Long before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, fans were already debating where Kylo Ren ranks among the other Star Wars villains. Now that it’s landed in theaters the debate rages on, with some being disappointed by him and others utterly smitten by his portrayal. Personally speaking, Kylo Ren terrifies me and presents himself as a villain unlike any we’ve seen before. Everyone should be worried about what he’s going to do next. Let’s talk about why:
[There will be SPOILERS in abundance throughout this article, so tread with caution if you’re still waiting to see the film.]
Reaching For an Ideal
Kylo refers to the Light side as something to be avoided, even going so far as to say he won’t be “seduced” by it. He is so consumed with the IDEA of the dark side, it has colored his perceptions of everything. He’s not evil, per se, just because it suits him; he genuinely BELIEVES and has faith in the idea of the dark side’s teachings. Snoke’s influence has made him into a true believer, as much as Obi-Wan Kenobi was a believer in the light. Where Jedi saw moments of weakness in their “darker” emotions, Kylo sees weakness in his moments of compassion. It’s a total flip on what we’ve seen in the films and television shows.
It’s clear from the outset that Kylo Ren is avidly obsessed with his Grandfather, Darth Vader, and looks up to the Sith Lord with great admiration and respect. He doesn’t see Vader’s redemption as a good thing, but rather a weakness…One that even he must deal with. In a private moment, we see him appeal to the memory of his Grandfather, asking for guidance and the strength to be able to resist the Light side.
The problem is, the Vader he’s built up in his mind is above and beyond Vader’s actions in real life. People often make their heroes out to be more than they truly are. Kylo is striving to be MORE than even his idealized version of Vader and doing so means he’s willing to go farther; pushing himself towards the darkness with wild abandon.
This devotion to besting an ideal is what truly makes him frightening and it’s apparent in his fear that he’s “not strong enough” to kill his own father. Luring his father, Han Solo, in and then killing him shows what Kylo’s willing to do to prove himself against the ideal in his mind. Hiis ability to commit to those actions makes him even scarier. Kylo’s loyalty to the First Order is equally concerning. He isn’t there simply for power, he believes that what he and the First Order are doing is the right thing. It’s evident in the hate you hear when he screams at Finn about being a traitor and the anger at himself for failing.
Lack of Control/Unpredictability
Let’s get back to Vader for this next part, as the relationship to his deceased Sith Lord Grandpa is the biggest aspect of his character. As I mentioned, Kylo is striving to be better than Darth Vader (or at least what he’s made of the Dark Lord in his mind), but there’s a HUGE difference between him and Vader that makes Kylo a little more terrifying: lack of control.
Vader, for all his rage and power, was almost always in control of himself. His fury was colder, simmering beneath the surface, and presented itself in quieter moments that let everyone know he wasn’t to be trifled with. Vader didn’t outwardly rage (except for that time right after getting in the suit during ROTS), and he didn’t have to. Truly, the moments in which Vader was silent is when he was the scariest.
Ren, on the other hand, frequently shows a distinct lack of control when faced with various circumstances. We see at least two ‘temper tantrums’ in which Kylo loses control and destroys his surroundings when things don’t go his way. While these may seem to be the actions more of a petulant child than someone to be feared, it shows he harbors the same rage without any of the control Vader displayed.
This makes Kylo infinitely more unpredictable than his villainous predecessor. Darth Vader, while an evil and heartless bastard, was also somewhat predictable in what he would do. You could always count on him to remain consistent in his actions (except when he makes a big choice at the end). Kylo’s lack of control makes it difficult to know what he’s going to do, and NOT knowing is what makes him terrifying.
We’ve seen him lash out in anger seemingly on a whim, while other times we see him handle things calm and collected. We’ve seen him play the trickster to lure his prey in closer for the kill, and we’ve seen Kylo be the menacing, threat making, First Order officer. There’s no telling which Kylo you’re going to be dealing with from moment to moment. He can flip the crazy switch without warning or hesitation. He’s unstable and actively running away from the Light side of the Force. In his efforts to prove himself, he’ll overcompensate, taking his actions to a far more drastic level.
When dealing with Kylo Ren and comparing him to other villains in the Star Wars franchise we’ve seen, one particular phrase keeps springing to mind: “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.” Kylo’s unhinged and unpredictable nature make him far more dangerous in my opinion, and something our heroes should beware of.
Last, but certainly not least, the most basic reason why Kylo Ren is such a threatening villain, is how utterly powerful he is. Seriously, he’s strong in ways we haven’t seen completely explored in the Star Wars universe so far. Within the first ten minutes of the film, we see him stop a laser bolt in mid-air, frozen entirely along with Poe Dameron who fired it (we see a similar technique later in the film on Rey).
What makes these displays of power so chilling, however, is that fact he’s able to walk around, engage in conversation, and conduct his business while STILL KEEPING HIS HOLD ON THINGS. He stops a laser blast and then walks around like it’s no big deal. This casual use of his power makes it abundantly clear how strong Kylo is, and it’s on another level entirely.
Beyond the telekinesis, we can see his strength during the final battle of the film. Throughout the entirety of the movie, it’s made perfectly clear that Chewie’s bowcaster has enough force to send grown men (in armor) flying back and Han makes it obvious that it’s significantly better than his own blaster. In Chewie’s rage and grief at seeing Han killed, he manages to hit Kylo Ren square in the side…and all it does is make him take a knee.
With a shot that should have taken him out of the fight (potentially for good), Kylo stumbles. It’s obvious he’s hurt, but despite such a wound he manages to chase down Finn and Rey and BATTLE them both. Not only that, he does a damn fine job of nearly winning. In the course of the fight he’s cut on the shoulder, sliced across the thigh, and stabbed in the upper arm. Even with all that, he doesn’t give up and keeps fighting. It takes a lot to finally end the battle, and if not for the giant chasm that opens up, I think he would still try and keep fighting.
You know what’s even scarier about his power, though? He’s not even fully trained! It’s obvious that he’s not in complete control and Snoke says at the end it’s time for him to complete Kylo’s training. If Kylo can do all of these things while still being an ‘apprentice’, there’s no telling what he’ll be capable of in the future films after more training. It’s an ominous thought and does not bode well for the Resistance.
While some have argued that Kylo’s flaws make him a weaker and less intimidating villain than his predecessors, a closer look at his character and traits make me feel he could be the most dangerous of them all. His turn in The Force Awakens was well handled and gave us plenty to think about. As such, I can’t wait to see what he does in the remainder of the trilogy.
What did you guys think of Kylo Ren? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!