As the Star Wars: The Last Jedi post-mortem continues for writer-director Rian Johnson, he has begun to face questions about the lack of the Knights Of Ren in his movie. Ever since Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren stalked onto the screen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans of the franchise have been curious about the shadowy, sinister group he leads – regarded as being the most lethal force available to Supreme Leader Snoke.
The Knights Of Ren were nowhere to be seen in The Last Jedi, though, and Johnson recently explained why on the Empire podcast.
“We have a very full movie already – there literally was just not room for another element… I guess I could’ve used them in place of the Praetorian Guards, but then it would feel like wasting them because all those guards had to die. And if Kylo had some kind of connection to them, it would’ve added a complication that wouldn’t have helped the scene… truth is, I just didn’t see a place for them in this movie.”
Everything Johnson points out here about the narrative of the film is entirely accurate. It would have garnered far greater criticism to have the Knight Of Ren appear silently in one scene alongside Snoke – just for the purpose of being killed. It also would have detracted from the point of that scene – which is the question of Kylo Ren’s loyalty, when torn between Snoke and Rey. That scene is outstanding, just as it is.
Johnson expanded on this point during a recent BAFTA Q&A, too, highlighting the fact that his priority is in first serving the story – so elements such as the Knights Of Ren, and the origin of Snoke in particular, had to be left out.
“In this particular story, it’s much more like the original trilogy, where with Snoke if you think about the actual scenes, if suddenly I had paused one of the scenes to give a 30 second monologue about who he was, it would have kind of stopped the scene in its tracks, I realised. Even though it would be interesting, something that fans were interested in, as storytellers, we have to kind of serve what the scenes need to be.
“It was a tough thing, even though I knew some fans were interested in it I also knew it wasn’t something that dramatically had a place in this movie. Hopefully it can be addressed elsewhere, or even J.J [Abrams] may address it in the next movie. But it’s not something that’s particularly interesting to Rey, so we kind of had to follow through.”
This is the real point. Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens before it, The Last Jedi is really about the journey of Rey and, while Kylo Ren is significant character in the film, he is very much the antagonist to Rey’s central protagonist. That means that the Knights Of Ren, quite rightly, have no place in the movie. Moreover, this is a single chapter in a larger franchise, and it is unrealistic to expect one such installment to answer every single outstanding question.
It’s interesting for Johnson to have suggested that they may feature in Episode IX, but it would be far more interesting for Lucasfilm to consider the Knights Of Ren for a future Anthology film. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was not the right time to explore the deadly unit – but the story of who they are, and how they came to be could well fill a future spinoff movie all on its own.