(This blog post assumes you’ve seen the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As such, this will contain some spoilers.)
HAH! YOU FELL FOR MY CLICKBAIT! WATCH AS I BASK IN THE AD REVENUE!
….kidding, of course. I don’t make money off of this thing, and the amount of followers I have would barely tickle WordPress’ pockets. But the point stands that I genuinely feel this way–I feel like Kylo Ren is a better Star Wars villain than Darth Vader. And a damn sight better than Palpatine.
If we’re talking about outright power, then Vader has an edge, rather obviously. He was the strongest Jedi at the time, and was granted intense teaching to become one of the most potent Sith in the universe. If this versus match were based solely on a test of strength, then Kylo Ren would likely be cut down in very short order. This isn’t about a test of wills, though. It’s about which one is a more compelling character overall.
Perhaps this opinion is a bit pre-formed. I am going off of very vague clues about Ren’s past, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider that some of that intrigue and mystery about him is part of the allure. But even after the backstory is ultimately revealed–and we all know it will be–the fact that I want to learn more already puts him above Vader. We were all pretty much okay with the idea that Vader was the big bad because of his appearance. The reveal about his ties to Luke made him more sympathetic, but ultimately I wasn’t that intrigued to learn more. Kylo Ren makes you wonder just who or what he is or how he came to be.
While he’s not an unstoppable force, he is plenty dangerous on his own. Actually, the fact that he’s unstable and not fully trained makes him even more dangerous. He’s not some madman drunk with power. He’s not some stone-faced wall. He’s impulsive. Prone to tantrums that display a Sith who has not fully understood how to channel his rage. He commands but isn’t ultimately confident. Those are all facets that I find to be very compelling, and make him even more deadly than Vader.
Vader was in control of his faculties and was the supreme commander of the Empire’s forces. Plenty dangerous, sure, and certainly deadly…but more due to respect of chain of command. Kylo Ren, however, gets some shit talked back to him by normal officers. He’s passed over the chain of command. He even overshoots himself and fails once or twice…and I don’t know about you, but I find a villain who tries and fails a lot more threatening than one who just wins. Mainly because when said villain tries again, they’re going to come back a LOT harder. Hell, episode V was literally “The Villains Try Harder: The Movie”.
Even more interesting is his power when he does display it. This dude, in the very first scene of his appearance, held a blaster bolt in midair while he gave orders, spoke to a prisoner, sensed something in Finn and walked off the battlefield without any show of effort. He interrogates better than a droid purpose-built for the job. Pile all of the above on top of the fact that he is desperate to become more than what he is–more than what Vader was–and it makes him one of the more deadly and fascinating Sith the Star Wars universe has ever seen.
Lastly, I love Kylo Ren because of his potential. Sure, what he is now is interesting as hell…but then there’s the alluded-to training that Snoke said he’s in for. He has power and ability now in an unfocused form, but what he’ll be capable of when he’s fully baked and brushed with some more of that Sith-style butter has me quite excited. Vader was at his peak of power, but with Kylo we have someone who could become something more.
Ultimately, though, I hope the training doesn’t fully remove the things that I find interesting. I have a feeling it won’t, though, for one major reason.
There’s a connection between those two. It was hinted at. It’s been a source of Kylo’s personal frustration. It’s a reason he becomes unbalanced and unglued, and I am licking my chops to see what he can do when he has grown in power and faces Rey. And while he may have severed his last tie to the Light by killing Han, I still think he might even be redeemable because of the connection these two share. I only hope that whatever that connection may be isn’t too soft. If they do a “Luke and Leia 2.0” I’ll be rather underwhelmed.
We have not had a good Star Wars villain in a long time, and Kylo has shown that the new guard can absolutely supersede their forebears. With Vader, we had a whole three films’ worth of backstory reveal that many fans roll their eyes at. With Kylo, we have someone who not only has screen presence and threat, but is also a truly fascinating person. He’s like a dark dungeon that you know you shouldn’t explore for fear of what horrors might wait…but are compelled to push in to nonetheless.
…I guess what I’m saying is that I’m ready for Episode VIII already.