This is the 32nd post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
In “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” viewers got to see how the Rebels acquired the plans for the Death Star. But just as importantly, we got to see Darth Vader at the height of his relentless, unyielding Vaderness.
In the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Darth Vader was a brutal, unforgiving dictator. He oversaw the building of two different space stations designed to destroy planets, and was willing to threaten or kill anyone who challenged him. Only after he saw his son in trouble did Vader exhibit any kind of selflessness, showing the signs of the person he once was.
The prequel trilogy attempted to show how he went from being sweet Anakin Skywalker to becoming the harsh Darth Vader. The movies were meant to show how the young Jedi was seduced by the Dark Side.
But for reasons we’ve already partially discussed, the prequels missed the mark on developing the character of Anakin. He was depicted as being one of the good guys, but the only thing that signaled that was his blue lightsaber. He was not a sympathetic, likable character, but rather a cocky, entitled, brash whiner.
There was nothing about his personality or demeanor that suggested he was like Darth Vader. The Darth Vader we knew and loved from the original trilogy would force choke this punk in a second.
The Anakin of the prequels complicated the legacy of Darth Vader. It’s hard to think of him as a badass if you’ve seen him say “yippee.” The end of “Revenge of the Sith” showed him whining about how mean Obi-Wan was and throwing a tantrum once he learned Padme was did. Then he was shown looking out the window on the construction of the Death Star. This was to be our last new scene of him, and it was a letdown. This guy is supposed to the hardass who later blows up a planet and cuts his son’s hand off?
Get outta here with that.
This was one of the reasons why “Rogue One” was so gratifying: it restored Vader to being the cold, unyielding, dispassionate killer we know and love.
According to Gareth Edwards, that scene was added in late in the making of the movie.
That scene, where he is the deadliest version of himself we’ve ever seen, squares up nicely with the confrontation we knew is coming up between him and Princess Leia.
One could argue that the animated series “Star Wars Rebels” has bridged the gap between the Vader at the end of “Revenge of the Sith” and the Vader at the beginning of “A New Hope.” That’s true, but that has a fraction of the audience that the movies have. Some readers might not even know about “Star Wars Rebels.”
For the “Star Wars” fans whose primary (or even only) connection to the franchise is through the films, “Rogue One” was a chance to have a new “last new scene” of Vader, and this one feels a lot more Vader-like than the emo Anakin-turned-Vader from “Revenge of the Sith.”
That mopey guy might as well have been Kylo Ren.
Now, the Vader in “Rogue One” doesn’t get a perfect 10. His dad joke — “Be careful, not to choke on your aspirations, Director” — felt slightly out of place for the character.
But if we have to have a movie where he says something corny, we’ll take that over “I hate sand.”