[WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens]
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens has finally reached theaters, and while everyone is interested in learning all the mysteries director J.J. Abrams kept under lock and key, there are still a number of questions left to be answered in the coming installments. A few of them pertain to new villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and how he came to be the galaxy's latest Dark Side user.
One of the few details about Kylo Ren fans knew going into the movie was that he idolized original trilogy evildoer Darth Vader. Marketing materials hammered this home, showing Kylo communicating with the burnt helmet of the Sith Lord, vowing to finish what he started. But as many know, Darth Vader came back to the good side at the end of the Galactic Civil War, so why is Kylo such a fan?
Abrams spoke to IGN about this very topic, explaining that Kylo separates Darth Vader from Anakin Skywalker when choosing his path and embracing the Dark Side:
"Kylo Ren idolizes Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker. He idolizes 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."
While it's left intentionally vague what exactly Ren is looking to complete, Star Wars lore offers enough clues. Vader, of course, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights and worked with the Imperials to enforce order in the galaxy. From what we see in The Force Awakens, Ren seems to be concerned with the former, since he is on a personal mission to locate missing Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), with the apparent intention of killing Luke. As the sequel trilogy progresses, moviegoers will probably learn more about Kylo Ren and his motivations.
One major thread left hanging after The Force Awakens is why exactly Ren gives in to the Dark Side. All that's revealed is Supreme Leader Snoke played a sizable role in corrupting Kylo and took the youngster under his wing as an apprentice. Abrams tried to provide some clarity in his interview, talking about what's inside Kylo that makes him turn evil:
"An incredible power, an incredible force, and incredible potential that was, like many young people, sort of misguided and unclear. And 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."
Many have praised the portrayal of Kylo Ren, saying that he's one of the franchise's finer examples of illustrating the struggle between the Dark and Light sides of the Force. While he is very much a bad person, Kylo is still rough around the edges and there's molding left to be done. Viewers of The Force Awakens know how Ren handles his internal conflict initially, but just like Vader before him, time will tell if Kylo is redeemable or not. The stage is set for a fascinating character arc regardless of what happens.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, 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.