In just a matter of weeks, moviegoers will finally be able to see Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, the continuation of the Skywalker family saga that tells the story of a new generation of heroes and villains. Chief among those fresh faces is evildoer Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a Dark Side user who's part of the mysterious Knights of Ren.
Even though Kylo (and his crossguard lightsaber) ranks among the most visible elements of the omnipresent Force Awakens marketing campaign, there are still many questions that surround him and his ultimate intentions. While fans still have to wait for all the answers to be revealed, Driver was able to offer a glimpse into the character's mentality as viewers get a new look at him in action.
Leading up to the release of their Star Wars 7 issue on November 26, Empire shared a feature on Kylo Ren. In addition to an interview with Driver, the magazine revealed a new image of the villain with weapon in hand, flanked by First Order Stormtroopers:
Based on the desert landscape, this picture is most likely taken from a sequence on Jakku. Those who have been following the Star Wars rumor mill for a while will notice connections between the image above and a rumored opening sequence for The Force Awakens, in which Kylo and a squad of stormtroopers invade a Jakku village. In the background, it appears that huts have been set ablaze by the villains, lending credence to that bit of speculation.
Driver spoke about his approach to playing Kylo Ren, indicating that he is not a villain in the traditional sense and more a zealot supremely dedicated to his cause:
“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. I never thought of the character as an evil person.”
Director J.J. Abrams said something similar when he stated Kylo was "not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy" and had multiple layers to his character. Between Kylo and the "vulnerable" Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), it would appear that The Force Awakens is going to feature more complex individuals on the Dark Side than previous Star Wars movies. Giving the villains shades of grey (instead of portraying them as personifications of pure evil) ideally will lead to a more compelling narrative and give the Star Wars universe a sense of richness that reflects the modern real-world.
It remains to be seen how far Abrams and company run with that idea. From the Star Wars 7 trailers and TV spots, viewers know that Kylo Ren has vowed to finish what Darth Vader started, meaning he's very much a formidable threat that must be stopped at all costs. Vader ultimately had his redemption, but when he was the Empire's enforcer, he was ruthless and cruel (and probably never saw himself as a bad guy). Even if there are multiple sides to Kylo Ren, fans shouldn't expect to sympathize with him too much at this stage in the series.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.