The most challenging design for the movie was, undoubtedly, the design of the villain: Kylo Ren. Villains, in general, are hard in this type of movies, because they need to be threatening and iconic but not too over the top. It's really a fine and delicate balance. But in this case, it was even harder, because it had to live up to Darth Vader, arguably, the most iconic baddie ever.
All in all, I think they did a really good job in the design of the character. The biggest risk they had was making him look too much like Darth Vader and turning him into a cheap knock off. But, luckily, that wasn't the case.
Talking about his design without including spoilers is pretty difficult. Basically because the reasons behind the design are completely intertwined with his character and who he is. So..... SPOILERS AHEAD.
CONTINUE READING AT YOUR OWN RISK
Kylo Ren is a Dark Side user working for the First Order. He used to be a pupil of Luke Skywalker, until he turned to the Dark Side and destroyed the Rebuilt Jedi Temple. He also happens to be Ben Solo, Han and Leia's son and Luke's nephew. And, of course, Darth Vader's grandchild.
He is very young, More a teenager than a full grown man.
Why is that so important? Because he is a wanna be. A fanboy. He adores his grandfather, even praying to him as if he were a God. That idea is clearly reflected in his costume.
The costume consists of dark, heavy, black robes held together by a metallic belt a ragged hood and a robotic mask. He is clearly trying to emulate the look of Vader. There's no discussion there.
The character is running away from his identity, claiming a new one centered around the dark side. That's why every single human aspect is completely covered: note how he doesn't even have his hands uncovered.
The purpose of the design created by Kylo Ren is as much to appear intimidating and inhuman as is to boost his confidence.
What sets him apart from Vader (both in character and in design) is his humanity. Darth Vader had been robotic for so long that he was barely human. Kylo only tries to appear his robotic (deep down he is fully human and pretty conflicted with his own humanity). This is shown through the materials used; textile elements are more prominent in Kylo's design that they ever were in Vader's suit. And the metallic elements are scarce, and only found in the elements he wears to create this new identity: the mask.
Vader was more machine than man. Kylo Ren is a child. And though not at first glance, the design manages to transmit that, especially when he has the mask off. It's on those occasions where the roughness of the costume manages to create a wonderful contrast with his fresh young face.
Another important element for the design is the structure of the costume itself, which doesn't resemble that of Vader's suit. Instead, it takes it's main form from the traditional Jedi robes. This simple element helps to create a visual link with his background and it underlines his connection to the New Jedi Order.
He never knew Darth Vader, but he knew Luke and the Jedi. He, himself, was trained as one. The so-called Knights of Ren are Ben's own interpretation of the Dark Side and what it should be. And so is the costume.
All those elements build up to a really well thought design that has a lot of chances of becoming iconic in and on itself. A lot of character related elements are worked into the suit, subtle but still there, which makes the costume unique.
Yes, it's reminiscent of Vader, but it's very distinct at the same time.
This movie was, all in all, a welcome return to the feel of the original trilogy and I cannot wait to see where they take these new characters (both story-wise and design-wise).
And so, with Kylo's design we bring to an end this brief series of articles about Episode VII. I hope that you've enjoyed it, and I promise that towards mid-January I will go back to writing long, fleshed-out articles.
Happy New Year!