The new 'Star Wars' villains just got a lot more interesting

There was always something strange about Kylo Ren, the new villain in the upcoming “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.”

This guy:

In the first teaser trailer from last November, we see Kylo Ren ignite a unique three-blade lightsaber. Fans went nuts. So did Stephen Colbert.

But there was a problem. When Lucasfilm announced the character’s name, the title “Darth” was noticeably absent. At first, most just assumed Kylo Ren was a Sith, one of the followers of the Dark Side of the Force that always has Darth in their name. For example, Darth Vader was a Sith. His Sith master, Emperor Palpatine, went by Darth Sidious.

Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers or speculation about the next “Star Wars” movies.

Kylo Ren’s character came into more focus on Tuesday in a teaser article for Empire Magazine’s upcoming winter preview issue. The full version of the article will be on newsstands this Thursday.

In the article, “The Force Awakens” director JJ Abrams says Kylo Ren is not a Sith. Instead, he follows his master Supreme Leader Snoke, a villainous character played by Andy Serkis. Snoke is in charge of the First Order, a new militaristic group similar to the Galactic Empire from the original movies. Abrams describes Snoke as “a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.” But it seems like he’s not a Sith either.

We haven’t seen what Snoke looks like yet. All we know is that Serkis used motion capture to play the character, which means he’ll probably be at least partially computer generated. If we had to guess, this likely means Snoke is some sort of alien, not a human being.

Star wars droidDisney/LucasfilmThe First Order is very similar to the Galactic Empire.

So what does all this mean?

Here’s some informed speculation about the bad guys in “The Force Awakens.”

In the same Empire interview, Abrams says the First Order didn’t necessarily form out of the Galactic Empire, which was ruled by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader died in the final battle in “Return of the Jedi” and apparently took the Empire with them. The First Order is not exactly the same as the Empire. It’s more like an organised militaristic group that idolizes what the Empire stood for.

And if the First Order idolized the Empire, then it will need some powerful members of the Dark Side to run things. In fact, the Empire article describes the First Order as a group that views Darth Vader as a martyr. That’s where Snoke and Kylo Ren come in.

The Sith’s laws say there can only be two Sith at a time: a master and an apprentice. Since both Vader and Palpatine are toast, the Sith are too. But that doesn’t mean the Dark Side lost all of its followers.

In an Entertainment Weekly article from a few weeks ago, Kylo Ren is described as a “Vader obsessive” who is part of a group called the Knights of Ren. (It turns out “Ren” is a title just like “Darth.”)

Kylo Ren’s Vader obsession could also explain why we see Darth Vader’s charred helmet in the second teaser trailer:

It sounds like the First Order echoes the same theme as the Empire. We have, what appear to be, two very powerful Dark Side followers at the top: a leader (Snoke) and his apprentice (Kylo Ren). But since the chain of Sith succession has been broken, they have formed a new Dark Side religion of sorts called the Knights of Ren. (A curious name since Jedi are called “knights” too.)

So Snoke and Kylo Ren have a big army with lots of brainwashed followers who seem to be obsessed with following people powerful in the Dark Side of the Force. Time to wreak some havoc and take over the galaxy, just like Darth Vader and Darth Sidious did with the Empire.

Now for the bigger question: What about the Jedi?

We already know Mark Hamill will return as Luke Skywalker in “The Force Awakens.” Luke was the only Jedi in the galaxy when we last saw him, but so far we have no idea what happened after he defeated Vader and Palpatine.

Did he attempt to restore the Jedi Order? Did he find new followers and train them as Jedi? Is his sister, Princess Leia, a Jedi now? Or, as the most popular fan theory goes, did Luke go into hiding, only to return decades later when the galaxy needs him again?

So far, the only other hint we have about what’s next for the Jedi is an exclusive teaser poster for “The Force Awakens” from Disney’s recent D23 fan event. It shows the new character Finn holding Luke’s old lightsaber.

Abrams has already said Finn is an ex-storm trooper from the First Order, and the poster implies that he had a change of heart and could start training to become a Jedi with Luke as his master.

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