Why Kylo Ren is a Great Character: My Force Awakens Analysis

Wait, Kylo Ren? The whiny kid from the new movie? Well read on and find out.

 

Star Wars

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The franchise had been in something of a flux since ’83. The original three films are universally loved but it’s the expanded universe which split the fandom itself in a few ways. Some people love the books, some people hate them. Some people love the prequels, a lot of people hate them. Some people prefer “Clone Wars”, a much smaller audience prefer “Rebels”.(I love both) No matter what your preference is, Star Wars most likely means something to you.

The newest film “The Force Awakens” came out on December 18th so it’s been out a little over 2 months. This article will be full of the movie’s biggest spoilers and that’s why I’ve waited this long to write it.

If you’re still here…then let’s return to a galaxy far, far away.

Opening Line

 

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This will begin to make things right

7 words start off one of the best movies of 2015 and it’s one of the best opening lines of any film. Max Von Sydow plays Lor San Tekka who is the elder who says this line. He’s a classical actor and by all definition should have more screen time then just the first ten minutes, but I think the fact that he doesn’t is telling us something. How did he get this map? How do he and Kylo Ren know each other? Better yet, how does he know who he really is? His untimely death might not be the last we’ve seen of Lor San Tekka. I think he’s going to be a big character in flashbacks in Episode VIII.

This line works on so many different levels. It’s great for the characters to know that Luke is coming back and it’s a great line for those of us who knew that Star Wars could be good again. I like that Luke is basically a myth in this film, it’s such a cool dynamic to add to it. Farm-boy to Legendary Jedi Master.
Let’s go over the new characters.

Finn

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First up is Finn. Finn adds an incredible new part of the mythos to the film from his very first scene. We come to find out that Stormtroopers were taken from their families when they were young and raised to be killing machines. The only problem : They couldn’t remove that pesky soul and moral conscience which is really what moves the film forward. When Finn is involved in his first battle, his best friend dies in his arms and he loses it. He questions everything and doesn’t even fire his weapon at all throughout the battle. Afterwards he helps Poe escape and he turns his back on the First Order forever while joining up with Rey and BB-8 and finding the Resistance.

It’s a great story of redemption for Finn, he’s always viewed as the traitor or the deserter but that doesn’t matter because he’s meant for more and he does what’s right. Also he’s the first person to wield Luke’s old lightsaber and he’s not terrible with it…just not yet great either.

John Boyega plays him incredibly well and I look forward to seeing him in more things.

Poe Dameron

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Poe is probably my favorite new character from the film. He’s just a cool character because he’s one of the best pilots in the galaxy, he’s loyal to Leia and the Resistance and he believes in the force and Luke. He never backs down from the enemy, even when he’s been beaten. He’s just all around a great character. He’s also the new X-Wing pilot so I might be just a little bit biased. Oscar Isaac does a great job with this character and I’d love to get some more backstory for him in the next few films.

Rey

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Ah Rey, the new champion of the force. Rey is absolutely one of the best and most interesting characters in recent years. She’s our hero and it is well deserved. When we first meet Rey, she’s living on her own on Jakku and is providing for herself and is just being pretty awesome overall. She meets BB-8 and saves him from Teedo, the scavenger. She learns that BB-8 has very important information for the resistance and is focused on getting him to them and also going to the stars herself. They run into Finn and he says he’s with the Resistance which leads the two of them to run from the stormtroopers that are chasing Finn and leave Jakku. They run into Han and Chewbacca and go to ground someplace where they can hide for a while. This leads to a great scene that I will talk about a bit later in the article.

Rey gets captured and later on she has accepted her force powers and uses them to break free after learning who Kylo Ren is. She meets up with Finn and they have to stand there and watch as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo kills his father. It’s after this that Finn and Rey take Kylo on in a lightsaber duel. Finn gets knocked out but it’s when Rey uses the force to bring the lightsaber to her that is one of my favorite scenes of the film. Rey is very strong in the force and a lot of people have said “Well either Kylo sucks because he can be beaten by someone who just learned about the force or the screenwriters suck because we don’t understand enough about Rey” well let me explain : I’ve always looked at the force as something very spiritual and/or mental, physical prowess alone doesn’t do much for you. Rey has spent her entire life believing that she was left behind and forgotten, that she had to fend for herself and that she was basically a nobody, three things that can make you very strong in a mental state because she doesn’t use it as a crutch. Instead, now she has people that she cares about and she has something to fight for. Kylo Ren has been given everything his entire life. The son of Leia and Han would never want for anything and that led him to become arrogant and occasionally weak. He doesn’t have anyone to fight for but himself. This is where Rey can best him, she’s been raised to be strong and he’s been raised to be anything besides what he is at that point. It’s a great scene and a great finale to the film.

Rey is overall a very strong character which is what we need to see more of. I’m tired of boring weak characters that can’t make a good decision. We need more like Rey.

 

Phasma

 

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Captain Phasma is honestly the only part about this movie I was disappointed with. She’s hardly in it and you never get to see her in action. Hopefully we’ll get more in the sequel.

General Hux

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General Hux was great. He’s not in it a lot but he’s a great militaristic villain. He has a speech that basically makes him sound like a Nazi and if it wasn’t so intense it could’ve come off as a satire. Domhnall Gleeson does a great job with the role and I look forward to seeing more of him.

Snoke

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I thought Supreme Leader Snoke was handled well. He’s shrouded in mystery throughout the film but you get the sense from both Kylo Ren amd Hux that this is someone worth fearing. I’m looking forward to seeing more about him in the next two films.

Classic Characters

I thought that all of the classics were handled very well. No one was really hurting for Screen Time except for R2-D2 and Luke but both of those kind of made sense for the film.

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Obviously Han Solo gets the most screen time but seeing as it was his last outing, he deserved a good send off. I thought his death scene was handled very well particularly due to the lighting and the tension that Adam Driver and Harrison Ford bring to the screen. It was a good but heartbreaking finale for him.

Chewbacca will always be one of my favorite characters. He’s just a great character and yes, I teared up a bit when he screamed for Han. His rampage after that was rather terrifying to watch.

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Leia’s still awesome as she always has been. One of the few complaints I have about the movie is not knowing a lot about The First Order and The Resistance besides that one is the remnants of the Empire and the other is what was built by the New Republic to stop them. Presumably when they were building their new military they could only think of one person who could lead it. Leia’s strong and not willing to back down. Losing her son and her husband will definitely affect her in the next film, I’m just interested to see how.

My Favorite Scene/Flashbacks

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One of the shining parts of the entire film is basically everything that happens on Takodona(The Forest Planet) from Maz’s castle basically being the new cantina to the epic war featuring my personal favorite part : The X-Wings! In the middle of all of that though, we see Rey’s calling to the force for the first time. She goes down to this room in the castle and finds this chest, inside is the lightsaber that was wielded by Luke and Anakin Skywalker. When she touches it, she is flooded with visuals. We see young Rey being left on Jakku. We see the Cloud City corridor and hear Vader’s breathing. We see a robotic hand -that we assume is Luke’s- touching R2-D2. We hear voiceovers from Yoda and both of the actors who played Obi-Wan Kenobi. We see the Knights of Ren slaughter a group of people and then we see a vision of Rey and Kylo’s final fight in the snow. This is something new. Something that hasn’t really been seen in Star Wars as a full on dream sequence. That’s what makes it so cool.

Maz finds Rey after she drops the Lightsaber and Rey is obviously terrified. Maz tells her that the force and the saber is calling to her. She also tells her that whoever she is waiting for on Jakku isn’t coming back. Rey runs off but she later accepts the call and she definitely doesn’t run when she gets the lightsaber and goes up against Kylo Ren. It’s just an overall great sequence that builds on a lot and lays a lot of groundwork for the rest of the trilogy.

Kylo Ren

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Now, The final part of this analysis. What do we know about Kylo Ren? Honestly not as much as we’d like but more than you might think. Let’s look at it like this:

  • Son of Han and Leia.
  • Trained with a lightsaber.
  • Strong in the force.
  • Built his own powerful lightsaber.
  • Wants to follow in Darth Vader’s footsteps.

Now, when we first see Kylo Ren he is a menacing force to be reckoned with. He kills Lor San Tekka and then uses a force power that we’ve never actually seen by stopping a blaster bolt in mid-air. Later we see him use the force to interrogate Poe and it looks like he’s using a power that is very similar to Telepathy. So within 20 minutes of the film he’s already used two abilities that we haven’t seen before so clearly he’s very powerful.

He’s devoted to the idea of hunting down Luke and ending the Jedi and The Resistance. The only thing is that we see at multiple different points that he is tempted by the Light side of the force.

He takes orders from Supreme Leader Snoke, who we know next to nothing about but he has clearly heavily influenced Kylo.

Now, here is what I don’t understand : This is a world that loves complex characters.(Check out my first article if you don’t believe that) But for some reason Kylo Ren gets a lot of hate. They think he’s just whiny and that he isn’t that powerful but let’s really take a look here.

Everything about him is ruled by someone else. Everything. As ScreenRant has already pointed out(#5 on Marc N. Kleinhenz’ List of 10 best Force Awakens Scenes) he doesn’t get to reveal his own origin. Instead it is taken from him by Lor San Tekka, Snoke, Rey, Leia and Han.

  • Tekka hints at his lineage,
  • Snoke reveals his father,
  • Leia reveals a small part of his origin,
  • Rey gets him to take off his mask and Han reveals his name.

What’s the first comparison that everyone has for Kylo? Darth Vader. Who tells you anything consequential about Darth Vader in the original trilogy? No one. Obi-Wan talks a little bit about him and Yoda just admits that he was telling the truth in Cloud City. Vader is the one who reveals his connection to Luke and Vader is the one who tells Luke to take his mask off. You might be thinking that I consider this a problem with Episode VII’s script, quite the contrary though, I think it’s brilliant. Through these reveals we get more of Kylo Ren but there’s also a subtext that he is never in control of his own fate…except for one scene. Yes, The infamous bridge scene. No one tells Kylo to go looking for Han, in fact no one even knows that Han and the Others are there yet he just knows that they are and he goes to find them. It’s all been leading to this one moment of Father and Son. Ben Solo/Kylo Ren is split right down the middle in this story, so much so that if his story had been told in any other series than Star Wars then the bridge scene could’ve had a 50/50 chance on the way it played out. Everyone in the film roots against him and the one time we see him take an action of his own merit then we root against him.

Now don’t get this twisted, I’m not saying I sympathize with Kylo Ren and if you’re just angry at him for killing Han then I totally understand. The only thing I want to clear up is that he is actually one of the best written, new characters in the last few years. He’s conflicted, he makes terrible choices that he can’t come back from and most importantly : J.J. Abrams wrote him to be an analogy for annoying fanboys, the people who pick apart a film and say what’s wrong instead of just enjoying it. My Brother worded it the best when he said “A great Villain is someone who reflects what is wrong with our society.”

So yeah, you might be complaining about Kylo Ren because he reminds you of someone…

But what about that final scene? That final fight where he gets owned by Rey. Well I have an answer there too.

Forgive me because I can’t remember who first wrote/posted about the Bowcaster damage but If they are reading this then I happily give you credit for this.

The entire film has shown us that the Bowcaster can do a lot of damage, it’s sent multiple people flying and when Kylo Ren gets hit with it he just takes a knee. Just like “Oh you know, another day, another third degree blaster burn” Seriously, did no one notice that he was limping the entire fight? That he’s hitting his chest to keep his blood flowing so that he won’t freeze to death with an open wound? He’s incredibly physically wounded when he takes on Finn and Rey but then we have the Mental and Emotional state as well.

He’s just killed his father and has made the final action that he can’t come back from. Have you ever made a major life changing decision? You’re not really yourself afterwards. Kylo Ren is no different. So Emotionally, he’s done.

Then we have the mental state. You ever worked at a place for a long time and you know it inside and out and then someone new comes in and they complain about something and you realize that you’ve moved past that? That’s the entire point of that fight at the end. Kylo Ren has been given everything, the son of Han and Leia has wanted for nothing and because of it he feels entitled. Rey has fought for everything and that makes her stronger. She understands the value of everything, instead of the other one who just destroys countless computers and interrogation chairs. Maintenance crews for the The First Order have to have their work cut out for them. So mentally, he’s done again.

So Kylo Ren has three major things working against him in that fight and people are still wondering how he could lose? I guess we just watched a different film. They go out of their way to make sure you know that he isn’t Darth Vader, cause that’s the whole point. Kylo’s a bit of a weaker character when we leave him but he’ll be fully trained before the end of the next film. Speaking of which…

Overall/The Future.

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Look, I’m incredibly biased in my love of Star Wars but I also know a good script and and a bad script. Force Awakens was phenomenal and they cared so much about doing a good job that their love for it pours out in every scene. Star Wars can be fun, emotional and intelligent and that’s what this film does.

On one hand, I’m upset that we’re losing Abrams and Kasdan but Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow are going to do a great job on VIII and IX. The next film is going to do something that we’ve never seen. Show us the trainings of the dark side. We’ve read in the books and comics but we’ve never seen it in the films or the shows. Kylo Ren is returning to snoke to finish his training and Rey has gone to Luke to receive her training. We’re gonna see two of these characters become full fledged warriors of the force in the next one and I can’t wait for it cause the rematch is going to be insane.

I know you’re probably wondering who I think Rey’s parents are. My personal hope is that they are literally no one. It’d make her much more interesting to be someone who is no one and doesn’t come from any certain bloodline. The only problem is that they point heavily towards two possibilities in this film. I subscribe to the Obi-Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter theory personally but that’s only because I think Luke might be too obvious. There’s always a possibility of either but as long as they handle the reveal well, then I’m perfectly fine with whoever it is.

Overall, I absolutely loved this film. It was my favorite film of 2015 and it definitely deserves a second viewing from you.

-Vance

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