‘Star Wars’: Why Kylo Ren Is Better Than Darth Vader

Adam Driver in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Kylo Ren | Lucasfilm

With Darth Vader, the original Star Wars trilogy gave the world one of the most iconic movie villains of all time. Many fans feel that the prequel trilogy ultimately did the character a disservice by demystifying his backstory and fall to the Dark Side. But George Lucas’ films succeed in establishing Anakin/Vader as a tragic figure trapped between the dark and light sides of the Force — less a menacing terror and more a victim of the horrors of this seemingly endless battle of good and evil.

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren is similarly positioned as a conflicted soul who has modeled his appearance after his grandfather, Vader himself. Also like the original trilogy’s villain, he is ultimately revealed to be torn apart over his actions. And he answers to a mysterious overseer who runs the regime, aiming for complete control over the galaxy. However, Ren could ultimately wind up being a more fascinating character than his grandfather ever was.

The film only reveals that Ren — whose real name is Ben Solo — was being trained as a Jedi by Luke. He then turned against his master and joined up with Supreme Leader Snoke. What hasn’t yet been disclosed are the circumstances surrounding that decision. We also don’t know Ren’s motivation in embracing the Dark Side and ultimately slaying his own father. At one point, we see him consulting with the spirit of his grandfather — or, at least, Vader’s charred helmet. But there’s little reason to think Ren is necessarily exactly what he seems.

New details about Kylo Ren’s origins have emerged on the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens DVD, seen in the video above.

The Force Awakens
Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

Much like Luke, this new character seems tortured by his heritage. His role in the Knights of Ren notwithstanding, he is more calculating and passionate than Vader ever was, a conflicted young man masquerading as a monster. (This element of the character has already been brilliantly parodied in the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account.) Unlike Vader — who was largely under the control of his master — Ren clearly has an agenda of his own and something to prove, though the details of that will likely not be fully realized until Episode IX rolls around in 2019.

Adam Driver in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

Snoke says toward the end of the film that Ren’s training isn’t even complete yet. And as the character’s arc unravels, he has the potential to become even more of a powerful nemesis for our heroes. That’s especially true for Rey, whose own origin is shrouded in mystery. And he could be a compelling figure to drive the saga forward in upcoming sequels. At this stage, his journey is more emotionally driven than Vader’s ever was. In a single film, Ren has emerged as perhaps the most interesting, complex villain to ever appear in Star Wars.

Adam Driver in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Kylo Ren | Lucasfilm

Characters, such as Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine, and even Darth Vader, were all more or less depicted as evil incarnate. But Ren has the potential to demonstrate the inner conflict that one undergoes upon turning to the Dark Side. As such, he is in a position to become far more multifaceted than his predecessors. And if writer/director Rian Johnson manages to deftly build upon what was established in The Force Awakens, there’s every chance that Ren’s story will remain one of the highlights of the new films.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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