Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
Darth Vader, the Monster
But Darth Vader’s second scene quickly defuses that need for pity. He shows up again in the final minutes of the film, appearing in a darkened corridor before a team of terrified Rebel soldiers on board the Alliance’s flagship above Scarif. Illuminated only by the red glow of his lightsaber, he meticulously works his way toward the stolen Death Star plans, making quick work of all who stand in his way. It’s Star Wars by way of Friday the 13th, with Darth Vader playing the role of Jason Voorhees. For one sequence, Rogue One becomes a bonafide horror movie and Vader becomes a bonafide monster. It’s hard to imagine many young children wanting to dress as the character for Halloween after watching this scene and that may very well be the point.
It’s a pretty crafty trick Rogue One pulls off in only two scenes – the film reminds you that Darth Vader is a broken mess and then it reminds you that, future redemption or not, he is a murderer in servitude to a fascist space emperor with black magic powers fueled by the evil undercurrents of the universe. The latter two films of the original trilogy ensured that Darth Vader was always far more complex than most science fiction movie villains, but Rogue One goes out of its way to ensure that our love of that complexity does not mutate into affection. The other Star Wars movies make it clear that Darth Vader is feared by the galaxy, but Rogue One has finally shown us exactly why. Darth Vader, the fearsome, angry, bitter cyborg, is scary again.*
Darth Vader and You
This redefinition of Darth Vader as a villain and not a mascot is an important step toward returning one of film history’s most striking characters to his former glory, but there are other important ripple effects at play here. While Vader is portrayed as the monster he is, Rogue One builds its foundation on the ordinary men and women fighting in the rebellion. While the beloved, famous character mauls and murders, newcomers like Jyn and Cassian and Chirrut and Baze and Bodhi all give their lives for the greater good, sacrificing everything to battle authoritarianism and restore hope to a galaxy under the thumb of a tyrant. For the first time in years, the Rebel Alliance aren’t just the people who die in the background while Luke and Leia get the job done – they’re you and me, standing up against seemingly unstoppable villains who can cut through a corridor of armed soldiers without breaking a sweat.
While people aren’t going to stop dressing in Stormtroopers or Darth Vader anytime soon, Rogue One makes a compelling case for more people to dress up like Rebel soldiers. Rogue One offers no excuses for its villains, even the famous one that three-year-olds can name. For the first time in Star Wars history, the good guys are inherently cooler than the bad guys.
And considering the state of the world right now, that may be the most important aspect of the entire damn film.
*To be fair, Marvel’s exceptional Darth Vader comic series, which was written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Salvador Larroca, and recently concluded with issue #25, also did a fine job of dwelling on the character’s villainy.
And if you haven’t yet, check out our previous Rogue One coverage:
- Rogue One Easter Eggs: Over 40 inside references, cameos, trivia and more. How many did you catch?
- Rogue One Reshoots: What the missing Rogue One trailer footage tells us about the original version of the film.
- Darth Vader’s Castle: All of your questions answered
- /Film Ranks The Star Wars Saga: Where does Rogue One rank in the franchise?
- Rogue One Spoiler Free Review: Finally A Good Star Wars Prequel