Throughout the course of the current Star Wars trilogy, the vengeful villain, as portrayed by Adam Driver, has been shaping up as a new Darth Vader-in-the-making.
In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens teased Ren's rise to power through a hallucinatory vision experienced by aspiring Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley). It was at this point that we got a rain-slicked, lightning-inflected image of the Knights of Ren, although wider context was lacking.
In 2017, Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi stuck true to its mantra "let the past die", largely neglecting the Knights of Ren backstory while having the character shatter his mask and ascend to First Order supremacy.
At the same time, we got a controversial expansion of the character's link to his uncle, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who, it was revealed, attempted to kill Ren after discovering he was powerful with the Dark Side. In retaliation, Ren destroyed the Jedi temple and was further seduced by the forces of evil.
The Rise of Skywalker marks a conscious decision by returning director Abrams to resolve the plot threads laid down in The Force Awakens. However, he says he's also incorporated plenty of Johnson's more divisive storytelling choices in a bid to bring this character arc to an end.
"I never found myself trying to repair anything," Abrams tells Empire. "If I had done VIII, I would have done things differently, just as Rian would have done things differently if he had done VII. But having worked on television series, I was accustomed to creating stories and characters that then were run by other people.
"If you’re willing to walk away from the thing that you created and you believe it’s in trustworthy hands, you have to accept that some of the decisions being made are not gonna be the same that you would make. And if you come back into it, you have to honour what’s been done."
Co-writer Chris Terrio, who an Oscar for Ben Affleck movie Argo, further elucidates on the complex nature of Ren's character.
"Some of the most interesting scenes in The Last Jedi are the conversations between Rey and Ren," he says. "We’ve tried to pick up that complicated relationship that really has been present ever since the interrogation in Episode VII. When Ren takes off his mask, there’s a nakedness about him with Rey that he doesn’t express to anyone else. Rian developed that in fascinating ways and we’ve been able to develop it even further."
The Rise of Skywalker poses many other questions, besides the presence of Ren's loyal followers. Chiefly, we're wondering how Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine is seemingly back from the dead, and how this will have an impact on Rey as she appears to vacillate between the light and dark sides of the Force.
The movie also features the late Carrie Fisher's final screen appearance, constructed of unused footage from both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. We're very intrigued to see how that is pulled off.
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Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker, alongside John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata and Domhnall Gleeson as Hux.
They're joined by original trilogy veteran Billy Dee Williams, back as Lando Calrissian, and new franchise faces Keri Russell, Naomie Ackie and Richard E. Grant, playing Zorrii Bliss, Jannah and Allegiant General Pryde, respectively. Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd is also featuring as resistance officer Connix.