J.J. Abrams opens the mystery box for once

We know from the trailers, promotional images, and interviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) will be wielding a cobbled-together lightsaber, and will be working for The First Order. The Order is a continuation of the Galactic Empire, and will somehow connect to ‘The Knights of Ren’ of which Kylo is a member. What we all assumed, however, is that Driver would be playing a Sith. In an uncharacteristically forthcoming interview with Empire Magazine, director J.J. Abrams revealed that this is not the case:

Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force

Snoke, who we have yet to see, is the motion-capture character Andy Serkis will be playing. He isn’t included in the first wave of toy merchandise for the film coming this Christmas, so it looks like he’s still being kept under wraps. While this is an unexpected development, the really interesting comments were about The First Order itself:

That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again? What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?

Rather than the wounded Empire just getting a new name and an updated look, it seems like The Force Awakens is going in a different direction. The First Order may rise out of the ashes of the Empire, but the connection will be based on ideology more than anything. Devin Faraci has mentioned in his article that this news connects to something a source told him a few months back: “Kylo Ren is essentially a Nazi Memorabilia collector, and Darth Vader is his Hitler“. This works with what we’ve heard about ‘The Knights of Ren’, who take on the title ‘Ren’ in a similar way to how Sith Lords took on the mantle ‘Darth’, as well as Kylo’s mask. Darth Vader redeemed himself at the end of Return of the Jedi by turning away from the Dark Side and bringing balance to the Force – but who actually knows this? Luke presumably told his friends, but to the rest of the galaxy, Vader could still be a symbol of power and oppression. Rather than just rehash the war with the Sith, this progression in the Star Wars narrative feels more natural. Who said the Rebel Alliance’s victory was clean and absolute?

Empire Magazine

While this shows that the Rebels weren’t entirely successful, their defeat of the Empire still dismantled that particular organisation. However, the Rebels’ renaming to ‘The Resistance’ suggests they are still smaller in some way. The original trilogy situated the Empire as full-on bad guys, evil to their core (save for Vader’s eventual turn) and there for power only. Abrams’ comments on The First Order attempting to follow in their footsteps implies a philosophy that could unite followers after the collapse of their power structure. Going with the Nazi comparison – there are beliefs they held that still resonate with racist assholes today. Only a few weeks back there was a ‘White Man March’ in Liverpool, the Neo-Nazi group ‘National Action’ promising a weekend of “ethnically enriched chaos and mayhem” (Fortunately, they were vastly outnumbered by anti-fascist protesters chanting “Master race, you’re having a laugh”). If the movie can pull off giving the First Order an ideology propelling them onwards, it could enrich the whole series, and even mirror some of the more horrible aspects of the real world today.