. Kylo Ren is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy: he's more complex than that."
Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, is also ready to sing Kylo Ren's praises.
"There’s never been a character quite like the one that Adam plays. I think you’re going to see something that’s brand new to the saga."
Kasdan also revealed that Kylo Ren's story is one of emotion, that the villain is just acting as best he can in his situation. This opens up plenty of possibilities for the character, either for his redemption or for the possibility that he might persuade one of the heroes to join his cause.
Ok, now I'm just speculating, but there's no denying that Kylo Ren will be on of Star Wars 7's most interesting characters, with his fierce dedication to an ominous cause, and a storyline that will no doubt surprise us. If he can't surpass Darth Vader in his villainous gravitas, he already seems far better characterised than the prequels' version of Anakin Skywalker. And honestly, this only bodes well for the success of The Force Awakens.
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