Back by popular demand but better than the fourth Indiana Jones film is the next instalment in our ‘Villains’ series, where I share my thoughts on which movie bad guys have been worth the wait, and which have been a big ol’ let down.
So far, I’ve put villains from the Harry Potter, James Bond and Marvel series under the microscope – this time around, I’ll turn my attention to the glorious and often polarising space opera saga that is Star Wars (and I’ll do my level best not to geek out too much in the process).
Before I get into it, though, here’s an important disclaimer: there are a TON of heroes and villains in the Star Wars universe and while it would be fun to compare a baddie from the prequel trilogy with someone in Rogue One, it may not be entirely fair, especially if their character spans more than one trilogy and we have more time to love or hate them. So I’m going to stick with the new trilogy on this occasion.
Also, the new trailer for The Rise of Skywalker dropped as I was writing this and almost made me go in a completely different direction on this one (that laugh…!), but I decided to stick with my original choice in the end.
Part four: Star Wars Villains (Sequel Trilogy)
Kylo Ren – heir apparent to Lord Vader indeed
I love Kylo Ren. I love Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. I love J.J. Abrams for making Kylo Ren such a badass in The Force Awakens, and Rian Johnson for developing his character in the right way in The Last Jedi. He was probably the best thing about both movies.
Remember the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens? Andy Serkis snarling “There has been an awakening…have you felt it? The Dark Side, and the Light.”
There’s a shot in that teaser that hit the cutting room floor of Kylo Ren igniting his crossguard lightsabre in the snowy woods on Starkiller Base. That was the beginning of the Kylo Ren hype that never really let up at all, even after he took off his mask to reveal the wavy dark locks of Adam Driver (I know a few people who hated that). Here was a villain deliberately modelled on Darth Vader, complete with his own distorted voice and hidden visage.
What I love about Kylo is the fact that we never really know just how good or bad he actually is, or whether or not he’s truly as powerful as other characters in the films keep telling us. At the end of The Force Awakens, he screams “TRAITOR!” at John Boyega’s Finn (something akin to Anakin’s “I HATE YOU!” shriek at Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith), reminding us that he’s still quite young and lacking in self-control – he’s also just murdered his own father at this point, so the capacity for evil is definitely there. And yet in The Last Jedi, he often seems just as conflicted as Rey, even veering tantalisingly towards the Light at times.
Ultimately, it’s all a mirroring of Vader, making Kylo Ren the first truly worthy successor to the heavy-breathing Dark Lord of the Sith. And like Vader, as The Rise of Skywalker approaches, we still have no real idea which way this particular Force-wielding villain is going to go in the end. As it should be.
Supreme Leader Snoke – just a red herring?
I thought Rian Johnson did a fantastic job with Snoke. Abrams hadn’t given us much to go on other than a gloomy-looking hologram with a booming voice, but Johnson wasted no time in revealing the First Order’s Big Bad shortly after the opening scene of The Last Jedi. Snoke’s fairly hideous appearance, given life by the brilliant Andy Serkis, was pretty much what I’d been hoping for. I also loved the fact that his throne room was mostly bright and red, and Snoke himself wore gold-coloured clothing instead of the usual black ensemble.
And I genuinely loved the moment when Kylo Ren sliced his master in two – it was totally unexpected and completely threw the audience at the time.
However, I was gutted that we never discovered who the heck the Supreme Leader actually was. Like many fans, I’d spent months trying to work out who he was: Palpatine? Darth Plagueis? Mace Windu (yes, someone actually suggested that!).
So when the credits finally rolled and we were no closer to finding out who he was or why he wanted to take over the galaxy, I felt a little cheated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the positive end of Star Wars fans regarding The Last Jedi, but I’d wanted some answers and hadn’t gotten anyway. Maybe we’ll find out in the final instalment who Snoke was, but I fear that ship has sailed.
The bottom line
I don’t think many Star Wars fans would argue that Kylo Ren isn’t a great villain. He has all the makings of a classic cinematic figure on the cusp of a satisfying character arc completion (I hope!), and the trailer shots of his mask being repaired got me even more excited for The Rise of Skywalker than I already had been (he’s cooler with the mask on, right?). On Snoke, I wanted some answers and Rian Johnson didn’t throw any my way, so I can never really feel at peace with that one.
Here’s to a satisfying end to the greatest movie saga of all time!
Read the rest of “The Movie Villains Who Nailed It” series: