Disney’s Star Wars run has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Completely splitting the fandom, the franchise has basically developed into Marmite where you either love it or hate…or…you’re just like this is fine. Though the Force Awakens got most people back on board, The Last Jedi is still a buzzword used to describe subverting expectations that derail a franchise in a way that isn’t exactly positive.
Weirdly if we look at the sequel trilogy it’s got this weird reactionary feeling to it where every movie seems like it’s trying to almost fix the one that came before it. The Rise Of Skywalker was JJ Abrahams trying to steer the ship back to his original outline but if you ask me it’s the worst of the three and just fails on almost every level.
Book Of Boba Fett split the fandom, and Obi-Wan Kenobi has too. Aside from the Mandalorian, it seems like everything gets backlash.
This is coming from a guy who actually enjoyed all that stuff too but I think I’d have to have my blast shield helmet on to not admit that there’s a big part of the fanbase that hates everything out there these days.
No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans, however, I thought I’d take a look at something positive. You know Heavy Spoilers is all about the love baby and I thought for once it would be nice to talk about something Disney did right.
Just…just back up the money truck guys, Heavy Shillers is back baby.
Now that is something we might all even agree on which is Disney’s handling of Darth Vader. Search your feelings you know it to be true.
Though they’ve missed the mark on other things I think that they’ve really excelled at breathing new life into him and making him arguably even more intimidating than how he was in the original trilogy.
How Rogue One Demonstrates Vader’s Power
Rogue One was the film that I think slowly started to lay the groundwork that Disney was upping the ante when it came to the dark lord of the Sith. When we first meet him on Mustafar he’s chilling like a villain in his Fortress waiting for the arrival of Orson Krennick.
We’re introduced to him in his Bacta tank arms severed with smoke masking what he really looks like. From here he travels to meet the Imperials and rather than putting the focus solely on him we see how his shadow looms over him, contrasting the black between his white uniform. Shadows have been used throughout the franchise to show superiority and it’s popped up in a lot of the ship scenes in the saga. Rarely is it used with a person though and it instantly implies how intimidating Vader is.
We leave the camera on him as he walks up to Krennic and we see how he makes him appear much smaller in stature. They did similar things with Bane and Ben Mendelson and ey, maybe, maybe give the guy a box or something.
I think him dropping puns is a bit out of character, I’ll let it slide for the meaning behind this moment. Krennic is asking if he’s still in charge and Vader just wants him to shut the f**k up. Unlike Vader, Krennic isn’t really a likeable villain and because of this you really side with him telling him to shut up.
Now this entrance and how unstoppable it feels is mirrored later on during the film’s climax. We get the Death Star plans sent up to the rebel forces and they even trick us into thinking this is somewhat of a triumphant moment through the music used before Vader’s Star Destroyer comes in out of the blue.
Using his ship as a battering ram he mercilessly ploughs through the rebel ships which look minuscule in comparison further alluding to the idea that Vader is a powerful giant in comparison to everyone else.
Even his soldiers are afraid of him and we see this at the moment that an imperial informs him of what’s going on.
Just looking at this guy’s reaction he breathes a subtle sigh of relief and we linger on him for a brief second to enforce the idea that everyone is afraid of Vader.
Best Vader Scene
From here we get one of the best scenes in Star Wars and one that had my jaw on the floor the first time I watched it – jump to 4 minutes in the video above.
There’s no debating that this is a standout in the saga and it’s one of the only times that we’ve ever seen Vader completely off the leash. Mercilessly ploughing through people. The original trilogy lightsaber fights are often criticised as being slow and lumbering and this is why the prequels did the complete opposite when it came to their duels. However, this feels like an amazing middle ground that doesn’t have the twirling style of those films but it also retains their ferocity of them.
Every soldier he comes up against is saber-fodder and though we know they will get the plans to Leia it doesn’t stop how you feel watching this. The creative team took a simple environment as a concept and showed metaphorically what would happen if people were trapped in one with a wild bear. Having him standing in the darkness where we just hear his breathing but can’t see him is an incredible way to introduce him and it’s only as his red lightsaber sparks up do we finally see him.
The guy cuts through them like a hot lightsaber through butter and it’s one hell of a way to set up the events of a New Hope. This movie instantly makes you want to jump over to that movie and I think it’s purely down to how well Vader leaves his mark.
Horror Villain Inspiration
Now the main reason that Vader is so intimidating in the hands of Disney is that they’ve made him like a horror villain. Directors doing this is something that we’ve discussed in a lot of our videos recently and it was a technique that Matt Reeves used for his version of Batman. Reeves had the character appear from the shadows and slowly he walked towards his prey, unshakeable and focused. This is a motif that has been used in characters like the Terminator, Jason Vorhees, It Follows and Michael Myers. They just slowly walk towards their target because they don’t need to run. They will still catch up to their victims and this is something that is seen in Vader.
If you’ve played Jedi Fallen Order then you’ll know he makes a major impact in that towards the end of the game. Introduced again by his breathing, it completely shakes the player and is another standout moment in the game.
Vader chases you through Fortress Inquisitorius but he never runs, he simply just walks toward you. However, he is a one-hit one-kill villain that will instantly end your life if he manages to catch up to you. You aren’t fighting against him, you’re doing whatever you can to get away and it was a smart move by the creative team to make him the only character that you can’t actually fight. People who’ve played this game now have the dread in their mind that he’s someone you have to get away from which translates into the other media.
Now whereas in the case of the other characters that adopt this slow pace towards their target, they give Vader a practical reason for doing it.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi we see him suiting up and at one point catch his synthetic legs being put on. This is the reason why he can’t run and is held back but even with being a quadruple amputee, he’s still the most powerful character in the show. Even when we first see Vader in the series, it’s his eyes shooting open like some demon awakening from a dream. The guy is terrifying and Disney wants you to think that he’s a Frankenstein’s monster-esque creature of the night.
Portrayal in Obi-Wan
This is mirrored in his entrance later on which also follows a similar play to Rogue One. First, we hear his breathing, then we get his looming shadow on the wall before his breathing is juxtaposed with Obi-Wan’s.
Whereas Ben panics, Vader’s breathing is slow and steady and at this point, they took it to a place I never thought they’d go with Disney. Pulling a father out he chokes him to death in the air before snapping his son’s neck with a twist of his hand. Used to be that we’d only ever see him kill his own men but here they’ve upped it and have him brutally murdering civilians. Even Third Sister is shocked and it perfectly encapsulates how hard the studio is going with Vader. I would never have expected this from the character and even comparing him to the original trilogy he seems sanitised in that. He starts dragging people through the street, trying to draw Obi-Wan out through his compassion and basically just sh**ing all over the shop.
In the sand amongst the dunes he sparks up his saber and this angle is also something that we’ve seen before. This is supposed to mirror just before he struck down the Younglings in the Jedi temple and he stands there deliberate, unflinching, whilst Obi-Wan flees.
Vader at this point reveals he doesn’t want to kill Obi-Wan, he wants to make him suffer. As we know “suffering…. leads to the Dark Side”
And he very much wants him to feel the torment that he has. This is also why he burns him. Vader lets him get away because he wants to prolong his agony and it’s gonna be interesting to see what they do with him in the rest of the series.
Now what they’ve also done with Disney is they’ve managed to hint at his humanity too which is ultimately what makes him help his son at the end of Return Of The Jedi.
The final season of the Clone Wars ended with his apprentice Ahsoka evading the Empire’s forces after Order 66. After dumping her lightsaber, Vader returns to look for her along with his army of probe droids and stormtroopers and amongst the snow, he finds her lightsaber.
It very much connects him to his life before and though he doesn’t say anything, the creative team do a lot with this moment. Vader, due to his mask, is someone who it’s very difficult to get emotion out of however this final shot of him is laced with a lot of sadness, regret and also wonder, even though we can’t see his face.
It sets up so much of what’s to come and perfectly lays the groundwork for the ending of Return Of The Jedi.
It’s another reason I think that Disney, even with their faults, has nailed probably the most important character in the entire franchise. They’ve got how intimidating he is, upped the brutality in him but also managed to keep the humanity that ends up turning him around.
Overall I’m really feeling what they’re doing with him…just….just don’t let me down guys, the season still has 3 episodes yet.
Now obviously I’d love to hear whether you agree, whether you disagree and just what you think.
Comment below and let me know.