We already knew that Kylo Ren, the new baddie in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is a member of the Knights of Ren, but what is that group exactly? Is it a new order of the Sith? Not at all, says JJ Abrams, being shockingly forthcoming in an Empire interview:
"Kylo Ren is not a Sith," confirms JJ Abrams in the new issue of Empire. "He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.”
Snoke is the character Andy Serkis is playing, and he's CGI. His appearance is being kept secret from us - he's not included in the first wave of toys for the film hitting stores in time for Christmas. Now we have to wonder if Snoke's look is a spoiler or just another one of those things Abrams keeps secret for his own reasons.
So if Ren isn't a Sith what about the First Order? Is it just the remnants of the Empire? Not quite:
“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?’” Abrams reveals. “What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”
This all sounds very cool, and it brings into focus something a source told me a few months ago: Kylo Ren is basically a Nazi memorabilia collector, and Darth Vader is his Hitler. The question I have, and that I hope is answered in the film, is what was the philosophy of the Empire that appeals to these guys? Because the original trilogy is such a black and white morality tale the Empire existed basically only as a controlling force of evil order, with no broad philosophical underpinnings of which to speak. The Nazis had philosophies and ideas, and they believed in things that resonate today with ill-informed racists, but in what did the rank and file of the Empire believe? What's the unfinished work?
Just as a note: these are the kinds of mysteries I like. Ones that give me enough leeway to think and play within the universe of the movie. I don't like holding back the names of characters or their designs, but I love teases like this that are like a loose tooth that you can't help but idly play with.