Kylo Ren idolizes his grandfather, Darth Vader. But will Ben Solo’s story mirror that of Anakin Skywalker?
Ben Solo, who later adopts the name Kylo Ren, is a tragic, tortured soul, eternally fighting an internal battle between good and evil. He’s also a straight-up Darth Vader stan.
In many ways, Kylo Ren is everything Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels: He’s emotional, unstable, and unpredictable. He has an ultimate goal but is unsure how to direct his raw energy toward accomplishing that goal. He’s extraordinarily gifted, but is unable to get out of his own way.
His grandfather is one of the most well known figures in all of Star Wars lore — one of the most powerful Jedi of all time who succumbed to the dark side of the Force in order to save his wife, Padme, from a death he foresaw. He was a well-intentioned, if hotheaded kid who was thought by Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi to be the Chosen One, the one who would bring balance to the Force. Anakin had noble intentions but could not ignore the siren’s song of the dark side.
What we’ve seen of Kylo Ren is something of an inverse. He also garnered lofty expectations after being trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker after the Battle of Endor. However, Ren idolizes, nearly deifies, his grandfather, and aspires to be the callous, ruthless leader Darth Vader was, despite constantly being pulled toward the light side — surely thanks in no small part to his Force-sensitive lineage. He is the son of Princess Leia, after all.
(Spoilers for those who haven’t seen The Force Awakens) The scene where Kylo Ren kills his father, Han Solo, is a great piece of cinematography to show this internal struggle. The scene begins with daylight shining on Kylo’s face as he explains to his father his inner demons. You even see half of his face covered in red, the other half in blue. By the time the sunlight is blotted out, however, Kylo’s face is entirely red and he knows then what he must do.
Anakin underwent a similar transformation in Revenge of the Sith. Clouded by conflict as one of his Jedi Masters Mace Windu was about to deliver the final blow to Chancellor Palpatine, you see the anger and confusion build up in Anakin’s eyes as he ultimately makes the galaxy-altering decision to stop Windu and allow Palpatine to kill him.
Anakin pledges fealty to Palpatine, also known as the sinister Darth Sidious, in exchange for the promise that Padme will live (a promise that was obviously not kept). Kylo Ren shows the same subservience to the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, but as of now it is unknown why he does so.
George Lucas (in)famously said during the filming of the prequels, "It’s like poetry. They rhyme. Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one." Star Wars has always been about this yin and yang, symbiotic relationship between characters. The similarities between the original trilogy and the prequels have been well documented, as has the overall story of The Force Awakens when comapared to A New Hope. Beyond that, though, there are dozens of cinematic decisions that offer that type of "poetry" between grandfather Anakin and grandson Ben:
In the end, of course, Darth Vader was redeemed by his son, Luke Skywalker, and became a digitally remastered Force ghost that looked like his early-20s self for some reason. What fate will come of Kylo Ren? We don’t know for sure yet, but if it truly rhymes as George Lucas once said, the easy money goes to a redemption for the unstable leader of the First Order. However, since his trajectory seems inverted compared to that of his grandfather Anakin, maybe he’ll end up doing the redeeming.