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Is Kylo Ren a Good Villain?

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As the title suggests, this is a thread for the last Skywalker.

There is a general consensus that Kylo Ren is the best thing about the Sequel Trilogy, and it’s certainly true that he is a character who is entirely new to the Star Wars movies. Tortured, unstable, violent, psychopathic, vulnerable. All of these things describe him, yet I find myself more and more fundamentally confused about his character and how I should feel about his villainy. Is he a ‘good’ villain?

In previous Star Wars movies, the quality of a good villain went from ‘cool horns’ to ‘unstoppable cyborg badass’ to ‘Evil Space Wizard’. They were all painted with a broad brush in terms of their straight villainy, at least until ROTJ. It was a black and white universe in terms of morality, and then Vader was redeemed. Vader, the most powerful and evil force in these movies was now also a Good Man. As the culmination of an entire story it works, because now the ‘battle between good and evil rages on’ no longer. Any villain to exist after this movie would be seen through the lens of redemption, complicating the simplicity of the Star Wars fairytale forever.

Enter Kylo Ren. In contrast to Vader’s mysterious identity, we quickly discover Kylo’s lineage. In contrast to Vader’s mechanical methods, we have barely contained chaos. In contrast to Vader’s inhumanity, we have an intimate portrayal of a tortured youth. In contrast to Vader’s strength, we have Kylo’s innumerable weaknesses. This is a character ripe for redemption, practically begging for it. Yet he murders his father, for no other reason than proving his villainy. And yet it does nothing except weaken him further. By the end of The Last Jedi, he has managed to burn down almost everything in his way and yet at the end of the movie he is weaker than we have ever seen him, a truly despicable and pitiable waste.

What kind of villain is this for Star Wars? I sure don’t know.

DuracellEnergizer: “^He’s embraced the absurd. Don’t expect to gain any conventional understanding from his posts.”
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/thread

“I am a writer. Therefore, I am not sane.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

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 (Edited)

In TFA I would say he was a very good villain, raised in a well intentioned environment and part of the Skywalker bloodline, he had everything going for him. His cathartic devotion to a dogma past simply because of the ideal of Vader turns him into the whiny petulant child with a lust for power that Anakin often was. There was a set up for him to be Rey’s foil, pushing himself to his physical limits to surpass hers, for the sake of none but his own. Murdering Han was not so much killing his past, rather cutting the emotional tethers that would withhold him from his peak performance. Generally a once good hearted kid who is now forcing himself to become a sociopath because of a pre ordianed destiny that he unwittingly concieved by himself.

TLJ complicates this description, as has been discussed to death by this point. There is less concern with upholding the legacy of Granddad and instead a more independent definition of reaching self-actualization. Kylo’s mission is now said to be breaking the cycle of war, and taking its precedent out of the Galaxy. At first, so we are left to assume, he hopes to achieve this through destroying the Resistance…which would just leave a proxied Empire in power, essentially still the same deal as thirty years beforehand.

His purpose in the movie doesn’t really make sense until Snoke rejects him, and at that point he then has a motivation to want to rid the world of both Empire and Rebellion alike. It then falls apart again when he appoints himself Emperor and once again returns to the idea of just taking out the Resistance.

By the end of the second film, he is reduced to screaming and a desire to kill, not really moving in any particular direction. I feel as though the scope of the character has now become so vast and confusing that we would need a defined conclusion in part three for the whole thing to once again make sense.

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 (Edited)

I think he was a good villain in TFA, and a great villain in TLJ right up until Rey runs away from him and he takes over the First Order. Frankly, once it was clear that he wasn’t going to team up with Rey, I lost a lot of interest in the character. There was a real opportunity to develop Kylo’s character into something we’ve never seen before in having him team up with Rey and become something beyond just a Jedi or a Sith, but it just… didn’t happen. I don’t know if Johnson wasn’t confident enough to bring the story in that direction or what happened, but I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity. And it’s certainly possible that Johnson never intended to do that with Kylo’s character at all, but I’d argue that if that’s the case, then maybe the idea just shouldn’t have been brought up in the first place. It seems like a really good way to set the audience up for disappointment and not much else.

I’d say I’m apprehensive about the future of Kylo’s character. I’m sure he’ll still be an interesting enough character in the next movie, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be well-acted, but I fear he’ll never reach that height of “depth” again.

i’m a girl

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 (Edited)

The question of whether he is a good “villain” doesn’t interest me as much as whether a good antogonist, which I’d say he is absolutely. His weak villainy or potential entire lack thereof is exactly what makes him interesting as a character. He’s just as unsure about his place in the universe as Rey, which makes him a good foil for her when he makes the wrong choices.

Besides that, whether “weak” or not he’s obviously very dangerous, and unpredictably so. His emotions allow him to make mistakes sure, some of which benefit the heroes, but many of which don’t. In some ways a Vader or a Maul is quite a bit less scary, because you know exactly what they want.

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DominicCobb said:

The question of whether he is a good “villain” doesn’t interest me as much as whether a good antogonist, which I’d say he is absolutely. His villainy or potential lack thereof is part of what makes him interesting as a character. He’s just as unsure about his place in the universe as Rey, which makes him a good foil for her when he makes the wrong choices.

+10000000

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Jeebus said:

I think he was a good villain in TFA, and a great villain in TLJ right up until Rey runs away from him and he takes over the First Order. Frankly, once it was clear that he wasn’t going to team up with Rey, I lost a lot of interest in the character. There was a real opportunity to develop Kylo’s character into something we’ve never seen before in having him team up with Rey and become something beyond just a Jedi or a Sith, but it just… didn’t happen. I don’t know if Johnson wasn’t confident enough to bring the story in that direction or what happened, but I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity. And it’s certainly possible that Johnson never intended to do that with Kylo’s character at all, but I’d argue that if that’s the case, then maybe the idea just shouldn’t have been brought up in the first place. It seems like a really good way to set the audience up for disappointment and not much else.

Well I think the set up is quite necessary for what Johnson is going for. They have a chance to team up and both want to, but the reasons why they can’t is very telling for their characters and the direction they’re going in (not to mention the thematic thrust of the story). He easily could have had the two team up, but I feel like that would’ve pretty much zapped both’s main conflicts right then and there.

I’d say I’m apprehensive about the future of Kylo’s character. I’m sure he’ll still be an interesting enough character in the next movie, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be well-acted, but I fear he’ll never reach that height of “depth” again.

I don’t think the depth went anywhere. If anything there’s moreso than before. Kylo has a “resolve” at the end of TLJ and has become the Vader figure he alternately wanted to or didn’t want to be, but it’s all a sham. He still doesn’t know what he wants, he’s still just a tormented soul. At the end he’s essentially got a whole galaxy that’s his, but he’s clearly just as alone as ever and not any happier than before. In my mind, the fact that even after he’s yelled and screamed that he’ll “destroy” Rey he still looks at her hopefully in their final Force time shows that the “depth” in him is very much alive.

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Well, if they go the direction I think they will (which has not proven the case so far - I don’t have a good track record for guessing these things, but I remain hopeful), then the finale will see Rey and Kylo end up on the same side as founders of a new, stronger Jedi order. Instead of training the new generation to completely avoid the temptation, they will teach the new generation how to judiciously tap into the power of the dark side without falling victim to its temptations. Kylo will let go of the anger and hate and come back to a balanced place.

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TFA Kylo Ren: No.

TLJ Kylo Ren: Hell yes!

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yotsuya said:

Well, if they go the direction I think they will (which has not proven the case so far - I don’t have a good track record for guessing these things, but I remain hopeful), then the finale will see Rey and Kylo end up on the same side as founders of a new, stronger Jedi order. Instead of training the new generation to completely avoid the temptation, they will teach the new generation how to judiciously tap into the power of the dark side without falling victim to its temptations. Kylo will let go of the anger and hate and come back to a balanced place.

I thought similarly. I would like to see that ending.

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DominicCobb said:

Jeebus said:

I think he was a good villain in TFA, and a great villain in TLJ right up until Rey runs away from him and he takes over the First Order. Frankly, once it was clear that he wasn’t going to team up with Rey, I lost a lot of interest in the character. There was a real opportunity to develop Kylo’s character into something we’ve never seen before in having him team up with Rey and become something beyond just a Jedi or a Sith, but it just… didn’t happen. I don’t know if Johnson wasn’t confident enough to bring the story in that direction or what happened, but I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity. And it’s certainly possible that Johnson never intended to do that with Kylo’s character at all, but I’d argue that if that’s the case, then maybe the idea just shouldn’t have been brought up in the first place. It seems like a really good way to set the audience up for disappointment and not much else.

Well I think the set up is quite necessary for what Johnson is going for. They have a chance to team up and both want to, but the reasons why they can’t is very telling for their characters and the direction they’re going in (not to mention the thematic thrust of the story).

I think you got a lot more out of the scene than I did. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time I watch TLJ, see how my perspective changes.

I’d say I’m apprehensive about the future of Kylo’s character. I’m sure he’ll still be an interesting enough character in the next movie, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be well-acted, but I fear he’ll never reach that height of “depth” again.

I don’t think the depth went anywhere. If anything there’s moreso than before. Kylo has a “resolve” at the end of TLJ and has become the Vader figure he alternately wanted to or didn’t want to be, but it’s all a sham. He still doesn’t know what he wants, he’s still just a tormented soul. At the end he’s essentially got a whole galaxy that’s his, but he’s clearly just as alone as ever and not any happier than before. In my mind, the fact that even after he’s yelled and screamed that he’ll “destroy” Rey he still looks at her hopefully in their final Force time shows that the “depth” in him is very much alive.

Good point, and you’re right, there’s definitely plenty of room for the character to grow. I hadn’t considered the possibility of the next movie exploring Kylo’s dissatisfaction with his newfound power, I kind of assumed he’d turn into just another bad guy. I guess I should have more faith in JJ.

All that said; in a vacuum where there’s no third movie, I still think the idea of Rey and Kylo teaming up could’ve been really interesting to explore.

i’m a girl

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I will follow Kylo’s career with great interest. But it’s notable in how he has changed (or rather, not changed) so far. We haven’t seen him as anything other than a tormented soul in either of these movies. Compared to Vader, who went from a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ kid to a Republic hero to a genocidal monster to a repentant soul, and Kylo hasn’t really moved from his angst at all. Granted much of Vader’s other aspects arrived with ROTJ, but Kylo’s biggest change has been going from wanting to destroy the Republic to wanting to destroy the First Order too.

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Jeebus said:

DominicCobb said:

Jeebus said:

I think he was a good villain in TFA, and a great villain in TLJ right up until Rey runs away from him and he takes over the First Order. Frankly, once it was clear that he wasn’t going to team up with Rey, I lost a lot of interest in the character. There was a real opportunity to develop Kylo’s character into something we’ve never seen before in having him team up with Rey and become something beyond just a Jedi or a Sith, but it just… didn’t happen. I don’t know if Johnson wasn’t confident enough to bring the story in that direction or what happened, but I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity. And it’s certainly possible that Johnson never intended to do that with Kylo’s character at all, but I’d argue that if that’s the case, then maybe the idea just shouldn’t have been brought up in the first place. It seems like a really good way to set the audience up for disappointment and not much else.

Well I think the set up is quite necessary for what Johnson is going for. They have a chance to team up and both want to, but the reasons why they can’t is very telling for their characters and the direction they’re going in (not to mention the thematic thrust of the story).

I think you got a lot more out of the scene than I did. I’ll have to keep this in mind for the next time I watch TLJ, see how my perspective changes.

I remember the first time I saw it I was very much hopeful of the team up too, and somewhat disappointed with Kylo’s reluctance. But then when he started talking it became obvious to me that this was the right way to go. I definitely think that anticipatory build up is intentional on Johnson’s part. He wants you to identify with Rey here, he wants you to be just as devastated as Rey is when she realizes he isn’t going to help her save the rebel fleet. This is her moment of failure, where she realizes she’s going to have to do it herself.

With Kylo, he’s trying to take control over his life. Which is what he thought he was doing when he turned to Snoke, but I think, with the help of his father he realized he was just being used. For Rey and Kylo, both of their stories are about self actualizing and making their own destiny beyond what was seemingly set forth in front of them. So when they meet up, it’s the crux of both of their stories converging. They have the power in that moment to finally move away from the past (which has trapped both of them for so long) and forge their own paths. Kylo chooses to “kill the past,” and he makes his case for Rey to do the same. She comes from “nothing,” she has “no place in the story,” but he offers her one on a silver platter. So for Rey, it’s a very important moment for Kylo as an antagonist. He stands in direct opposition to her external goal of saving the fleet but is offering her what she’s wanted all along. For her to reject Kylo’s team up, which is the whole reason she went the Supremacy in the first place, is a big deal for her story - not only is she going to finally move ahead by herself while believing in her own power to do so, she’s going to bring some of the past along with her, and not just blindly destroy it all like he will.

I don’t know, it works for me.

I’d say I’m apprehensive about the future of Kylo’s character. I’m sure he’ll still be an interesting enough character in the next movie, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be well-acted, but I fear he’ll never reach that height of “depth” again.

I don’t think the depth went anywhere. If anything there’s moreso than before. Kylo has a “resolve” at the end of TLJ and has become the Vader figure he alternately wanted to or didn’t want to be, but it’s all a sham. He still doesn’t know what he wants, he’s still just a tormented soul. At the end he’s essentially got a whole galaxy that’s his, but he’s clearly just as alone as ever and not any happier than before. In my mind, the fact that even after he’s yelled and screamed that he’ll “destroy” Rey he still looks at her hopefully in their final Force time shows that the “depth” in him is very much alive.

Good point, and you’re right, there’s definitely plenty of room for the character to grow. I hadn’t considered the possibility of the next movie exploring Kylo’s dissatisfaction with his newfound power, I kind of assumed he’d turn into just another bad guy. I guess I should have more faith in JJ.

I have faith in JJ, and would personally be surprised if he didn’t go this route in IX, but even still I try not to hold specific expectations for what should or shouldn’t happen. If there’s a way to make an actually good Kylo story where he’s legitimately satisfied with his newfound power, I’m all for it, even if it’s not what I’m expecting. But… if I were a betting man I’d say that’s unlikely (both that that’s the direction they’d go in and that if they do that it would turn out well).

All that said; in a vacuum where there’s no third movie, I still think the idea of Rey and Kylo teaming up could’ve been really interesting to explore.

I agree, if TLJ were the conclusion to the Skywalker saga, it would have made a pretty cool finale. Even still, though, there’s something about that last moment with Kylo and the dice that feels right to me. Reminds me of the last scene of the Godfather Part II. Hopefully, Episode IX will justify its existence more than Godfather Part III.

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NeverarGreat said:

I will follow Kylo’s career with great interest. But it’s notable in how he has changed (or rather, not changed) so far. We haven’t seen him as anything other than a tormented soul in either of these movies. Compared to Vader, who went from a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ kid to a Republic hero to a genocidal monster to a repentant soul, and Kylo hasn’t really moved from his angst at all. Granted much of Vader’s other aspects arrived with ROTJ, but Kylo’s biggest change has been going from wanting to destroy the Republic to wanting to destroy the First Order too.

Well, besides the fact that I disagree with the assessment that he hasn’t changed that much, you have to admit you’re comparing 2 apples with 6 oranges here.

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 (Edited)

I think Kylo is one of the best characters in the franchise. That being said, I don’t think he’s a good villian. He is not intimidating and Rey has already beaten him twice. I think this is a big reason why people were angry about Snoke early death: without him, the First Order is really just a bunch of buffoons. I hope Ep 9 manages to either make Kylo legitimately scary (a daunting task) or introduces a new antagonist for Rey and Kylo to team up against. But the final installment is supposed to pay off these things, asking it to do both sounds painfully like another not-so-well-received-star-Wars/trilogy…

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everyone but mfm and duracell is wrong.

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I haven’t even begun to show you how wrong I can be.