A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 4 – Finding Fault with Kylo Ren

Posted: January 6, 2016 by patricksponaugle in Movie Review, Opinion, Star Wars
Tags: , , ,

This post will be talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In particular, plot points surrounding Adam Driver’s character, the villainous Kylo Ren. Should you not want to be spoiled, stop reading.

As the title suggests, this post is the fourth of a series of posts, dealing with a specific source of criticism of the movie. The full explanation can be found here.

knightsofren

The Darth Side

As I explained previously, I’m planning on talking about various elements of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by examining the 40 allegedly unforgivable plot holes that Professor Seth Abramson recently published on the Huffington Post. Although it might seem as if I’m just a fanboy defending a movie I like (which is partly true)  I’m also hoping to explain some insights into the characters/elements that seem to have been wildly misunderstood by some. (By some, I mean Professor Seth Abramson.)

Ten of his 40 unforgivable plot holes dealt mostly with Kylo Ren, so I’ll list them here and examine their validity. If this doesn’t interest you, skip down a ways to where I give my thoughts on the patricidal grandson of Darth Vader.

3. Kylo Ren, a powerful Force-user, fights a light saber duel with an ex-janitor who has never held a light saber and yet (a) never uses the Force on his opponent, though doing so would have ended the duel immediately, and (b) barely wins the fight, suggesting that he is simultaneously one of the least strategic wielders of the Force the Dark Side has ever seen and, despite his training, absolutely terrible with a light saber. None of this stops Kylo Ren from designing and building his own, completely impractical cross-barred lightsaber.

I’m a bit confused by his last comment, since it sounds as if he’s saying that Kylo Ren’s poor performance in the lightsaber duel (you know, the one that he won) didn’t stop him from designing and building his distinctive lightsaber. Of course it didn’t. He built it before the duel. (I’m sure he just phrased what he was trying to say incorrectly. But Abramson is an Assistant Professor of English at UNH, so I shouldn’t second-guess him.)

Is it a plot hole that Kylo Ren does not overwhelm Finn immediately with his lightsaber superiority, since Finn has never held a lightsaber? Oh, wait, this is Finn’s second lightsaber duel, since he fought (and lost) against the riot control trooper back at Maz Kanata’s place. Okay, that doesn’t sound like a lot of experience with the lightsaber, but once is literally infinitely more than never. But I’ll grant that Finn is inexperienced. Not like Kylo Ren who must have dueled with dozens of Jedi.

Oh, most of those guys were dead, at the end of Return of the Jedi. (Weird how that worked out.)

Okay, maybe Kylo Ren honed his lightsaber skills against Sith dudes. Except all of those guys were dead at the end of Return of the Jedi.

We can theorize that Kylo Ren, back when he was Ben Solo, was instructed in lightsaber technique when he was a little kid by Luke Skywalker. We just don’t know what he’s been doing lately to really hone his technique. So he might be just okay with a lightsaber.

Did Supreme Leader Snoke teach his some fancy moves? Or fail to, if Kylo Ren is actually terrible with a lightsaber, like the professor suggests? It’s hard to say. The Emperor in the original trilogy was above anything so tawdry as dueling by that time, he was more into using his crazy Force lightning. I doubt he did any fencing with Darth Vader, but who knows?

Obviously Finn never had any lightsaber training (maybe that’s what Abramson was trying to say, but not actually saying) but I assume all the Stormtroopers are taught to bust heads as part of their martial training in the First Order. So I could see Finn not immediately being overwhelmed, particularly since Kylo Ren’s mobility was hampered after having been grazed by Chewie’s bowcaster. Hmmm, maybe Kylo deflected the shot, and his own crossguard blade went into him unintentionally.

Speaking of the impractical crossguard, it actually was of practical use when Ren and Finn were in the classic close-in-and-locked position. In some ways it was the bridge to his decisive finishing move on Finn.

As for not using the Force to just disarm and defeat Finn? If you want to call it a plot hole, fine. But Ren was angry, injured, emotional, and clearly had something to prove. This was Darth Vader’s lightsaber he wanted to obtain. He might have wanted to earn it in glorious combat.

So I’d debate its plot-hole-worthiness.

5. Just minutes before Starkiller Base explodes, Supreme Leader Snoke tells Hux to go get Kylo Ren and take him off the planet. Unfortunately, Ren had recently (unbeknownst to Hux) run into the woods like a lunatic, leaving no information about his whereabouts. It’s no problem, though, because Hux apparently has special Kylo Ren GPS and (one assumes) goes right to the spot in the middle of the forest where Ren is bleeding to death; otherwise, Ren would have died on the planet along with everybody else from the First Order.

I don’t know why Abramson assumes that Kylo Ren left no information to his whereabouts. He and a squad of Stormtroopers went to the Thermal Oscillator facility. Any one of those troopers could have reported their situation when the shooting started. For that matter, I don’t know why Kylo Ren can’t be assumed to have a communicator on him, to signal Hux his location before the planet exploded.

Why weren’t we shown any of this? Because it’s really not all that important. As Abramson said, the movie had Snoke direct Hux to get Ren. I don’t think we really need more information than that. The details aren’t all that interesting.

6. The reason Ren was slowly bleeding to death — instead of being dead by Rey’s hand — is that a massive a chasm had just miraculously opened up in the several feet between the two of them. Such bad timing for Rey! (Damn you, deus-ex-geology!)

It’s convenient for the plot that combatants are separated by some mechanism, I’ll agree. But we see things like this all the time in movies (particularly action movies.) Bridges break, burning buildings collapse, etc.

Since Abramson defines a plot hole as a logical inconsistency in the story, I’m curious what’s inconsistent? There are earthquakes happening when the Thermal Oscillator facility goes up, so it’s not wildly odd that Ren and Rey, who are near that facility, experience seismic events. No one mentioned that the planet the Starkiller Base was built into was supernaturally quake proof.

Again, it’s certainly a plot convenience, but not a plot hole.

11. Kylo Ren is the head of the Knights of Ren, but there are no other Knights of Ren in the movie.

Really?

knightsofren

The Knights of Ren? No, we’re the Knights Who Say Ni. We’re looking for a shrubbery.

The dudes in Rey’s flashback/possible-flashforward seemed to be Team Ren, with all the matching Dark Pug helmets. We don’t have any details on them, but this isn’t a plot hole.

Hey, here’s an observation. Darth Vader was the Dark Lord of the Sith, right? Which basically made him the Dark Lord of Himself, since he and Emperor Palpatine were the only Sith left (since there are only two, allegedly from prequel information) and I doubt the Emperor would consider Vader his superior.

No need to get wrapped around the plot hole axle on this.

21. Kylo Ren has such a Force-enabled sense of where his father is in the Galaxy that when his father lands on Starkiller Base, Ren immediately exclaims to himself, “Solo!” Yet a few minutes later, when Ren is just twenty feet from Solo, he can’t detect him — and actually starts searching for him in the wrong direction.

Well, walking out onto the platform certainly seemed to do the trick. I’d say he went the right direction.

This whole Force sensing thing has never really been that defined. I’ve never seen a Jedi use it like GPS. I’ve always imagined it working like: I sense a needle in the haystack. The Force will lead me to the haystack. Wow, that’s a lot of hay in that stack. But I’m sure there’s a needle in this haystack.

So, unless we get more examples of Force users using the Force like a scarily accurate dowsing rod, I’m not calling this a plot hole.

22. How lame is Han’s attempt to convert his son? Han knows Ren (Ben) has just participated in the genocide of literally billions of people on multiple planets and moons, and he basically says to him, “Hey, this just isn’t you, buddy…” Of course his son kills him! What else was going to happen?

As a parent, I’ll respectfully disagree. The most a parent can do is try. (Screw you, Yoda. We’re not like the Jedi.)

To not try is to revoke one’s parent card. I’m sorry that Han didn’t have a dazzling speech or detailed and persuasive argument to lure his son back from the Dark Side, other than to show love and acceptance.

Look, Han’s position is clearly established: he talks his way out of things. He believes that it works every time. Chewie might remember otherwise, but Han’s pretty stubborn in this. He says so in the movie. So Han’s move with Ben is not logically inconsistent, it’s very consistent.

23. Why do Rey and Finn just stand by watching as Ren murders Han? They didn’t know Ren was Han’s son, so the drama on the catwalk must have looked absolutely bizarre to them. Why didn’t they think to fire even a single blaster shot down at Ren (given that he was just standing there on the catwalk) until — from their vantage-point, with the knowledge they had at the time, entirely predictably — Ren killed Han?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scene as described by Abramson in any other movie, where onlookers prematurely intervene in what very well could be a negotiation.

Since the facility has other Stormtroopers visible (we see them draw guns on Han when he calls to Kylo Ren, using Ren’s real name), shooting at Ren would no doubt end with Han Solo being killed by Stormtrooper fire. I think the old term Mexican standoff applies, but I want to be sensitive, so I’ll call it a Rodian standoff in honor of Greedo the bounty hunter. Who did not shoot first.

Greedo

Greedo, the only way I’ll let you pull that trigger first, is if you shoot yourself.

Rey and Finn shooting without compelling cause would have be wildly impulsive. The action of observing rather than shooting is not a plot hole.

27. How did Kylo Ren manage to get Darth Vader’s mask into his little fetish den? This is only the most significant piece of memorabilia in the entire Galaxy. Not a plot hole per se, but still odd. And yet a similar question could be asked of Rey: how did she get that X-wing pilot helmet, and why doesn’t she sell it for food? And why does Teedo (a fellow scavenger on Jakku) just give Rey BB-8 after capturing the droid, given that as an experienced trader Teedo would already know that (as Rey quickly discovers) BB-8 is worth 100 times more than any random pile of junk either he or Rey could ever offer Plutt? Now that is a plot hole.

I was tempted to answer this earlier on my page about Rey

First off, the most significant piece of memorabilia in the entire Galaxy would be Mace Windu’s purple-beam lightsaber. I’ll not entertain any disagreement.

And I don’t see why it would be odd that Kylo Ren had the authentic Sith Lord helm (we’ll assume it’s legit and not a knock off.) Ben’s uncle Luke Skywalker burned Anakin Skywalker’s body on a pyre on Endor, and possibly took the helmet with him. Ben eventually was a Jedi apprentice to Luke, and he has a Darth Vader fixation. (Darth Vader is Ben Solo’s grandfather. Just want to remind everyone.) If we’re taking bets, my money would be that Ben Solo stole the helmet from Luke.

I can’t prove any of this, but I don’t think I have to. Unless there’s some evidence that the helmet was destroyed. Is there some reason that Kylo Ren can’t have the helmet?

As for Rey and her X-wing pilot helmet (which can’t be as rare as Vader’s helmet), it seems weird that I would even have to explain how she could have got one.

swdestroyer

Wrecked X-wing in the foreground, Seth. It’s not hidden. Pretty obvious, really.

Jakku is littered with Rebel Alliance spacecraft along with Imperial ships. Rey is a scavenger, it’s not odd to imagine she found the helmet in a wreck. Nor is it a stretch to imagine that it could be memorabilia from one of her parents. Rey has a homemade doll in her ruined AT-AT home that looks like a Rebel Alliance pilot, so the helmet might be significant to her. Too significant to sell for food, when she can loot starships for parts and trade those for food.

Teedo doesn’t give Rey anything. Rey frees BB-8 and waves a knife at Teedo. He wisely leaves her be. Rey shows only disdain for the other scavenger, so that established pecking order is communicated to us, unless we want to be willfully ignorant in favor of wracking up dubious plot holes.

32. Kylo Ren takes his mask off pretty readily, and in pretty mixed company, for someone determined to wear super uncomfortable headgear perpetually.

Pretty readily? He takes it off twice. Twice. Once for dramatic effect with Rey, once for dramatic effect with Han. I’m not sure what mixed company has to do with this, and I don’t know why any of that matters anyway.

Kylo isn’t using it to breathe. There’s nothing in the movie that implies Kylo Ren is forbidden to take it off. So why is that a plot hole?

33. Why does Kylo Ren assign just a single Stormtrooper to guard Rey, the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order?

I’m not so sure why we should assume Kylo Ren is in charge of assigning guards, it could just as easily be a duty rotation deal. Probably JB-007* happened to be assigned to prisoner detail that day.

But Rey (is she the most valuable prisoner in the history of the First Order?) had the same number of guards that Poe Dameron had. One. Poe would certainly be close to being important.

That doesn’t seem inconsistent. At all.

One can argue that the First Order needs to beef up or at least review their security procedures, but one guard on Rey at that time isn’t a plot hole.


My Thoughts on Ben Solo. I mean, Kylo Ren

I was pleased that the movie didn’t dance around the fact that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, it was established pretty early in the movie. Had that revelation happened on the catwalk of tragedy, it would have seemed a bit lame.

On the other hand, when Han yelled “BEN” I choked up.

We assume that Ben Solo was the apprentice that turned on Luke, as Han explained to Rey and Finn. After all, Ben’s now running around in all black and praying to Darth Vader’s helment. But the story is ambiguous enough that if something more complicated was going on, I would not be surprised. I’m trying to keep my expectations down.

Kylo Ren is a powerful user of the Force, working for the Dark Side. He’s got the Force choke down, he’s got the telekinesis aspect down.  He’s better at mind reading than Darth Vader ever demonstrated. And he has that extremely cool trick of freezing a blaster bolt in the air. Right on.

But he seems to have met his match at the moment when facing Rey, not only when he failed to visualize the map to Luke Skywalker, but when she bested him in the lightsaber duel. He wasn’t 100% during the duel, and Rey’s unexpected Force connection might have taken him off guard. Or possibly he’s just not as good as he thinks he is, or we assumed he was.

We don’t yet have a Force yardstick to measure him against. Let’s not demand his midichlorian count, okay?

Presumably, Snoke will making good on his promise to complete Kylo Ren’s training, which might give him the edge in the next Ren vs Rey bout. But Rey has found Luke Skywalker, Ben Solo’s old teacher, who might give her the instruction she needs to continue to best an improved Kylo Ren.

But I’m less interested in this arms race between the Light Side and the Dark Side, at least with lightsaber proficiency, than I am with the battle between Kylo Ren and Ben Solo.

In Return of the Jedi, Luke tried to lure his father away from the Dark Side. That seemed like a pretty hopeless task. That Vader somehow ending up Force-ghosting into Jedi Heaven (or whatever) completely failed to work for me. So I’d like to see another stab at that particular storyline and have it be satisfying. (Regardless if Kylo Ren is redeemed or not.)

In this way (and in other ways) Ben Solo/Kylo Ren gets to be another attempt to redeem the early Anakin Skywalker storyline, of a young man pulled to the Dark Side.

On a less big picture note, I wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the visual design of Kylo Ren. Yes, it’s a character that lends itself to mockery, either in comparison to Dark Helmet from Mel Brooks’ movie Space Balls, or in tweets from the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account. But I like the creepy medieval demon-monk look of Kylo Ren, which is reminiscent of Darth Vader’s evil Samurai visual concept, but sufficiently different.

To put this in Dungeons and Dragons terms: Darth Vader visually appeared to be a lawful evil devil, while Kylo Ren looks more like a chaotic evil demon. Both are dangerous and scary, in different ways.

adam-driver-kylo-ren

Dammit! I forgot to tell Hux about my Dungeons and Dragons game tonight. We need his half-elven female ranger character!

Presumably, we’ll see Kylo Ren out for a rematch with Rey in the next movie, possibly with some cybernetic upgrades. Kylo Ren isn’t just Goth, he’ll probably be Cyberpunk as well.

But for the next two years, he’ll probably be referred to as everyone’s new favorite Disney princess. Man, that’s going to piss him off.

Next post, I’ll talk a bit more about Kylo Ren’s organization of choice: The First Order.


Comments are welcome. Super welcome!

Images from The Force Awakens, obviously.

*Everyone probably knows by now that the Stormtrooper guarding Rey was played by Daniel Craig, the current James Bond. That Stormtrooper is credited as JB-007.

I make no claims to the images, but some claims to the text. So there. Except for the plot hole quotes that Seth Abramson had in his HuffPo article. Obviously I make no claims to that text, and encourage you to read his entire work here.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. Brook Monroe says:

    Because the fallout of Ren and Rey (okay, that’s weird) using so much of the Force caused a local seismic event.

    Because the Star Wars saga has never used plot convenience before. (Read some of the criticisms of the The Usual Suspects re plot convenience. Seriously, is this all Abramson’s got?)

    I’ve assumed that Leia was the one that came up with “Ben” as a name for her son; Han didn’t really like Kenobi that much, and he doesn’t seem the sentimental type. At the same time, as near as anyone can tell, Leia had never met Kenobi (being near him as an infant doesn’t count), so she’s honoring Luke’s memory of Kenobi more than her own. I found that naming choice to be a little odd.

    Maz Kenata => “Mas Que Nada,” Jorge Ben, 1963; Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66, 1966. I’m just sayin’.

    38. Is Supreme Leader Snoke actually a giant? Because if not, wouldn’t him using holographic technology to make himself appear huge be a pathetic affection signaling deep-seeded insecurities?

    Uh, no. Why would we assume that the guy on the transmitting end gets to control the size of the projection on the receiving end? When Kim Jong Un has his picture painted on the side of a building, do you believe he expects people to surmise that his head alone is 47 feet in height? It makes more sense to assume that the darkened hall in which Snoke’s projected is actually supposed to have more people in it and that he’s projected so large so people can see him no matter where they are in the room.

    Kind of like how Star Wars:TFA was up on a big screen. I don’t know, maybe John Boyega really is 22 feet tall. That’s certainly how it was portrayed on the screen.

    Also, a professor of English should know that it’s “deep-seated,” not “deep-seeded.” But I am not a professor of English–I’m just a professional writer who aced the language portion of the SAT back in the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brook, you’ll just have to wait a day or so for me to address point 38. Thanks to your proofreading, I’ll make sure I didn’t use “deep-seeded”

      As for Ben Solo, I think Luke might have named his nephew that. Sometimes godfathers/uncles get that privilege. It makes more sense then either Leia or Han to do so.

      Like

  2. I haven’t finished reading this yet, but I do have an example of Force GPS for you (which still doesn’t support Ambramson). It’s not specifically stated, but it is implied, that in the original Star Wars (like you, I don’t call it “A New Hope”), Vader used the force to find Obi-Wan.

    So we’ve kindasorta seen it. But …

    My take on Kylo Ren (and much of TFA backs me up on this) is that he isn’t the hot sh*t he thinks he is. He fails at a lot of things. He takes two prisoners and loses them both. The droid he’s after consistently gets away. He doesn’t instantly kick Finn’s butt.

    [Aside: why doesn’t he? Finn certainly was never trained in how to use a lightsaber. Right, but he was trained as a soldier, so we don’t have to be shown that he might have been drilled in the fighting staff, or a real sword, or oh, say, that riot baton. End of Aside.]

    Kylo Ren is consistently portrayed not as the new Darth Vader, but as a Darth Vader wannabe. So I’m completely along for the ride when he can sense Solo’s presence, but only in a vague general way.

    Oh, and who cares how he got the helmet? The fact that we’re not shown a thing doesn’t make it an unforgiveable plot hole. I always thought it was kinda weird that Luke built a new lightsaber, because I never saw anybody teach him how. Doesn’t make it a plot hole.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jennnanigans says:

      I think ‘Force GPS’ (my new favorite phrase) is a lot less specific than Abramson thinks.

      Like Pat said, it tells you when someone’s near, but not necessarily where they are or what they’re doing. It’s the equivalent of other characters saying ‘I have a bad feeling about this’ – they don’t know why, but they know something’s wrong. Force-users might be able to verbalize a little more depending on how strong they are with the Force, but I doubt they can get really down to the specifics like “So and so is here with a blaster, five friends, and a size-eleven shoe to put in my *ss.”

      And as far as Ren not sensing Han, I think he knew Han was in the room, but couldn’t tell where so he went for a central vantage point to have a look around.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think ‘Darth Vader wannabe’ is excellent shorthand for Kylo Ren.

      Like

    • Yeah, I didn’t go into details with the similarity to Vader sensing Obi-Wan, but I’m not so sure he demonstrated actual GPS. Once Vader got a whiff of Ben Kenobi (who was hiding inside the Millennium Falcon, and Vader was right outside) Darth strolled over to tell Tarkin. Once stuff started happening in the detention block, Vader went back towards where he first sensed Obi-Wan, and kind of covered the approach to the hangar bay.

      The Force probably did some hot-and-cold indicators to help him intercept Obi-Wan, I agree. I just don’t think it contradicts Kylo looking for Han. As you said, he might not be as good as Vader at fine tuning his antennae.

      Like

  3. jennnanigans says:

    YES!

    This was my favorite so far because I am totally biased in favor of Kylo Ren. It’s not religon, I’m not on jury duty, I can totally like whom I like and be entirely subjective about it.

    Good calls on all these points – especially on the Spaceballs helmet. The minute I saw it in the theater I was like ‘Hey that looks like ‘ and could not unsee.

    You are gently dismantling Abramson’s non-holes with refinement and sophistication, and best of all, no snark. Kudos!

    And yes, Ren and Hux would play D&D. There’s probably already fanfic – and I am NOT complaining. 😀

    Like

  4. I meant to mention that I assume the Darth Vader helmet *is* a knockoff, and that they’re for sale in the Starkiller Base gift store. A base like that is expensive, and you have to raise money any way you can.

    Like

  5. It honestly seems like this professor just wants to complain for the sake of complaining because Star Wars is super popular, and I’ve often seen this affect (thinking of blogging about it actually…reasons popular things are hated, but I difress). It’s nitpicking for the sake the sake of nitpicking. Don’t get me wrong plot holes can and should be called out, but it seems that the bigger picture is often missed in the minutiae.

    Also Kylo Ren is my new fangirl crush so…there’s that. This might make me a biased defender, too. Possibly strange and inaccurate observation, but when he took off his helmet, his appearance kind of reminded me of Jon Snow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The professor just sent me a link on my Finn page, to his latest post praising the movie. I haven’t read it fully, since I need to finish my final wrap up post more or less uninfluenced (my next two posts where I talk about the last half of his plotholes are mostly written, I just need to polish them) – but it seems the gist is his early complaining posts about the movie where Straw Man arguments so he could provoke a reaction, and then bring in the positive view. I might be mischaracterizing. I’ll have a better sense about it after I’ve written the last of my stuff in this series, and then I’ll fully digest his latest post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hm or he could be retracting his arguments since there’s more information and/or push back. Lord knows I hate admitting when I’m wrong but good on you for creating such a discourse! When you can get the attention of someone like that in such a way, you know you’re doing something right!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As to point 22, and the Han and Ben catwalk conversation… Holly saw the result coming from way in advance, and I think I did from some point… and more to the point, Han saw it coming. To wit: Han hands over the detonator to Chewie. He likely 9/10 expects to die doing this, but as a father – and as a promise to Leia – he has to try. But he does so in a way that does not at all jeopardize the mission, nor does it directly endanger anyone else. So yes, he tries, but he does so expecting the consequences, and he does so intelligently.

    And from everything we can tell from the movie, when Han lost Ben before, he turned back to his smuggling life. He abandoned everything too. So this wasn’t just an attempt at redeeming Ben – it was Han redeeming himself.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] A Disturbance in The Force (Awakens): Part 4 – Finding Fault with Kylo Ren […]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sue Archer says:

    Nice distinction between a plot convenience and a plot hole! I completely agree with you on the parent card. And I found Ren’s struggle fascinating, because I also found parallels with the struggle with mental illness that many people experience. It had a depth to it that we really haven’t seen before, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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