First Shot/Last Shot – Kylo Ren

First Shot/Last Shot is a new series looking at – you guessed it – the first and last shots of characters from Star Wars. I think it’s fascinating to look at the introductions and departures of characters in films and observe the details. Is it a wide shot or a close-up? What other characters or objects are in the frame? It’s also a great excuse to examine the production design and cinematography in a film.

Will I read too much into these moments or come to conclusions the filmmakers never intended along the way? Probably. But that’s the fun of film analysis. I’m sure another person looking at these same shots might focus on different things – and I’d enjoy reading that article.

First up is Ben Solo, also known as Kylo Ren. I’m going to refer to him as Kylo throughout most of the rest of this article.

A note before we start: Ben Solo and Kylo Ren, like Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader, are two names for one person. Unlike his grandfather who could not breathe without his Vader helmet, Kylo can take off his helmet (more of a mask really) anytime he wants to. I decided to treat Kylo with his helmet on and off as two separate introductions in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Now let’s start with Kylo’s introduction to the Star Wars universe in The Force Awakens.

The shot that precedes Kylo’s very first shot in The Force Awakens is a wide shot of a group of First Order troopers in a Jakku village. On the left with the bloodstain on his helmet is FN-2187, later referred to as Finn, looking in the direction of Kylo’s shuttle.

I talked a lot about Kylo’s introduction in The Force Awakens in this article for the official Star Wars site. One of the things I mentioned is how the shot of Kylo walking down a ship ramp with smoke blowing out of the exhaust pipes is reminiscent of shots of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine exiting ships in the Original Trilogy.

A closer shot of Kylo then cuts to a shot of Lor San Tekka held by First Order troopers. Kylo is after one thing, the map to Luke Skywalker, and he’s ready and willing to destroy anything and anyone in his way to get it.

Kylo keeps his helmet on for the majority of The Force Awakens. The first time he takes it off is also one of the first times he talks to Rey.

Right before Kylo takes off his mask there is a wide shot of Rey strapped to the same chair Kylo used to rip information from Poe Dameron’s mind earlier in the film. Rey is in a near standing position with Kylo kneeling in front of her. This is a somewhat submissive stance for Kylo, but since Rey is restrained he still has all of the control and power in this scene.

During the shot above Rey calls Kylo a creature in a mask and Kylo responds by taking his helmet off.

Kylo stands up as he takes off his helmet and the following two shots are of Kylo and Rey looking at each other.

Kylo tries to force his way into Rey’s mind (and is partially successful). But Rey finds the mental strength to repel this invasion into her thoughts and starts reading some of Kylo’s emotions. In this case his fear of never becoming as strong as Darth Vader.

This scene contains the first obvious display of Rey’s force powers as well as the first hint at a connection between Rey and Kylo.

Shots of Rey similarly surround the last shots of Kylo in The Force Awakens. After their lightsaber battle in the woods, Rey has once again bested Kylo. Shortly after Rey knocks Kylo down seriously wounding him, the instability of Starkiller Base creates a chasm that divides them. In the screenshot below Kylo is on the left while Rey, with a lightsaber, is on the right.

Kylo looks at Rey.

Rey looks back at Kylo.

The last shot of Kylo somewhat mirrors the shot up above of Rey strapped to the table. Again we have a wide shot with Rey and Kylo on opposite sides of the screen. But this time, Rey is the one in full control.

The next shot shows Rey escaping. There is no matching shot of Kylo.

The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left off. Just as Kylo’s The Force Awakens introduction scene referenced Luke Skywalker – in that case, Kylo searching for the map to Luke’s location – his first appearance in The Last Jedi also has a Luke connection.

The shot that precedes Kylo’s first appearance is a close-up shot of Luke Skywalker.

Luke asks Rey and Chewbacca (who are offscreen) “Where’s Han?” and then the film cuts directly to a shot of Kylo. This editing choice is I’m sure intentional because Kylo IS what happened to Han.

Kylo is in an elevator in this shot – notably wearing his helmet again.

The following shot is the first look audiences get of Snoke’s throne room.

Later on in this scene, Kylo kneels before Snoke and takes off his helmet when Snoke commands him to “take that ridiculous thing off.”

Unlike his unmasking scene in The Force Awakens where he feels in control, in this scene Kylo is dominated by Snoke who towers over him as Kylo looks at the floor. Before this scene ends, Snoke refers to Kylo as a child in a mask echoing a bit Rey’s creature in a mask line from The Force Awakens.

Directly after Kylo leaves Snoke’s throne room he destroys his helmet, so we never see him in it again throughout the rest of the film.

Kylo’s last scene in The Last Jedi focuses on another interaction with Rey – which makes sense since much of the film highlighted the force connection between the two of them.

At the beginning of their last force connection, Rey looks a bit startled as she looks in the direction of Kylo.

Kylo is once again kneeling on the ground, this time in the abandoned Rebel base on Crait.

In the next few shots Rey’s demeanor turns more serious while Kylo’s expression stays mostly the same.

Finally, Rey with a decidedly determined look on her face closes the door to the Millenium Falcon which also ends this connection with Kylo.

The next shot shows Kylo continuing to look in her direction. Slightly sadder looking than he was in the first shot of this sequence.

Followed by an extreme close-up of him still looking in her direction.

Then a shot of Kylo looking at his father’s dice in his hand (or really a projection of them that soon disappears).

The last shot of Kylo in The Last Jedi is a wide shot of Kylo kneeling and looking downward in a dark room with light shining in through the windows.

This shot transitions into a shot of the Millenium Falcon and the surviving members of the Resistance leaving Crait.

In both his first and last shots (where he is unmasked) in The Last Jedi Kylo is on his knees looking to the floor – but in completely different circumstances. In the beginning of the film Kylo is trying to please and prove himself once again to Snoke. At the end, he appears both enraged and saddened by Rey’s rejection.

I’ll update this post when we can take a closer look at Kylo’s story in Episode IX.

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