Star Wars: The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson has commented on the film’s villainy, including why he believes Kylo Ren is a relatable character for the audience. Though The Force Awakens featured the ballyhooed returns of franchise legends Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, the movie was more about the new generation of characters that would be carrying the sequel trilogy forward. Chief among the additions was Kylo Ren, son of Han and Leia and dark side apprentice to Supreme Leader Snoke. His internal conflict made him one of the more nuanced and fascinating figures in the series to date, with Adam Driver delivering a powerful performance.
The former Ben Solo survived the events of Episode VII, setting the stage for a very compelling arc in the sequel. Snoke was disappointed by his student’s failure at Starkiller base, meaning Kylo is on a personal mission to prove himself as a worthy ally to the First Order. At the same time, the decision to murder his father haunts Kylo, with Han Solo’s figurative ghost looming over him every day. That kind of dichotomy is what makes Kylo Ren truly fascinating, and it’s an aspect of the character Johnson relished while writing.
Speaking with Empire, Johnson discussed why he liked writing for Kylo so much, remarking that the antagonist’s struggle plays into the larger themes of Star Wars and makes him human:
“Writing Kylo Ren is just so much fun. Star Wars boils down to the transition from adolescence into adulthood. That’s the heart of these films and Rey is most obviously the one that hangs on. But it’s also Kylo. In the originals you project entirely onto Luke, while Vader is the scary other — he’s the minotaur. The fascinating thing about Kylo and Rey is that they’re two sides of something. We can all relate to Kylo: to that anger of being in the turmoil of adolescence and figuring out who he’s going to be as a man; dealing with anger and wanting to separate from his family. He’s not Vader — at least, he’s not Vader yet — and that’s something I really wanted to get into.”
Many believed Kylo had reached the point of no return when he killed Han, but that was an action that made him weaker, and not stronger. Given that the character begins The Last Jedi in a rehabilitation state, his turmoil should be quite prevalent in the sequel. This is one of the benefits of having Episode VIII pick up just moments after its predecessor. It forces Kylo to deal with the immediate consequences of what he did as he continues his evolution. Interestingly enough, a Snoke Last Jedi action figure that recites alleged phrases from the movie seemingly taunts Kylo Ren by saying, “Your emotions have made you weak.” All of this arguably makes Kylo quite the sympathetic figure as he is torn between the legacy of his family lineage and desire to become his own man.
As for Snoke, Johnson reiterated what he has said before, stating that the Supreme Leader’s entire backstory/history will not be revealed in his film. His reasoning is he only wanted to provide that information “where it serves the story,” which is an approach many viewers can get behind. The Last Jedi has a lot on its plate, so it’d be better if it didn’t get bogged down in filler and told the audience only what was necessary. This is how the original trilogy handled things, so Johnson is working with a successful template. Hopefully it works for Episode VIII as well, and the saga gets another thrilling chapter.
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