In the explosion of excitement that was last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, amidst all of the new territory covered by our greatest modern mythology’s seventh installment, one element intrigued me more than any other.
Who are the Knights of Ren?
“Master of the Knights of Ren,” Snoke calls Kylo Ren. Is he a Master, as Masters Kenobi, Windu, Yoda, and more were all Jedi Masters? Is he THE Master, as was Sidious, master of the ways of the Sith? Did he earn the title? Did he create the order?
@budosbunko55 Now that the script’s out – It’s somewhere else. Production identified that warrior as ‘clan leader’.
— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) January 1, 2016
In Rey’s Force vision, we see the aftermath of Kylo and his Knights slaughtering a large group of people on a rainy battleground. Who were they? Lucasfilm creative executive Pablo Hidalgo has clarified that the script merely called them a warrior clan, but did they have any significance that caused them to be shown in that sequence? Why did the Knights attack them?
There are hints of their origins in Star Wars lore, but nothing definitive. The most promising lead is the Acolytes of the Beyond, a violent and rapidly-spreading gang of Vader idolaters vehemently denying his death and collecting relics of his, briefly but memorably featured in both currently-released installments of the Star Wars: Aftermath novel trilogy, Aftermath and Life Debt, by Chuck Wendig. Another popular theory revolves around Maul and Ezra Bridger in Rebels, particularly Maul’s role as a powerful dark side antagonist existing outside of the Empire and looking to establish his own sphere of dominance. Or maybe their origin is something totally new. Also, where does the name come from? The Sith took theirs from a species they conquered. Is Ren their homeworld? Their founder?
(As a grammar nut, I’ve also got to ask if we call them Knights, Rens, the Ren, Ren…what is it?)
I have eagerly been awaiting Episode VIII for the answers I crave, but it now seems that they may not lie there.
The Star Wars Anthology films are a series of one-off live-action theatrical features that, for the first time from such a movie (unless you count those Ewok features that were in theaters in the UK, of course … I do, as a guilty pleasure), will tell stories that step away from the central story of the Skywalker family. The first of these, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will premiere this December, telling the story of the theft of the first Death Star’s plans by a daring Rebel team as briefly outlined in the opening crawl of the original Star Wars film.
In an interview with Collider at a press event for Star Trek Beyond, J.J. Abrams, writer and director of The Force Awakens and executive producer on Awakens and its sequel, the as-yet-untitled Star Wars Episode VIII, was discussing possibilities for future Star Wars films. On the topic of where he would take the tale if asked to develop an anthology film, he said,
“I guess the one thing I would say is there’s a Knights of Ren story that I think would be pretty cool to tell.”
The Star Wars Anthology series is meant to fill in the gaps the Episodes leave behind. There’s likely very few people who are more familiar with the future trajectory of the franchise than Abrams. If he says the story of the Knights is potential for a cool Anthology film, it can be inferred that Episode VIII won’t answer some (or any) of the most pressing fan questions.
I’m not sure if this is good or bad. On one hand, it’s important to move the story forward. What did Luke say to Rey? How will the Jedi return? Will Kylo answer the call to the light like his grandfather before him? What happens to the Resistance without the Republic? For most moviegoers, these trump the question of, “Who were those guys in black for those three seconds that Mega-Gollum mentioned that one time?” and I firmly believe that the Star Wars films must remain accessible and not bogged down by trivia. Still, loads of people have questions about why Ben fell to the dark side in the first place. It’s an important piece of the puzzle.
Therefore, the story of the Knights should likely involve Kylo Ren. However, as a descendant of Anakin Skywalker, the Anthology films aren’t really the place for his story, a story already being told in the episodic films. Some fans even complain that Vader is in Rogue One, despite his already-confirmed-to-be limited screen time, because these stories are not about the Skywalker clan.
If I were writing Star Wars movies instead of writing about writing Star Wars movies, I would provide the essentials on the Knights in the next two episodes. What’s their mission, what’s their connection to the First Order, how did Kylo join them, how did they seduce him to evil, et cetera. I would then flesh out the origins of the Knights in an Anthology film not involving Kylo Ren, at least not in a principal way.
A major comfort we can all take from this tidbit is that Abrams has thought out a backstory, and quite a detailed one, for the trilogy for which he laid a foundation. This guy knows the story of a group that shows up in the movie for two seconds in a flashback; he’s clearly got it all figured out. We will learn the story of the Knights at some point, and for that, I’m grateful. The future is bright … or rather, dark, standing menacingly in the rain, and clad in black with cool helmets.