It’s hard to create memorable Star Wars villains.
Darth Vader is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most recognisable villains in modern mythology, as are the Stormtroopers. Everything about him is iconic; the suit, the demeanor, the breathing pattern. He is the definition of lightning in a bottle – you can’t ever create a villain like Vader again, or construct such a shocking twist as “I am your father.” However, that hasn’t stopped this franchise from trying. Darth Maul is somewhat famous due to his unique appearance, but his lack of any substantial role kinda diminishes the impact. Count Dooku is as memorable as sliced bread, and while General Grievous might be slightly cool at first, there isn’t anything overly exciting about him. How many kids do you see running around pretending to be Grievous? In comparison, how many do you see pretending to be Darth Vader?
That mimicking continues this Christmas with The Force Awakens and its chief villain, Kylo Ren. It’s been about nine months since we got our first look at him – well, his lightsaber – which set the interwebs ablaze. Since then we’ve learned a lot about our new franchise villain; he’ll be played by Adam Driver and is the leader of the First Order, a remnant of the Empire. He also wears a mask and is obsessed with Darth Vader, which is pretty much what you need when developing a replacement antagonist.
“The movie explains the origins of the [Kylo Ren’s] mask and where it’s from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask. Ren is well aware of what’s come before, and that’s very much a part of the story of the film.”
That comes from J.J. Abrams’ recent revealing sit-down with Entertainment Weekly, where Abrams lets slip quite a few intriguing details about Kylo Ren. However, it’s not concrete; we know stuff about him but we still don’t know who he is, where he’s from or why he’s doing what he’s doing. Fortunately, UTF is here to connect the dots, and we think that we might be getting warm.
First off – he’s dangerous, in case that wasn’t already apparent. That lightsaber of his was built by scratch all by himself, confirming that particular fan theory.
“The lightsaber is something that he built himself, and is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character.”
After Return of the Jedi, the Sith were basically extinct in the galaxy, so there likely weren’t an abundance of red lightsabers lying around. The fact that he went out of his way to build a lightsaber adds to that whole obsession thing going on, and it seems as if it extends beyond Darth Vader to the Sith in general. If he’s “well aware” of what came before then he’s definitely more than interested in that whole Empire fiasco.
For a long time in Star Wars it’s really been a battle between good and evil – the Jedi and the Sith. While the Prequels showed us that the Jedi weren’t actually all that great and created their own downfall, the Sith’s presentation on film so far has been “we’re evil and the Dark Side is evil” (except for Anakin, although he was just an evil general in A New Hope). It all comes back to power, greed, arrogance and a bunch of other negative qualities. I do love this franchise with all my heart, but if it wants to make a comeback in the 21st Century then it needs to progress past this and create more complex villains. Thank goodness Abrams has done that.
“As you see in the best of storytelling, and no doubt the best of Star Wars, these are tales in which an everyperson has to step up. And I think that what makes Ren so unique is that he isn’t as fully formed as when we meet a character such as Darth Vader. And I think that there are two sides to the Force. Both sides, arguably, would see themselves as the hero of their story, and I think that applies here.”
“He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy. He is a little bit more complex than that, and it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way.”
Basically, Kylo Ren isn’t evil. He’s aware of what came before, has modelled his entire look around Darth Vader, he has his mask, he built his own red lightsaber and he’s leading the First Order, but he isn’t doing all of that because “lolevil”. Clearly, he’s doing all of it because he believes they were the good guys. That might be even more terrifying than an actual Sith.
The most interesting part of the article, though?
Kylo Ren isn’t his real name.
“He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren.”
And the even-more-interesting-bit?
They might have spoiled who he really is.
Right now is where this article is gonna get into major, MAJOR spoilery speculation territory. If you don’t want to potentially know anything too big, then get out.
The Knights of Ren is a group that has been heavily rumoured to appear in the movie before, just under a different name. In the script leaks they’ve been referred to as “the Seven,” or maybe “the clan”. They could be two different groups but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were one and the same. As per Making Star Wars (which has almost been completely accurate when it comes to this movie), we see the knights in flashback-form first.
Somewhere in the second act, the heroes visit Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Maz Kanata, at a castle and they experience a blast from the past through her. Because all we’ve got is an out-of-context description it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but it shows Luke Skywalker at an “academy” surrounded by bodies. It then cuts to some kind of battle between the clan and the Seven (Knights of Ren, I’m assuming) in a village using Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, which plays a big part in the movie. Kylo Ren and Rey (the female lead) are seen in this flashback as well, with him approaching her, suggesting some kind of connection between the two characters. This may seem a little confusing, so I’ll break it down – well, try to.
- Maz Kanata is a small little Force-sensitive alien who Han Solo takes the heroes to see because she has valuable information.
- She shows the heroes a flashback to the Knights of Ren attacking a village; Luke’s lightsaber is there, as are Kylo Ren and Rey.
- Luke is surrounded by bodies at an “academy” and subsequently goes into hiding.
Aaaanndd here comes the speculation…
- Luke Skywalker set up a Jedi Academy but they were all murdered by Kylo/Knights of Ren.
- The Knights of Ren want Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.
- Kylo Ren and potentially Rey may have been students of Luke’s.
Either way, it seems that Kylo Ren has more of a connection to our heroes than we thought. Maybe it goes beyond a student/mentor relationship. Maybe it’s, I don’t know… a familial one?
There are many implications to this piece of Kylo Ren’s history. If he had a different name before aligning with these mysterious knights, maybe we’ve heard it before. Maybe we know… his parents?
Way, way back when Daisy Ridley was cast as Rey, people noted how similar she looked to Carrie Fisher and Natalie Portman.
Naturally, people started speculating that she is Han and Leia’s long-lost daughter in the movie. It makes sense that one of the new leads would be related to the old heroes and it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that the scruffy-lookin’ nerfherder and the princess would have gotten busy in the thirty-year period between movies. Given the state of the galaxy at the time of The Force Awakens (Han and Leia aren’t together) then it also isn’t too hard to imagine that she managed to get separated too. Rumours that she’s their child have been persistent, and it all capped off when Abrams also revealed that her last name has been kept a secret for a reason.
“I will only say about that that it is completely intentional that their [Finn and Rey] last names aren’t public record.”
So Finn (John Boyega) may also be more than he seems. Hmm.
Basically, most fans have assumed that Rey is Han and Leia’s daughter. For the past few months there have been some vague rumours floating around that Kylo Ren is her brother, inspired by the Jacen/Jaina relationship in the Expanded Universe, however they haven’t been concrete. That little passage above from the magazine strongly hints that those rumours are true, and Kylo Ren will indeed be the son of Han and Leia, similar to how Darth Vader was Luke’s father. They could also just be speculating, since they most likely wouldn’t want to drop that bombshell and risk some serious bad press and potential legal action from Lucasfilm for spoiling it. It’s really weird that that line is in the article, but the bottom line is that Kylo Ren has some familial connection to the old heroes, be it Luke’s son or Han’s, or something different entirely.
This then adds a whole other layer to what we know of his characterisation. If you grew up knowing that your grandfather was the biggest and most badass Sith Lord there had been in decades and what he achieved, then you would probably develop some kind of recognition for him. It would explain how he came across Vader’s mask and why he appeared in the flashback with Rey, as well as making it a more personal fight in this new trilogy.
Aaaannddd some more speculation (now that the whole Solo thing is out the way)…
- Kylo Ren and Rey are the children of Han Solo and Leia Organa.
- They were sent to train at Luke’s brand-spanking new Jedi Academy.
- Ren always had a little bit of the Dark Side in him and grew up fascinated by Darth Vader and the Sith in general.
- He was perhaps a little too interested and sought out Force-related artifacts, leading him to join the mysterious Knights of Ren.
- They converted him and he and the other knights attacked the Jedi Academy, killing the others, but Rey was spared.
- Both Luke and Rey went into hiding and Kylo Ren went off to lead the First Order and be Sith-y.
- Han and Leia believed Rey to be dead and blamed Luke for what happened to their children, causing them to split up.
Oh, this is gonna be a fun movie.
It’s weird, because in early 2013 I wrote a big outline for Star Wars Episode VII (I was a fanfic junkie back in the day), where the villain was Han and Leia’s long-lost son who wrecked Luke’s Jedi Order and caused him to go into hiding. Maybe I should start posting this stuff online.
So we may have deciphered who Kylo Ren is, but what about the Knights of Ren? I’ve got nothing. New Sith Order? Dark Jedi? First Order group? The Inquisitors, who were rumoured to be the villains of this movie? Beats me, but we know what they look like.
Those come from – you guessed it – Indie Revolver, who have broken Star Wars concept art in the past. They look pretty foreboding.
It’s important to remember that all of this could be complete bullshit. This time last year we thought that the Inquisitors would be the main villains, Han Solo will pilot a Star Destroyer and Luke Skywalker would have turned to the Dark Side. It was all fairly muddled. It could be that this is all far from the truth, and when we sit down on December 18th we’re going to see a completely different movie. At the moment it’s all just rumours and speculation, but in that realm of rumours and speculation we’re pretty sure that Kylo Ren and Rey are the long-lost Solo children.
Even then there’s still a bunch of questions left to answer. What role does Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma have in all of this? Is Andy Serkis’ Supreme Commander Snoke part of the First Order or is he a Force user? And who are the Knights of Ren? We likely won’t know these answers until Christmas, but I think we’re a little closer to understanding what J.J. Abrams is trying to do with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.