Star Wars – Masked villains and why we love them so much!

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“Can we remove your mask, Sir?”

As I sit here full of the flu and feeling awful enough to probably go back to bed, I have nothing but serious amounts of star wars feels going on and an overwhelming urge to write about them. I was looking at the latest awesome Solo: A Star Wars Story images released via milnersblog.com, busy pinning them to my Pinterest board when I kinda started to think about Vader and Kylo Ren, and Enfys Nest and then got to thinking about why so many of the most important villains and characters in our beloved Star Wars universe hide behind masks.

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Phasma calls a “spade a spade”…

First thing’s first though – the bad boys in masks aren’t all bad boys. Captain Phasma was a female warrior, a leader and a First Order Stormtrooper wearing a helmet that we’ll call a mask for sake of argument here. Her humanity was hidden behind her Stormtrooper helmet, much in the same way that Kylo Ren’s face was hidden behind his. But when you dig deeper, it all seems so much more interesting; what the helmet or mask represents for each of these characters is where I really want to go with this article. What happens to us and them when these characters remove them? What is revealed, if anything? More questions than we can probably find answers for, but that’s what makes it all so much fun to write about!

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker

In the case of Darth Vader, we already know so much about him, his story has been told and retold many times over the years. His need for the mask/helmet went beyond anything psychological. All the years he spent doing evil deeds and immersing himself even further into the dark side of the force took its toll, his body ravaged beyond repair. As Obi-Wan once said, “more machine now than man”. But he wasn’t always reliant on a suit and helmet to breathe or survive. And as much as the helmet became part of his dark side armour, I believe the mask/helmet also represented his “rebirth” into the dark side of the force as well as his new role as the Emperor’s darkest enforcer.

Kylo Ren/Ben Solo

Ah, Kylo Ren, one of the newest ‘bad’ boys to join the Star Wars list of fallen heroes and remade villains.

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Masked bad boy for the new millennium?
Let’s theorise for a moment that Kylo Ren kept his helmet on longer than he actually did in The Force Awakens. Do you think this would have added to the intrigue of who he was? Like Vader, we’ve come to know a lot about Kylo Ren – once Ben Solo, potential heir to the mighty Skywalker legacy, turned to the dark side by Snoke the evil overlord of the prequel trilogy. Like Anakin Skywalker before him who became Darth Vader, Ben Solo eventually transformed into Kylo Ren, and with this new persona came an entirely new look and image, even Ren’s lightsaber underwent a transformation, strong indications that Kylo Ren was trying very hard to forget the person he was to become the person he became – for better or (much) worse.
In this example, however, I feel that Kylo Ren removing his mask to show how “human” he was underneath was entirely misplaced. I think it would have been a lot better for both the character’s development and the story for him to have remained this mysterious figure to Rey and his First Order companions. Rey makes a statement to Ren about being hunted by a “monster in a mask”, so he removes his helmet to prove that he is anything but a monster, just as human (and pretty) as she is. He has now become the “Disney Prince that nobody knew they wanted”… replacing the older, tired and almost forgotten “Princes” of the past (remember the days of Sleeping Beauty and the… yeah, neither does anyone else). The mystique has faded, the mystery surrounding the latest Star Wars “bad boy” is mysterious no longer, and we now await with baited breath to see whether or not JJ Abrams is as much a “Reylo” fanboy as his counterpart, Rian Johnson.
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious elephant in the room but hasn’t that story been told before? I guess we’ll just have to see what JJ Abrams sees in the Ren and Rey story. Will Rey succumb to the dark side? Will Ben Solo finally be redeemed and walk the path back to the light, or will both Rey and Ren become victims of the fight between the light and the dark? Only JJ Abrams can answer these questions.

Enfys Nest (Rumoured to be female)

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Enfys Nest – art by Brady Goldsmith

The big question for me is will Solo: A Star Wars Story deliver us a brand new female villain to love (or hate?) Will this female villain be able to deliver where Captain Phasma fell oh so short of the mark? I truly hope so. I want so badly for this character to be more and do more than Phasma did, but I’m not counting any chickens early. Hopefully, we’ll get more of a background story on who she is, where she comes from and how she became “Enfys Nest” but seeing as this film will be focusing a lot more on the origin story of Han Solo, I doubt Enfys Nest will get much screen time at all.

 

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