Before we continue, this will contain spoilers...so I must warn those unfortunate souls unable, as yet, to enjoy the splendors of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens. Avert your eyes now and read not beyond the Kylo Ren you see below for your own good......
Now that we've sufficiently protected the unfortunate, let's thoroughly chew the fat here.
For all intents and purposes Rey is the Luke Skywalker of this film and the new trilogy going forward. She's an orphaned inhabitant of a desert planet. She is of mysterious parentage, strong willed and she soon discovers her force sensitivity in the midst of a spontaneous adventure thrust upon her by the sudden appearance in her life of a droid on a mission of particular importance; blah, blah, blah. What is truly fascinating is that 'The Force Awakens' presents us with two characters that display remarkable similarities with the person of Luke Skywalker. Rey, as mentioned, is the obvious choice. She is the film's lead and is also the one character to whom the force calls through contact with Luke and Anakin's lightsaber. The other is not so obvious, but all the more fascinating...Ben Solo a.k.a. Kylo Ren.
One might counter by arguing that Ren is the clear choice as this trilogy's Darth Vader, which, on the surface, is a point to which there should be no disagreement. Superficially speaking Kylo Ren is Darth Vader. He so desperately wants to be as all can plainly see. He basically worships his grandfather for crying out loud.
Anyway, Kylo is the primary villain of this film and the trilogy going forward, with Snoke as his Palpatine there to linger ginormously in the shadows. That being said, one would hope that he will ultimately be offered an opportunity at redemption, much like his grandfather was. The notion that redemption was possible in spite of Anakin's sins is at the core of Luke's triumph over the Emperor's temptations to the Dark side; a line that Luke himself spent much of that film coming very close to crossing.
One's proximity to that line as well as upon which side one resides is our point of interest here. It is the place where Kylo Ren comes in as Luke's mirror image and to properly parcel this argument, a step or two needs taking back. Mark Hamill's performance as Luke Skywalker in 'Return Of The Jedi' is fascinating for so many reasons, but for the sake of current discourse, a few points about that performance and the character in general need making.
Unlike the previous two installments, Luke is patient, calm and measured in his demeanor. He remains as confident as he ever was, but gone is the youthful petulance, whining and head strong impatience.
Luke is not shy about using the Force in ways one might consider dark. He Force chokes Gamorrean guards to gain entrance to Jabba's Palace. He goes so far as to essentially threaten Jabba with murder if he doesn't hand over his friends. He struggles to control his anger as the Emperor tortures him with the plight of his friends. He even attempts to cut down the Emperor, an evil man to be sure, but one whom by his own admission is unarmed. It's troubling stuff.
The Emperor also senses that Luke is perilously close to succumbing to the dark side, even "foreseeing" it as he tells Vader in the lead up to the Battle of Endor; predicting that Luke would seek him out in the near future.
Killing his father is ultimately the final act and event that would turn Luke to the dark side, as the Emperor states and intends things to be, manipulating the situation to place a younger and potentially even more powerful apprentice at his disposal.
Let's just proclaim for a second, shout it from the rooftops if we must, that Adam Driver's performance as Ben Solo a.k.a. Kylo Ren is breath taking to behold, brilliant and perhaps awe inspiring for its depth. Along with Daisy Ridley, Driver's performance was captivating throughout the "The Force Awakens" and to think that we must wait until May of 2017 to soak up more of their acting chops is a painful thought to say the least. That gleeful declaration aside, Driver's performance ultimately belies a glaringly reminiscent quality to that of ROTJ's Luke Skywalker, but in the polar opposite fashion.
Kylo is erratic, dare we say unhinged, quick to anger and he has little to no patience whatsoever. One can easily imagine this being the end result for the impatient, petulant Luke we see in training on Dagobah had he given in to his anger, fear and aggression.
Kylo himself admits his temptations back to the light side in a scene that has a truly bizarre similarity to confessional as he "confesses" his struggles with the light to the severed head and legendary mask of his departed grandfather Darth Vader. He expresses it further in describing his feelings to his father Han before he unceremoniously murders him. Kylo describes a "pain" that he can't deal with, a struggle inside that is "tearing [him] apart".
Much as Emperor Palpatine senses Luke's proximity to the line dividing the dark and light sides of the force and his potential conversion to the dark side, we see in Supreme Commander Snoke's first appearance that he senses Kylo's proximity to that same line and his potential conversion back to the light. We see this in his response to General Hux's questions as to Kylo's questionable motives as well as actions and from what he describes as his own "sense" of the situation.
We see Snoke insinuate in that very same scene that by killing his father Han, Kylo will complete his path to the dark side, alleviating himself of his struggles with the light and that it is Snoke's implicit will he should do so. This, again, is an insinuation rather than a deliberate statement, but the subtext, the context of the statement, "Even you have never faced such a test," is difficult to miss.
Of particular note are the moments leading up to and the ultimate decision of both characters when presented with the opportunity to kill their respective fathers. In both cases, interestingly enough, there is a last moment of contemplation before the final decision to act one way or the other. Luke pauses, examining his own scarred cybernetic hand in comparison with his father's; a moment in which he sees himself in his father and vice versa, both the light and the dark. It is a moment of empathy, beautifully cast in the visual film language of editing using the hand to hand comparison alongside Hamill's contemplative performance. It is an empathy which one forever lost to the dark side could not experience, which is why he ultimately refuses to kill his father, defying the Emperor and embracing the light all in the same breath. In Kylo's case, there exists a similar moment. He is desperately searching his feelings in the moment, handing his lightsaber to his father, expressing his "pain", the struggle "tearing [him] apart", even asking Han, "Will you help me?'. It is a moment wherein lies the same contemplative choice, but one that turns in the opposite direction and we see it in Kylo's tightening of his grip on the hilt of his lightsaber back from his father as Han desperately searches his son's eyes for a sign that Ben is still in there despite that Kylo declares him dead. And then Kylo kills him, defying the light side's calls for his return and fully embracing the darkness. It is the polar opposite coarse from Luke's final decision in every possible way. But nonetheless, we are meant to see the parallels between the two. This begs the question of where things go from here and I have to admit that I'm giddy at the prospects.
Honestly though...I have no idea.
But there ought to be one more point made to cinch up this examination of the parallel, yet polar opposite space these character's occupy in "Return Of The Jedi" and "The Force Awakens." It has been published in numerous media outlets that Kathleen Kennedy lured an initially skittish J.J. Abrams by posing the question, "Who is Luke Skywalker?"
“He said, ‘Oh my God, I just got the chills. I’m in,’” Kennedy was quoted as saying in Entertainment Weekly.
That is staggering in its implications. For if we take "The Force Awakens" at face value, Luke is all but entirely missing. He is on screen for little more than forty seconds to a minute and a half and much of the film is spent in desperate search of him. Why would Abrams' defining call to direct this film with all of the perils and challenges of resurrecting a dormant franchise and overcoming the ever so present stench of the Prequel Trilogy seem so strangely absent?
When all is brought back to the comparisons made here, parallel yet polar opposite, it would seem that Kylo's arc and his relationship to his former Master, Luke Skywalker, will be of much greater depth and relevance to the new trilogy's arc and the overall arc of the nine part Skywalker saga as a whole than a simple cursory relationship between a Master and his former apprentice. When all is said and done, Adam Driver's Performance in "The Force Awakens" as well as going forward and the subtle, yet supremely nuanced nature of who Kylo Ren is as a character are qualities as relevant to who we ultimately see Luke Skywalker to be as Mark Hamill's performances past, present and future.