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Last night, we got what it is supposed to be the last trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker before the movie arrives in December. As expected, the trailer didn't reveal much. It gave us some pretty visuals, awesome spaceships, out of context moments that were nonetheless tearjerking, and that epic John Williams score that will always make your heart swell. That was pretty much it.
If it pushed any sort of narrative element, it was the continued tease of possible redemption for Kylo Ren. From the beginning, the idea that Ben Solo might find his way back to the light has been an element of the story. It's something that a lot of fans have been hoping to see, and I'm just not one of them.
I totally get the desire to see Ben Solo redeemed. He's the son of two of our favorite characters from the Skywalker Saga. As fans of them, we don't want to see their son permanently lost. On a more meta level, Adam Driver is an excellent actor who has made this character by far the most complex and interesting villain in the history of the franchise. We like that, and so we want to cheer for him.
And yet, I just can't get excited by the concept. Admittedly, a large part of the reason for that is the simple fact that we've seen it all before. The third movie of the original trilogy saw the redemption of Darth Vader. The third movie of the prequel trilogy saw the fall of Anakin Skywalker. I just can't look forward to the redemption of Ben Solo, if that is in fact where we're going.
And not only would this be a case of repeating a storyline we've seen before. It could repeat so many identical elements. Ben Solo could finally choose the light in a battle against the Emperor... on board the second Death Star. I would put money down that if redemption does happen, he will probably die in the process. It's easier than reconciling the idea that we're supposed to now love the guy who killed Han Solo. Even Daisy Ridley has said that she doesn't feel the things Kylo Ren has done can be entirely overlooked.
It's true that George Lucas himself said the Star Wars movies were "like poetry." The idea was that the story always came back around, so it makes sense that redemption would be at play again. I don't discount that it would make for a potentially good story. The problem is that because this seems to be so obviously where the movie is going, I'll find myself sitting down to a movie in two months where I'll know how it's going to end. Where's the fun in that?
And yet, it's not like the new trailer is the first time the idea of Kylo Ren ultimately being good has been suggested. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ben Solo, the man behind the Kylo Ren mask, tells his father Han that he is being torn apart. He clearly has doubts regarding his decision to give himself to the Dark Side. Of course, this is followed by Ren making a movie to help quell his doubts. He kills his own father.
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we were given a brief tease that Kylo Ren may have chosen a new side when he kills Supreme Leader Snoke, but then we realize that he didn't do it in an attempt to stop the First Order. He did so he could take over the First Order. He fought alongside Rey only as long as it was in his interest to do so. He wanted her to join him, not the other way around.
I loved the way this all played out in The Last Jedi. While Ben Solo may have shown weakness in The Force Awakens, he shows none in The Last Jedi. The only person convinced that there is any good left in Ben Solo is Rey, and she realizes how wrong she is.
There are three points in the new trailer where the idea of Kylo Ren potentially joining forces with Rey gets potentially referenced. First, there's the voiceover from Rey where she claims that nobody really understands her. This is followed by Kylo Ren claiming that he, in fact, does.
This is followed by hearing The Emperor claim that "your coming together is your undoing." This line could, of course, mean anything. It's done only as voiceover, and so we have no context of the scene where the line is spoken. Still, one "coming together" against the Emperor that it could be referencing is that of Kylo Ren and Rey.
Finally, we have the image at the top of the article, which shows Ren and Rey both using their lightsabers to smash something together. While we never get a really good look, it appears to be a plinth that is housing the smashed Darth Vader mask that we know is in Kylo Ren's possession.
Of course, as has been the case before, everything that we see that could be hinting at the redemption of Kylo Ren could be intentional misdirection. The previous trailer did tease us with a Sith Rey after all. It seems highly unlikely that Rey is going to go bad and Ren is going to go good, so at least one of these theories is clearly not going to work out. Maybe it'll be both of them.
The voiceovers that we hear are all without context, so that could mean anything. The smashing of the Darth Vader mask? That could actually be Rey and Kylo Ren fighting each other, and a deflected lightsaber is what is really smashing through the pedestal.
In fact, the best possible evidence that Kylo Ren will not be redeemed could be the fact that the movie seems to be so strongly hinting at it. The trailers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi wanted us to think Rey might go to the Dark Side, and while that option was technically presented to her, she never seriously considered it. And this is a J.J. Abrams movie, after all. The man cares about hiding the truth in his movies more than he cares about what that truth actually turns out to be.
I'm okay with Kylo Ren remaining a villain to be defeated rather than seeing him as a soul to be saved. Star Wars is full of bad guys who are just bad guys. Ben Solo may be lost and misguided, but that's a reason he's the person he is, not an excuse. The best way for Ben Solo to realize he's followed the wrong path isn't by changing his decision at the last minute. It's to be beaten.
I'm not saying Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be a bad movie if Ben Solo comes home. The movie's job is to get me and all the other viewers invested in its story. If it does that, then I'll be along for the ride, wherever it happens to take me, just like everybody else.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters on December 20.
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