The Tragedy of Kylo Ren

Spoilers? Why, yes, we’ve got several The Force Awakens SPOILERS in this post! I’m glad you asked 🙂 But seriously? Why haven’t you seen it yet? At this time, ten days after it was officially released, the only people that are forgiven for not having seen this film are the people who don’t like Star Wars, and if that’s not you, then why are you reading this post?!

Kylo Ren Mask

Last week we looked at the missed opportunities and lazy storytelling that occurred with Captain Phasma, and now it’s the turn of Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) who poses perhaps the biggest wasted moment of the whole film.

Vader FatherBack in 1980 one line was uttered that still resonates 35 years later: “No . . . I AM your father!”

The plot reveal was not only an utter shock, it went on to generate a whole trope and film goers since have referred to certain surprise moments in films as the “Luke, I am your father” moment. I recall as a young lad in 1980 having someone on the playground, who had already seen The Empire Strikes Back, give away this biggest spoiler of them all, and yet it was so unexpected that I thought he was just joking; it wasn’t until I heard Vader say it himself that it truly sank in . . . Dang! Vader is Luke’s dad. This December, The Force Awakens could have had a moment to rival that of Empire, but the reveal came too soon, and it was handled poorly.

Kylo Ren Mask 2 680We now know that Kylo Ren, the Vader of this trilogy, was originally Ben Solo, the son of Han and Leia, but this knowledge was delivered in a manner more fitting the Prequels than the caliber of The Force Awakens. The reveal’s biggest fail comes from breaking perhaps the greatest rule of cinematic storytelling . . . show, don’t tell. The film starts with Kylo Ren as an enigma behind that mask, and in the lead up to the release fans were speculating all sorts of possible backstories for him; some even thought he might be Luke. We knew from the trailers that Ren is obsessed with Darth Vader, but we didn’t know why . . . there were so many riddles, but then about half way through the film, possibly sooner, Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis) gives us the direct line, “Han Solo, your father.”

Melted Vader Mask 680At this moment all the mystery is gone and we’re left with this Brechtian knowledge that dissolves a lot of the film’s suspense. This mistake is further compounded when Ren addresses the fire damaged mask of Vader as “Grandfather,” but even if THIS had been the reveal moment, it would have been better than Snoke giving us the ultimate spoiler of the film. If we didn’t have the knowledge from Snoke we would have been wondering whether Ren was the child of Luke or Leia, and we would have had a 50-50 mystery there, but . . . nope! All strange considering how much JJ Abrams is the evangelist of the “Mystery Box” method of storytelling.

Kylo Ren Unmasked 680The other mystery that was revealed too soon was Kylo Ren’s face. Pictures of Adam Driver dressed as Ren sans mask had been on the internet prior to the main marketing of the film, and it was that distinct nose of his that led some to suspect that was the son of Solo. The moment Ren’s mask is off, we see the vulnerable and somewhat fresh faced lad underneath it. For the scene in which he is interrogating Rey it serves no plot purpose for her, or the audience, to see his face; the whole scene could have played itself out just the same with the mask still in place and a couple of lines cut from the script.

han-and-leia-force-awakens-leia-and-han-solo-38968484-612-380One advantage of knowing Kylo Ren’s real identity allowed us to follow the dialogue between Han and Leia when discussing their son, but even this could have been handled differently to prolong and increase the impact of the surprise. It would not have taken much for Han and Leia to have had dialogue regarding their “lost child” of whom the implied death was the main cause for their marriage coming to an end. Considering how many parallels The Force Awakens makes to A New Hope, it could have even been played to suggest that Kylo Ren was responsible for the loss of their son in the same way Vader killed Anakin Skywalker . . . depending on your point of view. This would have built backstory and baggage between Han Solo and Kylo Ren so that later in the film when they do meet we might have been fooled into thinking that Han was going to extract revenge on Ren. It is THAT fateful moment, when Han Solo and Kylo Ren do come face to face, that should have been the moment in which Ben Solo’s true identity and face were revealed.

Driver and Ford 680If the mystery of Kylo Ren had been prolonged to the third act of the film and had been saved for the story’s climax, the reveal could have potentially been as powerful as Vader’s moment in Empire. Imagine that we knew that Kylo Ren was obsessed with Vader. Imagine that we knew that Kylo Ren had something to do with the loss of Han Solo’s child. Imagine that moment that Han Solo looks like he’s going to attack Kylo Ren, but instead holsters his gun. Imagine that moment when the audience is wondering What the heck is going on? Imagine that the fearsome Kylo Ren turns to face him, and Han just utters the word “Ben” with tenderness (rather than sounding like he was about to send him to his room without dinner). Imagine that moment when Kylo Ren finally takes off his mask to look his father square in the eye, and THEN we see the vulnerable young man torn between the light and the darkness. And THEN, let the rest of the scene play out the way it did . . .

Han Solo Death 680

. . . but alas, no one called me for script advice when making the film, and like the Prequels we must learn to work through the phases of grief and reach acceptance that these are the way the films will always be . . . until George Lucas gets to digitally remaster The Force Awakens and add Jar Jar Binks into the scene 😛


 

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