First, I must make you aware that this blog post will be discussing key plot points of the new Star Wars movie. Therefore, if you have not yet seen The Force Awakens, what the heck are you waiting for? Wait, that’s not what I meant to write there. If you have not yet seen The Force Awakens and don’t want to know the intimate details of what happens in the movie, then you just need to stop reading. Seriously. Go somewhere else. I mean, I don’t want you to go somewhere else. I’m glad you’re reading my blog. But… just… you know… read another blog post or something. Like this one. It won’t contain any spoilers about Star Wars.
Seriously… There are SPOILERS ahead. Major SPOILERS. You’ve been warned.
One more… for good measure… SPOILERSOkay, are we good? I don’t so much want to dissect the entire plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you read the title before clicking over to this blog post, you’ve probably guessed I simply want to deal with the film’s villain, Kylo Ren.
Now, having seen the movie a couple of times and having read the synopses provided by other reviewers, I’ve developed my own thoughts regarding our current Dark-Side-of-the-Force-using baddie. Early on in the film, it’s revealed that Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Throughout the course of the movie, we discover that, like his mother, uncle, and grandfather, Ben Solo is strong in the Force and is sent to train as a Jedi with Luke. However, at some point Ben is seduced by the power of the Dark Side, presumably thanks to the machinations of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, whom we know little about at this point (I assume, not having read any of the extra-curricular materials leading up to the film). Ben adopts the name Kylo Ren and slaughters the rest of Luke’s Jedi students, causing Luke to exile himself.
So we’re left with Kylo Ren, leader of the Knights of Ren (a group we also know little about, I assume again). Here’s what we know about Ren: he’s little more than a petulant child who throws a severe temper tantrum whenever he doesn’t get his way. Twice within the context of Episode VII, we see him whip out his lightsaber and go to town on any inanimate object that has the misfortune of being in his way, once when he receives some bad news and another time when Rey escapes custody. That second time was actually pretty funny thanks to a couple of stormtroopers who were on patrol. They see the debris from Ren’s tantrum flying from the interrogation room and decide to turn and patrol another corridor. This really leads me to believe that these tantrums are a fairly common occurrence.
As we approach the climax of the story, Kylo Ren is confronted by his father, Han Solo. Han is desperate to reach Ben, believing, as only a parent can, that there is still good inside him and that he can be redeemed. In that scene, the audience is led to think that Kylo Ren is struggling internally. We are meant to believe that there is a conflict between good and evil happening inside Ben Solo’s soul. He tells his father that he knows what he must do and even asks for Han’s help. Of course, Han would do anything for his son. And, with that, Kylo Ren runs Han Solo through with his lightsaber, killing one of the most beloved scoundrels in cinematic history.
Stop yelling at me! I told you there would be spoilers!
Anyway, I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Han Solo being killed in this movie. But, you know what? I’m actually okay with it. Now, now… close your faces… I’m not a Han hater. I’m just saying that, in the interest of telling a decent story, his death was inevitable. It seems to me that J.J. Abrams was very carefully attempting to mirror A New Hope with a lot of The Force Awakens. We have a trio of heroes and a plucky droid. We have a mysterious bad guy and an apparent bigger bad pulling strings. We have a massive super weapon capable of impossible destruction. And we have the death of an old guy.
In the first Star Wars movie, Obi-Wan’s death was necessary to move Luke’s story forward. If the old Jedi had survived and continued to hang out with the rebel forces, Luke never would have come into his own. He would have just kept leaning on Kenobi. Han Solo’s death managed to do the same thing for Rey, who we know to also be extremely Force sensitive, but terrified to embrace her destiny. Han’s death also served to show us that Kylo Ren has fully embraced the Dark Side of the Force. He’s evil. The conflict that the audience and that his father were led to believe existed within him was all an act. It was meant to draw Han in for the killing blow.
I’m subscribed to Grace Randolph’s YouTube channel, Beyond the Trailer. She provides movie reviews, trailer reviews, and general movie news on a daily basis. In her review for The Force Awakens, she states that Kylo Ren cannot be redeemed. That he doesn’t deserve redemption. That he only deserves vengeance. And while I have a great deal of respect for Grace and her opinions regarding most things movie related, I have to strongly disagree here.
Does Kylo Ren not deserve redemption simply because he killed everyone’s favorite Star Wars character? Well, most people’s favorite Star Wars character, anyway. If that’s the only reason… even that’s just a big reason… then it doesn’t make sense. Let’s look at the infamous Darth Vader. Luke’s quest, once he discovered the truth about Vader, was to find a way to reawaken the Jedi who was once Anakin Skywalker. Did he deserve redemption any more than Kylo Ren does? Anakin slaughtered children. He helped the Emperor destroy the Jedi Order. He choked out Imperial officers on a whim. And let’s not forget, the kid sassed Yoda when he was only 10 years old. And he deserved redemption over his grandson? I mean, that kid’s acting was unforgivable.
It’s very possible that the next two movies in the Star Wars saga will be spent dealing with the attempt to turn Kylo Ren back to the side of good. And I’m okay with that. But even though I think he deserves salvation, and even though I think, in the story, the good guys should try and save him, that doesn’t mean I think he should be saved. Again, this isn’t because I think he deserves to find himself on the business end of Rey’s lightsaber. I just think it would be a nice change of pace to have a villain (who has made it clear to the audience that he has embraced evil at this point) die a villain. Try and redeem him. But fail at it, guys.
The thing is, Ren doesn’t get it. In his quest to master the Dark Side of the Force, he’s trying to live up to Darth Vader’s legacy. But Vader no longer exists. Anakin Skywalker found redemption. I’m kind of surprised his Force ghost (which did show up at the end of Return of the Jedi) hasn’t haunted Kylo to say, “Kid, you’re doing it wrong.” I guess that’s something we can hope to find out as the movies progress… Why is Kylo Ren so angry? I’m sure he was fed lies by his supreme leader, but what lies did he buy into to make him hate Han Solo so much? There’s always a root to one’s turn to the Dark Side. For Anakin, it was his fear of losing the people he loved. This was a fear that Palpatine played like a fiddle. What was Ben Solo afraid of?
Y’all, this is just one piece of what has turned out to be a pretty great movie. I loved it and I’m sure I’ll see it again and again. Mostly because I’m sure there’s more to dissect in this addition to Star Wars lore. Have you seen it yet? What are your thoughts? Should Kylo Ren find redemption by the end of Episode IX? Or should he be dismembered and left for dead on Mustafar? Let me know in the comments…