Kylo Ren: A New Step in Star Wars Villainy
*SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS FOLLOW*
Darth Vader is the poster child for Hollywood villains. Since his introduction in A New Hope, he has become a massive staple in pop culture. Regardless of your feelings about Star Wars as a whole, you know his mechanical breathing and intimidating mask. He is the epitome of badass, and a master of the dark side. But it’s for those very reasons that I believe J.J. Abrams may have created a more complex and compelling villain than Darth Vader ever was.
Kylo Ren starts out as your typical movie villain. He shows off his impressive force powers, mercilessly cuts a man down with his special three pronged lightsaber, and has a whole village burned to the ground, all of this done from behind his mask and voice modulator (not unlike Vader himself). But not long after this we begin to see some breaks in his act. He receives bad news and his reaction is to wildly destroy the consoles in front of him with his lightsaber, not unlike a child throwing a temper tantrum. Later his master, Snoke, tells him that his transformation into a true dark lord will only be complete if he is able to kill his father, Han Solo. Ren tries to sound sure of being capable of this, but you can hear the uneasiness in his voice.
Throughout the film he shows a twisted devotion to the idea of Darth Vader. He models his outfit and mask after him, and even talks to Vader’s burned and twisted helmet as if it truly was the dark lord himself. When his mind is opened to Rey, she taunts him about his fear of never being as powerful as Darth Vader and you can visually see the rage and fear building up inside of him.
This complex pull between the light and dark are what I think makes Ren such a compelling character to watch. Vader was a jedi who was tricked into becoming a sith by Darth Sidious. Kylo Ren is a confused kid, whose feelings are being exploited by Snoke, even though he is constantly being pulled to the light. In A New Hope Darth Vader is just an enforcer for the Emperor, it isn’t until the end of The Empire Strikes back that he becomes a deeper villain. Kylo Ren is much more than that right from the start. He is a tortured soul on a dark path to become what he has always wanted to be, Darth Vader. But from the looks of it, he will become a villain that even Vader would bow to.