If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, please do so and then come back to this part. This section will contain spoilers and thoughts concerning the movie and, specifically, the character/villain of Kylo Ren. Now this will not be a hate on the movie because of how it fits or doesn’t fit within the greater Star Wars universe and the movies that preceded it. That is to say, I will look at The Force Awakens as a stand-alone without making too many mentions about the original trilogy. For example:
Seriously, big spoiler coming: read at your own risk.
Han Solo dies…(dramatic sound). Now some may be right-pissed that the franchise killed their favorite character. They may even be angry that Solo’s character arc of the original trilogy has been completely ignored as he starts this movie being the same as he was in A New Hope, worse actually as he is a bit of a coward: my son turned evil so I just walked out on my wife and went back to my smuggling ways. However, in the context of the movie Solo’s death is fully justified. It is both foreshadowed and impactful and serves as part of Kylo’s character arc.
Now, without making comparisons to Darth Vader, let me talk about the one failure of an otherwise great movie, Goth Vader…I mean Kylo Ren.
Oh the promise that initial introduction scene has. Ren shows up, the chaos and carnage reflected on his helmet as he slowly walks through the village where his men are slaughtering everyone. He interrogates Max von Sydow (seriously, who was this character and what’s his connection to the original trilogy) and pulls out that wicked lightsaber. Then, in an ultra-badass moment, he stops a blaster shot dead in its tracks. I was hopeful, I was hyped, I was ready. Give me more!
Then he is told some bad news and he throws a temper tantrum. I should’ve caught on then that Ren was just a whiny child, but the impression he made in that initial introduction was still fresh in my mind. It wasn’t until he removed his mask that Ren fully showed that he was not the villain that I wanted him to be.
Perhaps this was done intentionally. Ren, or Ben Solo, is torn between the Dark and the Light, so it may be fitting that this is reflected with his mask. Badass when he is wearing it and super annoying when he isn’t. If this was the desired effect, then Adam Driver played his part perfectly. Although it does kind of portray the dark side as more awesome and dangerous than the light side. However, this does not, in any way, excuse how weak Ren is at the end. Am I seriously supposed to believe that Kylo Ren, a man with a mentor, a man who has trained in the dark side for years, can lose a lightsaber fight to an inexperienced stormtrooper and a girl who, only recently, has realized her connection to the force.
Now to be fair to Kylo Ren he is wounded by Chewbacca’s weapon and the film does set up the fact that this weapon is deadly and overpowered. So it is fair to say that Ren, after getting shot in the side, is hurt and not on his best form. He is bleeding at the start of the fight, which is weird because wouldn’t a blaster hit also cauterize the wound instantly. So Ren is a bit weakened, but he is a Sith Lord, he shouldn’t be at a disadvantage.
Fine, Rey having stronger force powers is believable. The force is something of a “you have it or don’t” type of deal. She also may have some knowledge of fighting with melee weapons as she does carry a staff with her throughout the movie. It is, therefore, somewhat plausible that she could win in a fight against a wounded and weakened Kylo Ren. I don’t buy it, but it is plausible.
But how the hell does Finn wound him? Seriously! Finn is a stormtrooper that has, up to that point, almost never fired a blaster, much less handled a lightsaber. At least, that’s what I get from the movie. I assume Finn has never shot a blaster in his life, otherwise who knows how many people Finn has killed.
Wounded as he is, Ren’s main weapon, something he has trained with all of his life, is a lightsaber. Finn—and it does need to be stressed that this guy, and I’m being generous, has only used a ranged weapon up to this point—should not have, in any way, wounded him and the fight should not have lasted as long as it did.
This is the main reason that kept the movie from being great for me. I can even believe that a handful of resistance fighters can destroy the Death Star 2.0. I also didn’t fully mind how much of a spoiled child, for lack of a better word, Ren is. But I still held out hope, especially thanks to that introduction, that when Ren finally got to show-off his full skills he would deliver. He didn’t.
There is clear foreshadowing that Ren will now become somewhat robotic and more like Vader. I kind of hope this doesn’t happen as it is too predictable, but if it means making him into a real, dangerous, threat in the next movie, then I’m all for it.