The film we now know as Star Wars: The Force Awakens went through quite an evolutionary phase before it finally made it to the screen under the guidance of director J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote a final version of the screenplay with Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan. The seeds of the sequel trilogy were first planed by creator George Lucas himself, and though significant changes were made in the Disney era, it does seem that some of his concepts likely passed all the way through to the end, particularly the idea of a member of the next generation of heroes being corrupted by the Dark Side. The final version of that character is Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, but it took a while for him to become the face beneath the Vader-inspired helmet we've been fascinated by for the last four years.
Concept artist Christian Alzmann, who recently took to Instagram to post some revealing artwork from the film's development, contributed plenty of designs along the way to The Force Awakens, from early looks for BB-8 and Maz Kanata to a lot of designs for the character who would become Kylo Ren. In the early days, Kylo was an even more villainous, perhaps less human character referred to as a "Jedi Killer," as this piece previously seen in The Art of The Force Awakens book shows:
The Darth Vader influence was clearly heavy in these designs, and the collection of lightsabers recalls the likes of another Jedi killer from the Clone Wars days, General Grievous. As things moved forward, Alzmann continued to play with various designs for the character, included numerous shapes for what would become Kylo Ren's now-iconic helmet.
Alzmann's most recent post, though, reveals an even darker look for the Jedi Killer character, one that retains the dark attire but also digs deeper into an even more inhuman look. Like Vader before him, this version of the Jedi Killer has clearly been through a lot of pain, and survives now through some form of life-support machinery evident in his mask. The eyes peeking through the mask only serve to further highlight this inner darkness and pain, which is probably why Lucasfilm couldn't let the concept go. According to Alzmann, this look was later a major inspiration for the Inquisitor character The Fifth Brother in the TV series Star Wars Rebels.
It's been nearly four years since Kylo Ren first walked onto the big screen, and how he got there in the form we know him remains a fascinating journey. We can't wait to see the character's next and perhaps final stage in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which hits theaters Dec. 20.