Thoughts On Kylo Ren, by Patrick Burdine
There will obviously be spoilers in this review. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, this probably won’t make much sense to you anyway since it is going to focus on my thoughts about the character in relation to things that happened in the movie so it probably won’t make a ton of sense to you, but anyway, consider yourself warned.
Okay, with that out of the way, here we go.
In my general review, along with a lot of blather, I talked about feelings, so I am going to start there and get into some more specific character choice thoughts. Starting with the feelings at the end of the movie, I remember feeling a bit let down at first. At least that is how I initially identified what I was feeling. The drive back from the movie much of the conversation between my wife and I turned out to be about Kylo Ren. He’s been the character that I’ve thought about the most in the time since seeing the movie, as well. I’ve also revised that initial feeling. It wasn’t a feeling of disappointment; it was a feeling of discomfort. I’ve come to feel that he is the most frightening and the most real villain that Star Wars has ever given us.
I know, I know, the kneejerk reaction, my own included, is to say he is the apotheosis of the Millennial generation (which is unfair to the Millennials and to the character, but life is pretty unfair). The very poster child of “privilege” for his universe. His parents are two of the greatest heroes of their age. It’s not explicitly stated, but I think we can safely say he never wanted for anything. He’s obviously intelligent, and no doubt had the best teachers and mentors in the Republic. That he is gifted in the Force is without question (more on that later). I imagine growing up, the seeds of bitterness initially were planted when he began to notice that he was seldom “Ben” but more often “Han’s son” or “Leia’s son” and the expectations accompanying those appellations. Speaking of Han, let’s think about why we all love him, and what a shitty dad he would be. Dad’s are the ones who set the rules and make boundaries. This guy is a scoundrel and a rogue. He’s going to be the one making excuses for Ben every time he fucks up. A part of Han is going to be proud that he is a chip off the old block. Shooting first is cool when you’re at Mos Eisley, but not so much at the playground. The darkness likely began with the shadow of parents he could never escape. Add to that, the dialogue between Leia and Han about their arguing and a child’s assumption that all problems between their parents are the child’s fault and you can see the fractures forming.
Now imagine around this time, those arguing parents who have told this special child all along how special he is, decide to send him away to live with his crazy uncle who is going to teach you how to use these super powers and tell you that your grandpa was a seriously angry dude, and don’t be like that, despite the fact that he was widely acknowledged as the baddest dude in the universe until he decided not to kill his son (something that obviously stuck with young Ben). At some point along the way this guy got his hooks into him-
Oh wait, sorry I mean this guy-
And recruited him to the First Order, or the Knights of Ren. Or both. That’s a bit mysterious. Because the J.J. in J.J. Abrams actually stands for “JMysteJrious” (the Js are silent). He succeeds where M. Night Shyamalan fails, because he learned never to reveal the secret. Anyway, as long as I am digressing, I am kind of hoping that the Knights of Ren are basically the kids that Kylo Ben hung out with at Jedi Hogwarts and are his Slytherin House and went all Night of Long Knives with him.
Snoke (no doubt we will meet Nirrors in Episode VIII), is seemingly an expert in the uses of propaganda and psychology and either designs, or helps design a pretty sweet looking outfit for Kylo Ren. Although if he were truly masterful, he would have realized the coup of announcing the defection of Ben Solo to his side, but we’ll let that slide. Kylo Ren in outfit is WAY more impressive and menacing than Ben is, and part of war is a morale - both inspiring your side, and demoralizing your enemy, and his suit is impressive. I understand and respect that choice. When he takes the mask off, he just isn’t scary. Despite his power and skill and rage, he is young and largely unimpressive. He would kill you either way, no doubt, but as shown by General Hux conditioning and brainwashing is something that they are well aware of as a science, plus the pomp and circumstance surrounding the initial firing of Starkiller base, shows that they understand the value of morale, reveals this to be a conscious choice that sets him apart, not just an aesthetic filmmaker choice, and it is one that I it is fantastic.
Getting back to his power, we know that he received some amount of training under Luke Skywalker, presumably a fair amount based on his offer to train Rey, and his ability to kill some/all of the other students (I find it hard to believe that after Anakin slaughtered all the “younglings” (and ugh at that name) that Luke wouldn’t have had a contingency escape plan, or not gather them all together - I think Rey and possibly others will be proof of that). Anyway, he has some serious power. While stopping a blaster shot could just have been a cool effect, I think it was a way of showing his power. Then walking around with it just hovering there, and finally releasing it was pretty impressive. Getting shot by Chewie’s bowcaster that had been shown to throw other people feet in the air and not getting knocked off the bridge (much less not dying, though he was seriously wounded). He seems like a sledgehammer of Force. Nothing he does is subtle, even when pulling things from people’s minds. So now we have an unstable, angry kid who probably didn’t have many boundaries growing up - and what boundaries he did have, his dad either subconsciously or overtly encouraged him to subvert. Even in the end he enables him, thinking he is helping.
This is why he is so uncomfortable and why we like to laugh at him. He reminds of us people we see in the news, or in our schools, or on our streets. He’s that guy that has everything but brings a gun to school and shoots it up for no reason that we can understand. He’s the name that we choose not to share on social media because we don’t want to make famous, and because we don’t want our kids to be like them. He is terrifying to me because like I said above, he is the most real monster that Star Wars has ever given us, and its easier to laugh and scoff than it is to look around for the Kylos in our midst.
[originally posted at: http://www.patrickburdine.com/thoughts-on-kylo-ren/]
Patrick Burdine has written several horror short stories and most recently released the novella, “The Monitor.” He has written for film including the movie, “Slaughterhouse Phi: Death Sisters.” He also writes science fiction and is a Shell Case Short winner for his work, “The Bone Carver.” He is currently working with Curiosity Quills author Aiden James on the next installment in the “Dying of the Dark Vampires” series. He resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three daughters.