In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the main villain of the film is Han Solo and Leia Organa’s child Ben, who was seduced to the Dark Side by Supreme Leader Snoke and took the name Kylo Ren.
However, Kylo is a complex character that defies the stereotype of previous villains in movies, such as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and Saruman in Lord of The Rings.
To begin, Kylo is an unusual villain because he has not fully given himself over to evil like Snoke or even Emperor Palpatine from the original Star Wars trilogy.
While Kylo hero-worships his grandfather Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the Dark Side in the Star Wars prequels and pretends to be the heir to Darth Vader’s legacy, he is actually incredibly conflicted about what side he should truly be on.
“Kylo is also different from the usual sci-fi/fantasy villain because he’s not some kind of disfigured and hateful monster.”
For example, in the scene where Kylo is talking to Darth Vader’s burned mask on Starkiller base, he admits to his grandfather’s spirit that despite Snoke’s tutelage in the ways of the Dark Side of the Force, he still feels the call to the Light.
This is not surprising, since Ben was shipped off to his uncle Luke’s new Jedi academy as a child and grew up learning the ways of the Light side of the Force.
Of course, Kylo knows Snoke would be disappointed in his star pupil if he found out that the young man was conflicted, and so he puts on an air of bravado to make himself appear more evil than he actually is.
However, the best scene that shows Kylo’s internal conflict is when he finally sees his father Han Solo after all these years inside Starkiller Base.
Han had arrived with Chewbacca in order to help Finn rescue the Force-sensitive girl Rey, and he approached his son after promising his estranged wife Leia that he would try to bring Ben home. When Han tried to reach Ben, there was a clear internal struggle on Kylo’s face as he pondered whether to give in to the Light.
Kylo is also different from the usual sci-fi/fantasy villain because he’s not some kind of disfigured and hateful monster. In Harry Potter, it is implied Lord Voldemort looks hideous because he has fully given himself entirely over to evil. The same goes for Sauron in Lord of The Rings—he was once a kind of otherworldly being known as a Maia and then became deformed after he became a villain.
However, Kylo is a handsome young man and he dons an outfit similar to Darth Vader’s in order to highlight his familial connection to the infamous Sith Lord. The mask also serves to conceal Kylo’s internal insecurity and emotions. Luke’s nephew is essentially a victim of toxic masculinity because he is not allowed to show compassion or love.
The fact that Kylo is forced to bottle his emotions leads to his temper tantrums where he destroys things on Starkiller base whenever something doesn’t go his way. For example, he slashes things with his lightsaber after he hears Rey used her Force powers to escape. Plus, the fact that Kylo is such a complex character is also why he is such a relatable character for many Star Wars fans. After all, we all have our own dark sides and we all struggle with doing the right thing at some point in our lives.
Finally, Disney and LucasFilm also smashed stereotypes by hiring an actor who is not classically handsome. Unlike Tom Hiddleston as the Norse god Loki in the Thor and Avengers movie, Adam Driver is handsome, but he’s not your usual Hollywood “pretty boy” actor.
It will be interesting to see if Disney continues to defy the usual villain tropes by giving Kylo Ren a redemption arc in the final two Star Wars films or if they will kill him off in a similar manner to Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. I guess only time will tell how well this gillian will continue defying our expectations.