Updated: Jul 2, 2019
There’s a lot of debate over just how strong Kylo Ren is. Most of Kylo’s detractors, cite his defeat by a novice at Star-Killer base as an argument for how much weaker he is than Darth Vader. But that fight is no indicator of his true strength. There were multiple factors that contributed to that defeat but we’ll get into that later. I’m here to let you know that Kylo Ren is just as powerful, if not stronger than, the most badass sith lord in Star Wars. Darth Vader.
In this article, we will only be using examples from the films. Why you ask? Because Kylo hasn’t appeared in animated or comic-book form (aside from comic adaptations of the films TFA and TLJ). Animated depictions of force abilities are most times ridiculously over powered. Ezra Bringer mind controlled a Walker off a cliff with ease in an episode of Rebels. We haven’t even seen Obi Wan display that level of power in the films, and he’s a Jedi Master. So, it would be unfair to compare Kylo’s onscreen abilities with Vader or Anikan’s animated feats.
Now let’s get started. Kylo Ren is a powerful force user who can stop laser bolts in mid-air and hold them in place as an afterthought. He can tear thoughts from your mind. He’s an expert swordsman. He also outsmarted the most powerful (living) Darkside force master. Snoke.
I know what you’re thinking right now. “But Kylo can’t backflip like Darth Maul. He doesn’t use fancy fighting techniques during his battles. He just bashes his opponents with his giant light saber.” Exactly. All of those elegant fighting techniques didn’t save the remaining Jedi from Vader when he came looking for them. It turns out that Vader’s simplistic fighting style, that he developed as a result of his injuries, was a far more efficient way to fight.
Back flips don’t assure victories. A shaolin monk doesn’t automatically beat a Viking just because his moves are more elegant and require more training to learn. Strength is important in a fight. You want to know why Luke was able to last more than two seconds against Vader. It’s because when Vader struck at him with his light saber, Luke was strong enough to maintain his balance as he blocked. That’s it.
Kylo Ren fights like a Viking with a bastard sword and the Vikings were formidable in battle because of how strong they were. His lack of elegance doesn’t make him an inferior swordsman. That’s the way Luke taught him how to fight and it’s effective. I doubt that most of the prequel era Jedi Masters would even stand a chance against Kylo in a duel.
“But Kylo lost to Rey and she never even held a light saber before?” That’s a good point. But here is a counter point that many people ignore about Rey. Rey never held a light saber but she was proficient in the use of melee weapons. She grew up on a hostile world with no guns. Everyone walked around carrying swords and other hand-held weapons. Rey was one of the best scavenger’s on Jaaku. Do you think she didn’t have to constantly defend herself from knife wielding muggers? She grew up fighting.
“But that still doesn’t explain why a Luke trained Kylo would lose to a self-taught Rey.” So, we established that Rey was physically qualified to step into the ring with Kylo. But how did she win? The answer to that question is simple, Snoke. Snoke foolishly pressured Kylo into killing his own father, thinking this would make Kylo stronger but it had the opposite effect. Kylo was so conflicted over what he had done that he could barely use the force during his fight with Rey. Meanwhile, Rey was completely in sync with the force during the battle, to the point where it’s almost guiding her movements. Kylo had to battle against the force itself in that fight. Of course, he lost.
“But Kylo himself admits that he’s weaker than Darth Vader. Try explaining that.” Kylo believes that he is weaker than Vader because he’s insecure. He didn’t even know how strong Vader was. He never met his grandfather. He’s going by what Snoke told him about Vader. So of course, Snoke is going to lie to him. Kylo’s insecurity is the only power Snoke has over him. Snoke’s only value to Kylo is the belief that he can make him just as strong as Vader. You really think that Snoke would tell him, “great news. You’re just as power as Darth Vader now.” No. Snoke kept moving the goal post to keep Kylo in line. And he was smart to do so because once Kylo realized he didn’t need Snoke anymore, he killed him.
“How do any of these points make him as strong as Vader?” Okay. Movie Vader wasn’t the untouchable juggernaut that we all built him up into over the past 40 years. He was formidable, he was awesome, but if you watch the OT he didn’t do anything that was beyond what we see Kylo Ren doing in the ST. He threw a light saber, he floated some metal boxes at Luke, and he choked a lot of dudes. Vader will always be my favorite movie villain but the tales of how strong he was are greatly exaggerated. Kylo fights just as well, and his force powers are just as strong if not more powerful than his grandfather’s. I think most people believe Kylo is weak because they think he’s whiny. But Vader was just as broken and emotional. He was just able to hide it all behind a mask.
“Whatever. He’s still a bad villain. Thank god they’re bringing Palpatine back.” I gotta completely disagree with you on this front. Kylo Ren is an incredible villain. We get to see an alternate take on Vader through him. What if Anakin wasn’t physically destroyed on Mustafar? Would he have eventually overthrown Palpatine and ruled the galaxy? Yes. Through Kylo we have an idea of what could have been. And we also get to see how pointless that path is.
Like Vader, Kylo is still miserable even after he accomplished his goal. Even after gaining all of that power that he coveted. It’s not worth all of the relationships he destroyed to get it. He’s more alone than he’s ever been. He thought he wouldn’t be afraid anymore once he was in control but now he’s even more afraid. He has more to lose.
That’s what makes a great villain. It’s not the power to pull Star-Destroyers from the sky or being an invincible force to be reckoned with. It’s not doing a backflip, as you toss your light saber into the air, and then catching it just as you land to strike down your opponent. Great villains teach us lessons. Watching them make the wrong decisions, informs us about what the right choices are. That’s the reason that why Kylo Ren is just as strong as Vader, because his story is just as powerful.
Written by Thomas K Davis
Author of the Versatile Layer book series
Versatile Layer is available on Amazon