|Star Wars character|
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
|First appearance||The Force Awakens (2015)|
|Portrayed by||Adam Driver|
|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, portrayed by Adam Driver, he also appeared in the film's sequels, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019), as well as related media and merchandising. He is the primary antagonist of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Born Ben Solo,[a] the character is the only child of original trilogy characters Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa. Though trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker as a Jedi, Ben was seduced to the Dark Side of the Force by Supreme Leader Snoke, a puppet created by the revived Sith Lord Emperor Palpatine / Darth Sidious, and aspired to become a Sith himself, as powerful as his grandfather, Darth Vader, who had also been seduced by Sidious. Adopting the Kylo Ren persona, he served as a high-ranking commander within the First Order, led by Snoke, as well as the leader of the Knights of Ren, an organization of fellow Force-wielders. Ren later killed his father when he unsuccessfully tried to redeem him, and formed a unique connection with Rey, the last Jedi and Palpatine's secret granddaughter, called a "dyad in the Force". After killing Snoke, Ren took over as Supreme Leader of the First Order, until ultimately being redeemed by his mother, who died in the process, and helping Rey face Palpatine, giving his own life to save hers.
Concept and creation
Abrams requested that Ren's mask be designed to be memorable to a child. As late as March 2014, the film's main antagonist was only known to the production team as "Jedi Killer", and had gone through numerous unapproved design attempts. The same month, Glyn Dillon's design for the character's costume was finally approved. According to Abrams, "the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask," and concept designer Doug Chiang says that the character "takes on [the] persona of [Vader] to haunt Luke." According to The Force Awakens costume designer Michael Kaplan,
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.
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, 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 mock-up in December 2014. A May 2015 Vanity Fair photo shoot by Annie Leibovitz confirmed that Driver would be portraying Kylo.
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."
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". 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 tyrannical regime that has risen from the remains of the Galactic Empire. After arriving at Jakku to retrieve a map containing the coordinates where Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is to be found, Ren kills an old priest named Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow), and captures Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who has also been sent to recover the map by General Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). 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 (John Boyega), who later finds BB-8, and the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). Finn, Rey, and BB-8 escape Jakku in the Millennium Falcon, and are soon intercepted by the ship's former owner, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
It is revealed that Ren is the son of Han and Leia, originally named Ben, and was once one of Luke's Jedi pupils. He was corrupted to the dark side of the Force by the First Order's Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and helped destroy Luke's new Jedi Academy. However, Ren still feels the pull of the light side of the Force and seeks the strength to overcome it from his grandfather Darth Vader, whose burnt helmet is in Ren's possession. Arriving at Maz Kanata's (Lupita Nyong'o) castle on Takodana, Ren captures Rey, who he senses has seen the map. While interrogating her, he realizes that she is strong with the Force, 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 superweapon, 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 has control of the galaxy. Ren tells Han he feels conflicted, and asks his father for help, which Han promises to give; Ren then ignites his lightsaber, impaling and killing Han. An enraged Chewbacca fires at Ren, wounding him. As Finn and Rey flee the damaged base, Ren follows and confronts them. Finn fights Ren with Anakin Skywalker'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. 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 (Domnhall Gleeson) 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, particularly through his conversations with Rey, with whom he connects through the Force. Rey learns from Luke why Ben Solo turned to the dark side: Luke had seen a vision of the destruction Ben would cause and was briefly tempted to kill him in his sleep; when Ben awoke to see Luke with his lightsaber drawn, he turned on his uncle and destroyed the Jedi Temple. Rey believes that there is still good in Ren, and resolves to bring him back to the light side.
Meanwhile, Ren is reproached by Snoke for his failure to defeat Rey, and Ren tries to prove himself by leading an attack on a lead Resistance starship. He hesitates to destroy it after sensing his mother's presence, but his wingmen destroy the ship's bridge, almost killing Leia. Upon Rey's arrival, Ren captures her and brings her to Snoke, who tortures her for Luke's location before ordering Ren to kill her. Instead of complying, Ren uses the Force to ignite Luke's lightsaber at Snoke's side and cut him in half, and subsequently slays Snoke's royal guard with Rey's assistance. After the guards are slain, Ren reveals to Rey his goal to create a new order in the galaxy, separate from the legacies created by Snoke and Luke, and beseeches Rey to join him. He forces her to acknowledge that her parents abandoned her, and tells her that he is the only one who truly cares about her. Rey refuses to join him, realizing that Ren will not turn back to the light side; the two briefly struggle over Anakin's lightsaber with the Force, resulting in the weapon breaking in half and knocking both warriors unconscious.
After Rey escapes, Ren frames her for Snoke's assassination, uses the Force to choke Hux until he acknowledging Ren as the new Supreme Leader of the First Order, and orders his forces to attack the Resistance base on Crait. When Luke appears during the attack, Ren orders his men to fire on him, to no effect; Luke remains standing, revealing that he is only present as a Force projection, serving as a distraction to allow the Resistance to escape from the First Order. After 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 slams the door to the Millennium Falcon and escapes with the Resistance.
The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
In The Rise of Skywalker, Ren has been ruling as the Supreme Leader of the First Order for a year. In the film's beginning, Ren searches for a Sith wayfinder to lead him to the Sith planet Exegol, with the hopes of killing the resurrected Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) as a show of his power. When Ren finds the wayfinder and arrives on Exegol, Palpatine reveals that he has been manipulating Ren and the First Order, having created Snoke as a means of turning Ren to the dark side. Palpatine unveils the Final Order, a massive armada of planet-killing Star Destroyers. Palpatine offers the armada to Ren in a bid to form a new Empire—with Ren as Emperor—on the condition that he kill Rey.
Ren searches the galaxy for Rey and continues corresponding with her through the Force to discern her location. Rey has been searching for a second wayfinder; Ren tries to stop her from finding it. Eventually, Ren informs Rey that she is Palpatine's granddaughter, and furthermore, they are a dyad in the Force with extremely powerful potential when joined together. He urges her once more to take his hand, and to overthrow Palpatine together. Rey refuses, but Ren is unwilling to kill her and follows her to Kef Bir, the location of the second wayfinder. Meeting her on the wreckage of the second Death Star, Ren destroys Rey's wayfinder and duels her. The duel ends with Rey impaling Ren, who had been distracted by his dying mother, Leia, reaching out to him through the Force. A guilt-ridden Rey (also sensing Leia's death) uses the Force to heal Ren and leaves aboard his ship, after telling him that she wanted to take Ben Solo's hand, but not Kylo Ren's. Alone on the wreckage, Ren converses with a memory of his father, Han Solo; he throws away his lightsaber, renouncing his role as Supreme Leader and reclaiming his old identity of Ben Solo.
Ben rushes to help Rey defeat Palpatine on Exegol. Rey senses his presence and uses their Force connection to give him Anakin's lightsaber, which Ben uses to defeat the Knights of Ren. Palpatine then senses Rey and Ben's connection as a dyad of the Force, and absorbs their energy to restore his full power, before casting Ben into an abyss. However, Rey manages to defeat and kill Palpatine before dying from the effort. Ben climbs out of the abyss and finds Rey's inert body. Ben manages to transfer all of his life essence into her, successfully resuscitating her but sacrificing his own life in the process. They share a passionate kiss before Ben dies peacefully in Rey's arms. His body fades away simultaneously with his mother's, becoming one with the Force.
Related works and promotional material
Kylo is a playable character in the 2015 The 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 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.
Kylo Ren also appears in Star Wars: Resistance, in the season finale of season two "The Escape", where he kills Agent Tierny for failing to destroy the Colossus Resistance, voiced once again by Matthew Wood who also portrayed General Grievous in the prequels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He is also one of the numerous voices heard in the fourth and final season of Star Wars: Rebels in the episode "A World Between Worlds", with Driver reprising his role.
Kylo Ren appears as a walk-around character within Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. The character appears during Star Tours – The Adventures Continue and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, with the latter featuring the character in audio-animatronic form with Driver providing the voice.
On November 28, 2019, Ichikawa Ebizō XI starred as Kairennosuke in Star Wars Kabuki: Kairennosuke and the Three Shining Swords (スター・ウォーズ歌舞伎〜煉之介光刃三本〜, Sutā Uōzu Kabuki ~Rennosuke Kōjin San-pon~), a kabuki production that re-enacted key events of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
In the 2017 Chuck Wendig novel Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End, Ben Solo[b] 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 (about a year after Return of the Jedi, or 29 years before The Force Awakens. Kylo Ren is also mentioned in the 2017 novel Star Wars: Phasma, which takes place before The Force Awakens.
The character and Driver's portrayal have received critical acclaim; Driver won the 2016 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal. In January 2018, Kylo was voted seventh greatest movie villain of all time by the readers of Empire. Many reviewers commended 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, Melissa 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.
Some viewers noted that 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.
Skywalker family tree
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Media related to Kylo Ren at Wikimedia Commons