Star Wars 7: why did Kylo Ren follow Darth Vader to the dark side?
Director JJ Abrams sheds some light on new villain's motivations in The Force Awakens
Kylo Ren, the "baddie" of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has come in for a lot of scrutiny since the film was released. Some critics thought his internal conflict between the light and the dark side made him the "perfect villain", while Adam Driver – the actor who plays him – thinks he is really not villainous at all.
"I never thought of the character as an evil person," he has said. "When they think of their actions as morally justified, it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There's no level they won't go to to accomplish what they're after."
But why does Ren think he is morally justified to destroy the Resistance and kill his own father. And, in particular, why does he idolise his grandfather, Darth Vader?
Ren wears a helmet similar to Vader's and seems intent on hunting down his uncle, Luke Skywalker. He even pleads with his grandfather's old burnt-out helmet: "Forgive me. I feel it again... The pull to the light… Show me again the power of the darkness and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started."
In an interview with IGN, the film's director, JJ Abrams, appeared to shed some light on Ren's motives.
"Kylo Ren idolises Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker [Vader's original name]," he said. "He idolises what Vader represents and what Vader was trying to do and the idea that Vader didn't succeed, if you look at it from Ren's point of view, he was seduced by the enemy and failed because of that seduction. So the idea is that Ren wants to complete the thing that Vader started."
Ren found he was in possession of "an incredible power, an incredible force and incredible potential that was, like many young people, sort of misguided and unclear", adds the director. "The story for him is one of conflict, not just internal conflict but external conflict. And it's what makes him a rather interesting villain."
Star Wars 7: nearly starred in The Force Awakens, Yoda did
Yoda, the wizened Jedi who appeared in the two previous Star Wars trilogies, almost made an appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens too, an insider has revealed.
Maryann Brandon, the editor of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, told Entertainment Tonight that discussions were held with Frank Oz about a possible role in the saga's latest blockbuster.
"There was one point where we were actually thinking of having Yoda in the film and then we decided not to," Brandon said. "Frank Oz came in for a day and did a whole bunch of Yoda and he was over the moon to do it - and we were tickled pink."
In the end, the popular character, who this week came top of the official Star Wars website's "Who is the best Jedi?" poll, was axed from the script.
Brandon does not explain how Yoda might have featured in the film or why, but according to ScreenRant, "a 'bunch' of work from Frank Oz definitely suggests that a larger role for the deceased Jedi master was under consideration at one point… The most obvious way to include the now Force ghost Jedi would have been in Rey's Force flashback – but, again, the suggestion that Oz came in for a day certainly hints at a more substantive part."
Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues to perform strongly and is reportedly on track to take a worldwide box office haul of $2 billion (£1.37 billon).
Star Wars 7: how many Game of Thrones stars appear in The Force Awakens?
The official Star Wars website has published a list of The Force Awakens' greatest hidden details, including a cameo appearance from prequel star Ewan McGregor, props from the original trilogy, and extensive connections to Game of Thrones.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens features no fewer than four cast members who also starred in HBO's fantasy series.
"Jessica Henwick, who plays Nymeria Sand, is Resistance pilot Jess Pava; Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Jojen Reed, is a First Order officer; and Miltos Yerolemou, who plays Arya Stark's sword-fighting instructor Syrio Forel, is a patron at Maz Kanata's castle," the site notes.
As well as this, Gwendoline Christie – the actress known for portraying the warrior Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones – stars as the silver-clad Stormtrooper, Captain Phasma.
The film also features two generations of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"Rey's vision in the basement of Maz Kanata's castle is a source for multiple cool audio clips, including words from Obi-Wan," StarWars.com notes. "You can hear the Jedi say, 'Rey, these are your first steps.'"
According to the site, "Rey" is spoken by Sir Alec Guinness, who first played Obi-Wan, and was pulled out of dialogue recorded during filming for the original trilogy. The rest of the sentence was recorded by the later Obi-Wan, McGregor, who recorded it especially for the film.
In another scene, when Finn is searching for medical supplies to tend to Chewbacca's injuries, he rifles past a remote first seen in A New Hope, when Obi-Wan is training Luke aboard the Millennium Falcon.
The site drew attention to a couple of other small details in The Force Awakens, including the flags at the entrance to Maz Kanata's castle. "If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll be able to spot a variety of familiar symbols," StarWars.com notes. "On the far left, you can spot a flag emblazoned with the official logo of the 501st Legion."
According to the Star Wars facts site, Wookiepedia, "the 501st Legion, also known as the 501st Battalion, was a unit of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars. They were led by Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, who fell to the dark side of the Force and became the Sith Lord, Darth Vader."
Later, the legion was nicknamed "Vader's Fist", and became Vader's personal battalion. Back in the real world, the 501st Legion is an Internet-based group for Star Wars costumers with more than 10,000 members worldwide in 48 countries.
StarWars.com also explained the reason for the appearance of a pink droid. Known as R2-KT, the pink version of R2-D2 "was created by Albin Johnson, founder of the 501st Legion. He came up with R2-KT for his daughter Katie, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and passed away in 2005."
See more interesting hidden details from Star Wars 7 here.
Star Wars 7: why Natalie Portman has still not seen The Force Awakens
Warning: spoilers ahead
Natalie Portman, who played Padme Amidala, the wife of Darth Vader and the mother of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, has admitted that she still hasn't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Portman said she had been too busy filming to see the latest instalment of the sci-fi epic.
"I haven't been able to see it yet," she said, but added: "I've heard it's amazing and it's so nice that it's sort of this continuing part of everyone's shared cultural knowledge."
For her latest film, Jane Got a Gun, Portman has been reunited with two of her former Star Wars co-stars: Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Joel Edgerton, who was cast in a much smaller role as Owen Lars.
"The three of us sort of had a reunion," she said. "It was nice that we all had that familiarity to start off with."
Portman has spoken previously about how difficult it was to restart her career after Star Wars.
"Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull [the New York theatre production she was in] and everyone thought I was a horrible actress," she told New York magazine in 2014. "I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade and no director wanted to work with me. Mike [Nichols, Seagull's director] wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said, 'Put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her.'"
Star Wars 7: Kylo Ren 'too weak' to face Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver's appearance as Kylo Ren on Saturday Night Live last weekend prompted a wave of commentary and speculation, with many reviewers arguing that the sketch underlines the baddie's fundamental likeability. Some even said that the more we learn about Ren, the more we understand the reluctance of Supreme Leader Snoke to send his charge up against Luke Skywalker.
The sketch sees Ren taking part in the reality TV show Undercover Boss, posing as a low-level worker to gain insight into life for ordinary staff on Starkiller Base.
Why did Ren decide to take part? "You get so caught up in restoring the galaxy to its rightful state that you miss what's going on behind the scenes," he tells viewers.
Disguised as "Matt", a radar technician, the undercover boss grills the Starkiller Base employees, fishing for compliments, before struggling to complete a few simple tasks.
He also offers his sympathy to a First Order officer whose son he killed, tells people that Ren has "an eight-pack" and uses the Force to settle a cafeteria dispute.
"It's a fun sketch," says AV Club's Sam Barsanti, "mostly because Driver maintains Kylo Ren's violent intensity even while the people around him become increasingly suspicious of 'Matt.'"
There may even be something to be learnt about the character's future, says Beth Ryan at the Daily Telegraph.
"By the end of the sketch, we see a softer side to the villain, who finds himself 'connecting' with his behind-the-scenes staff," she notes.
Fans agree, with one commenting: "I think the sketch worked because Kylo Ren's whiny rage is one of his most endearing qualities." While another notes Ren seemed "less able to control his temper" and that his "dramatic tantrums" visible in the sketch are another sign of his mental instability.
In fact, the character seems more unhinged in the short than he did in The Force Awakens – which painted a relatively sympathetic portrait of the black-clad baddie. The movie's climactic scene, where Ren confronts Solo on a bridge dramatically poised over a massive ventilation shaft is in fact quite tender, and Ren's reaction to his lightsaber duel with Rey and Finn allows the character to express great vulnerability.
Some critics have said that Kylo Ren is too likeable to really be seen as a villain. This, according to Driver, may be because Ren is not fully committed to being bad.
"I feel there's a recklessness about him that's maybe not normally associated with the dark side," Driver said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
"You normally think of order, and structure, and full commitment and no hesitation…he's just a little bit more unpolished," he added. "It's in his costume, in his lightsaber – how you kind of get the sense that it could just not work at any moment; that it could just blow up. That's kind of like a big metaphor for him."
Others have suggested that the character's vulnerability may be the reason Snoke wants to prevent him from facing Luke Skywalker.
"Snoke knows that Kylo Ren is not strong enough to face his old Jedi master," SlashFilm says.
Movie Pilot agrees: "We see throughout the film that – though Kylo is certainly formidable and feared for his temper if not just his skill – his training is still incomplete, which is why Rey was able to hold her own against him in the climactic battle."
TechTimes goes even further, suggesting that Snoke himself is "very, very much afraid of Luke Skywalker".
Warning: spoilers ahead.
So might Kylo Ren end up turning his back on Snoke to join the light side in a dramatic act of intergalactic redemption?
Although killing Han Solo is likely to leave him far beyond the pale for many Star Wars fans, Latin Post considers why Ren might redeem himself in future instalments.
Fans are reminded that Darth Vader, who he aspires to emulate, was himself a complex character, with chinks of light amid his iconic darkness. It could fall to Ren to restore the balance in the Force to the light side if the Skywalker legacy is to continue and Rey turns out to be unrelated to Luke or Leia.
"If Kylo Ren is the only one of the family in the younger generations, then it will be his job from a mythological perspective to propagate the line. It is unlikely he does that without turning back to the light," says the site.
Han Solo's final act – touching his son's face - is also seen as a display of loving forgiveness. "Even Leia notes that she still sees the light in him," says Latin Post.
Could the Star Wars villain yet become a redeemed hero of the saga? Time will tell.