|Star Wars character|
Kylo Ren's costume displayed on a mannequin
|First appearance||The Force Awakens (2015)|
|Portrayed by||Adam Driver|
Adam Driver (Disney Infinity 3.0, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises, Star Wars Rebels; archive recording)|
Matthew Wood (Star Wars Battlefront II)
Roger Craig Smith (Star Wars Battlefront II)
|Full name||Ben Solo|
Kylo Ren is a fictional character in the Star Wars franchise. Introduced in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he is portrayed by Adam Driver. "Kylo Ren" is the chosen name of Ben Solo, the son of original Star Wars trilogy characters Han Solo and Leia Organa. Though trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker as a Jedi, he has been seduced to the dark side of the Force by Supreme Leader Snoke and aspires to be as powerful as his grandfather, Darth Vader, and create a new order in the galaxy separate from the legacies created by Luke and the Jedi Order. Kylo Ren is also the master of the Knights of Ren, as well as a commander and later the supreme leader of the First Order, an organization spawned from the fallen Galactic Empire. He is featured in The Force Awakens media and merchandising and appears in the film's sequel, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).
Concept and creation
After Lucasfilm was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2012, the script for The Force Awakens was written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt, with no direct participation from Star Wars creator George Lucas. According to director Abrams, the First Order is inspired by ODESSA, a theoretical network of SS officers who fled to Argentina following World War II.
Driver's casting in the film in an unnamed role was first announced on April 29, 2014. Kylo Ren was first seen, but still not named, in the 88-second The Force Awakens teaser trailer released by Lucasfilm on November 28, 2014, wielding a jagged red lightsaber with a crossguard. The name Kylo Ren was revealed by Entertainment Weekly in a Lucasfilm-designed Topps-style trading card mockup in December 2014. A May 2015 Vanity Fair photo shoot by Annie Leibovitz confirmed that Driver would be portraying Kylo.
In an interview with Time, The Force Awakens costume designer Michael Kaplan said that Abrams requested that Ren's mask be designed to be memorable for a child. After numerous attempts to gain Abrams' approval, the final design was selected. Kaplan said:
I don't know if it was the kind of spaghetti type lines on it or what, but the next time J.J. came by that was what we presented to him and he loved it. Also the silver in those lines kind of reflects and changes color with the action. You know, if he's standing in front of fire you see that, so it almost brings you into the mask.
Abrams told Entertainment Weekly in August 2015, "The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it's from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask."
According to other cast members, Driver is a method actor, which meant that he sometimes stayed in character on set as Ren and left his mask on between scenes. Driver explained that his goal was "to forget you're in Star Wars and treat it like any other job that's filled with moments and problems", because from the perspective of the characters living within the film's universe, "Darth Vader is real".
Ren's character arc shares similarities with that of the Star Wars expanded universe character Jacen Solo, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia who threatens the galaxy as a fallen Jedi. Additionally, critics have noted a resemblance between Ren's character design and that of Revan, the protagonist of Knights of the Old Republic.
Abrams told Empire in August 2015, "Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force." Abrams had previously told Entertainment Weekly that the character, "came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren." Robbie Collin of The Telegraph described Ren as "a hot-headed, radicalised Dark Side jihadi, whose red lightsaber splutters and crackles as violently as his temper". Abrams noted, "The lightsaber is something that he built himself, and is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character." The Telegraph also explains that Ren's wild and erratic temper and "angsty" instability make him dangerous. Melissa Leon of The Daily Beast describes Ren's use of the Force as "formidable", citing his ability to stop a blaster shot mid-air, immobilize victims and probe their minds against their will.
Kasdan told Entertainment Weekly in August 2015, "I've written four Star Wars movies now, and there's never been a character quite like the one that Adam plays. I think you're going to see something that's brand new to the saga," noting that the character is "full of emotion". Abrams explained, "I think that what makes Ren so unique is that he isn't as fully formed as when we meet a character such as Darth Vader ... He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy. He is a little bit more complex than that." Driver said in December 2015 that, despite the visual similarities to Darth Vader, Ren is "unlike any villain the franchise has seen before". He explained:
I feel there's a recklessness about him that's maybe not normally associated with the Dark Side. You normally think of order, and structure, and full commitment and no hesitation ... he's just a little bit more unpolished. 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.
The Force Awakens (2015)
Kylo Ren first appears in The Force Awakens as a commander in the First Order, a sinister regime that has risen from the remains of the old Galactic Empire. After arriving at Jakku to retrieve a map containing the coordinates where Luke Skywalker is to be found, Ren kills an old vicar known as Lor San Tekka, and captures Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, who has also been sent to recover the map by General Leia Organa. Ren soon learns that the pilot had entrusted his astromech droid, BB-8, with the map. Poe flees with the help of rogue stormtrooper Finn, who later finds BB-8, and the scavenger Rey. Finn, Rey, and BB-8 escape Jakku in the Millennium Falcon, and are soon intercepted by the ship's former owner, Han Solo, and his co-pilot Chewbacca.
It is revealed that Ren is the son of Han and Leia, and was once one of Luke's Jedi pupils. He was drawn to the dark side of the Force by the First Order's Supreme Leader Snoke. He then helped to destroy his uncle Luke's new Jedi Academy. However, Ren still feels the pull of the light side of the Force and seeks the strength to overcome this weakness from his grandfather Darth Vader, whose burnt helmet is in Ren's possession. Arriving at Maz Kanata's castle on Takodana, Ren captures Rey, who he senses has seen the map. While interrogating her with the Force, he realizes that she is strong with the Force herself, though unaware of it. Rey finds herself able to resist his powers and experience Ren's emotions, and confronts him over his fear that he will never be as powerful as his grandfather. She later uses the "Jedi mind trick" to compel her stormtrooper guard to let her escape. Han arrives at the First Order's battle station, Starkiller Base, as part of the Resistance's plan to destroy it.
After Han plants explosives to destroy the base, he confronts Ren—calling him by his real name, Ben—and implores him to abandon the dark side, warning him that Snoke will kill him once he accomplishes his goal to seize control of the galaxy. Despite being conflicted, Ren refuses and kills his father, enraging Chewbacca, Han's copilot, who fires, injuring Ren. As Finn and Rey flee the damaged base, a badly injured Ren follows and confronts them. Finn fights Ren with Luke's recovered lightsaber, but Ren overpowers and severely wounds him. Rey then takes up the lightsaber and, using the Force, begins to overcome Ren, striking him on the face with the lightsaber and leaving with a scar on the right side of his face. Before the duel is finished, they are separated by a seismic fissure created by the collapsing base. Rey and the others escape as Snoke orders General Hux to evacuate the base and bring Ren to him to complete his training.
The Last Jedi (2017)
Ren's inner conflict continues into The Last Jedi, specifically through his conversations with Rey, with whom he connects through the Force. Rey believes that his conflict will ultimately bring him back to the light side. Ren captures her and brings her before Snoke, who orders Ren to kill her. However, Ren uses the Force to ignite Luke's lightsaber at Snoke’s side and cut him in half, killing him. After that, Ren reveals to Rey his new goal to create a new order in the galaxy, separate from the legacies created by Snoke and Luke, and beseeches Rey to join him, while explaining to her about her true parentage, calling Rey a "nobody" to everyone else in the galaxy except for Ren. Though tempted, Rey refuses, realizing that Ren will not turn back to the light side. After she escapes, Ren frames her for Snoke's assassination, declares himself Supreme Leader of the First Order, and orders his forces to attack the Resistance base on Crait. Ren engages Luke in battle and appears to blow him up and cut him in half, but Luke remains standing; “Luke” is revealed to be simply a vision projected from the real Luke on Ahch-To, serving as a distraction which allows the Resistance to escape from the First Order. When Luke vanishes, the First Order storms the base, but the Resistance has already evacuated; Ren shares a final look with Rey through the Force before Rey closes the door to the Millennium Falcon and escapes with the Resistance.
Related works and promotional material
He is a playable character in the 2015 Force Awakens add-on to the Disney Infinity 3.0 video game, with an Infinity character figurine available separately. He is also a character in the strategy video game Star Wars: Force Arena.
Hasbro has released a 3 3⁄4-inch (9.5 cm) Kylo Ren action figure, and a 6-inch (15 cm) figure in their Black Series line. He is also featured in the Lego Star Wars playsets Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle (2015) and Battle on Takodana (2016), as well as a Lego Buildable Figure. The Lego version of Kylo also appears in the 2016 short form animated series Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises, and as a playable character in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
In January 2016, Driver reprised the role for a Star Wars/Undercover Boss sketch on Saturday Night Live, with Kylo Ren disguising himself as a radar technician named "Matt" to determine what the Starkiller Base employees really think of him.
Kylo Ren appears in Star Wars Battlefront II, voiced by Matthew Wood and Roger Craig Smith, masked and unmasked respectively. In the game, Kylo interrogates Del Meeko about Lor San Tekka's location (who possess the map to Luke Skywalker) using his Force abilities. When Del finally relents and reveals the map and Lor San Tekka's location, Kylo leaves him for Hask, Del's former comrade in Inferno Squad.
In the 2017 Chuck Wendig novel Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End, Ben Solo is stated as having been born on the planet Chandrila on the same day as a peace treaty is signed between the remnants of the Empire and the New Galactic Republic. Kylo Ren is additionally mentioned in the 2017 novel Star Wars: Phasma.
Both the character of Kylo Ren and Driver's performance have been positively received. Many complimented Ren's conflicted nature and depth, as well as his costume design, and noted there were many places the character could be taken in future installments. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the character and the actor alike, saying, "He is gorgeously cruel, spiteful and capricious – and unlike the Vader of old, he is given to petulant temper tantrums, with his lightsaber drawn." Terri Schwartz of IGN also called Driver's performance "spectacular", noting that "his performance adds great depth to a character who could have come off as one-dimensional, and the implications of his arc leave a viewer with plenty to think about after they leave the theater."  Collin wrote, "To describe Kylo Ren as this film's Vader would be accurate in a sense ... But it would also be to undersell the deep ingenuity with which this astonishing character has been crafted by Abrams, Kasdan and Arndt, and also the wells of emotional tumult Driver invests in him." Comparing the character to the one-note Vader of the 1977 film, Leon calls Ren "a living battleground between darkness and light, making him a far more resonant and familiar portrayal of that struggle than we've ever seen in Star Wars ... [which] makes him a far more interesting villain." Abrams told Entertainment Weekly, "it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter noted, "Ren is given a pronounced inferiority complex, a clever bad guy twist that could be taken to interesting places both in the writing and performance." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, "The bald-faced attempt to clone Vader, one of the greatest badasses in film history, is clankingly obvious, but Driver, masked and unmasked, gives him hypnotic and haunting contours." Kyle Buchanan of Vulture.com was underwhelmed by the reveal of Driver under the mask. Leon, however, argued:
But that face—that of a normal, vulnerable young man—is the most subversively terrifying thing about J. J. Abrams' reimagining of A New Hope. Rather than pure evil, Ren is something far more familiar: He is human. Just like the real-life young men with minds clouded by fear, hate, and anger who commit unspeakable acts in our world every day ... all the visual cues that leave the character open to criticisms of not being "evil" enough—are all signs of Ren's struggle between the Dark Side and the Light.
Skywalker family tree
- Wendig, Chuck (2017). Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End. Del Rey. ISBN 9781101966976.
What is known is this: The child’s name is Ben, and he takes his father’s last name, even as Leia keeps only her own family name, Organa.
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Media related to Kylo Ren at Wikimedia Commons