How The Next Star Wars Movies Can Explore Kylo Ren's Complicated Legacy

We need to talk about Ben Solo, once again. Starting with "The Force Awakens," Kylo Ren has been a controversial adversary in the sequel trilogy of "Star Wars." A servant of the First Order, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) was the brooding, patricidal son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and a fanboy of his grandpa Darth Vader. Depending on certain points of view, he was either a sad boy deserving of redemption or a brat who never received any grace. But even at his worst, Kylo Ren had an allure that couldn't be denied.

However you feel about Kylo Ren, things are about to get more controversial. The 2023 Star Wars Celebration announced an upcoming untitled "Star Wars" movie directed by "Ms. Marvel" Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. It's set 15 years after "Rise of Skywalker," with Daisy Ridley returning as Rey Skywalker to train the new Jedi generation. Whether or not Ben will explicitly be brought up, he's sure to haunt those events.

Under his Kylo persona, Ben grappled with a torrent of guilt. "The Force Awakens" depicts him as torn up about killing his own father. In "The Last Jedi," he refuses to turn over a new leaf. By the much-maligned "Rise of Skywalker" trilogy conclusion (essentially "Return of the Jedi" remixed), he re-embraced the Light for good, saved Rey from a zombified Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid), and died. Just as Rey's legacy is up to question, how can the new movie handle the colossal mess that Ben left behind?

Embrace the ambivalence

Like in the case of Anakin Skywalker, there's no glossing over the galactic damage and incalculable body count left behind by Ben Solo. When you think of Darth Vader's legacy, you might think about how he chose to end his story with a redemptive act, overthrowing the tyrannical Emperor, and reconciling with his son Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Since "Star Wars" is based on myth and fantasy, the romanticized framing of forgiveness is justified for the personal drama, but it was tiresome when it was replicated for "Rise of Skywalker."

Over time and through supplemental franchise materials, many fan perspectives have shifted. In Claudia Gray's "Bloodline" novel, we find out that reconciliation could not extend to his daughter Leia Organa, who recalls the coldness of Darth Vader's hand on her shoulder during captivity. That's how she remembers her father. Leia hasn't forgiven him and has to grapple with her late father's complexities, both his monstrosities and original intentions. Around her, the galaxy remembers him as a horrific memory. No doubt, Kylo Ren will always be that memory for millions.

Rae Carson's "Rise of Skywalker" novelization also deals with the controversial Ben-Rey kiss with more internal ambivalence than the onscreen romantic framing. These two novelists are onto something: ambivalence may be the best approach considering the aftermath. The galaxy is not inclined to forgive Kylo Ren nor Ben Solo. Even Rey's thoughts about the late Ben may shift over the years.

What a Force-ghost Ben Solo might owe us

When Ben passed, his vanishing body suggested that he was spirited away much like his namesake Obi-Wan Kenobi, his mother, his grandfather, and his Uncle Skywalker. So a Force-ghost Ben can't be discounted. He probably had the most awkward family reunion in the spirit realm. As of now, he might be chilling in the Cosmic Force and getting scolded by his Force-ghost mom. 

I'm honestly mixed about this. A Force-ghost Ben Solo would probably be too distracting in what should be a Rey movie. But this is the "Star Wars" franchise, so it would act on the profitable impulse to bring him back in some form to steal the spotlight (and Rey's thunder). That said, narratively, a Force-ghost Ben could open an interesting atonement arc — the screenplay would have a chance to deal with the gravity of his misdeeds. If his ghost is involved in the creation of Rey's new Jedi Order (beyond just a fleeting cameo), just imagine him feeding the Younglings and Padawan's PSAs on the temptations of the Dark Side. But it would take a lot more than a teaching position to address his wrongs.

As more information comes out about the new film, Ben's legacy is going to linger in discussions.