By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the whole Star Wars saga.
UPDATE: There is now Rogue one content.
As we’re all getting to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I thought I would take a moment to share some of my favorite Darth Vader moments.
Meeting Jabba the Hutt After the Battle Yavin
Not long after the first Death Star was blown up at the Battle of Yavin, Darth Vader met face-to-face with Luke Skywalker. With their lightsabers ignited, the two engaged in a very short duel. Just as Vader was about to strike Luke down, he was taken aback at the sight of Luke wielding the weapon of Anakin Skywalker. From there, Vader made it his personal mission to learn the name of the young rebel pilot. This led him to Tatooine where he met with Jabba so he could hire Boba Fett to track down Luke. As Vader isn’t known for his diplomatic ways, he got straight to the point while Jabba reacted as Jabba does.
Jabba then had Vader surrounded and that ended pretty much as you would expect.
It’s not often that we see Vader challenged or see Jabba the Hutt intimidated.
Vader Learning He Has a Son
One thing Marvel is doing a great job of is supplementing the existing films with new stories. They’re also using the comics to answer some questions left from the original trilogy films. For example, after watching Empire Strikes Back, one might think that Vader took the news of having a son pretty well. He showed no anger or surprise as the Emperor broke what should have been some pretty startlingly news to him. Thanks to Darth Vader #6, we now know that’s because Vader already knew about Luke, and had for awhile.
Boba Fett has no idea the flame he just ignited inside Vader.
I know the prequel trilogy gets a mixed reaction at best, but I love that Kieron Gillen, the fantastic writer of this issue, called back to it here. For 19 years, Vader was left to think he had killed his wife and unborn child. There was already an underlying tension because the Emperor failed in his promise to save Padme, but now Vader knows he was betrayed in a way he couldn’t have imagined.
One thing the films never had a chance to explore was the disappointment Palpatine felt towards Vader. His apprentice was to become more powerful than any Sith or Jedi before, but he was cut down by Obi-Wan and left a shell of his former self. The Emperor would never truly get over that disappointment.
You can practically feel Vader’s anger coming off the pages.
In Empire Strikes Back, when Vader says to Luke, “Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son,” he wasn’t making a rash decision to turn against the Emperor; this was a desire that had been fomenting since Boba Fett first uttered the words, “Skywalker.” It also draws more attention to Vader’s disappointment when Luke rejected the offer.
His Appearance in Rogue One
Just when we thought there was nothing more to learn about Vader, Rogue One hit theaters and gave us a new appreciation for him. From the moment he first appeared on Mustafar to the moment he boarded the rebel ship and tried to retrieve the stolen Death Star plans, Vader was at his peak performance as the Emperor’s enforcer. He had a limited amount of screen time, but not a moment was wasted. He had arguably the best Force choke of the series as Orson Krennic slowly fell to the ground as Vader didn’t even bother to look him. He topped it off when he finally turned around and warned Krennic not to, “Choke on his aspirations.”
But it was the ending that will forever cement this film as the one time we got to see Vader at close to his full power. He walked onto that ship and stared at the rebels for an eerie effect. He then ignited his lightsaber and preceded to tear through the rebels with slashes and Force powers. With the wave of a hand, three guys would fly back and another would slam up against the ceiling. Even though we knew the rebels would succeed in getting the plans to Princess Leia, for a moment we thought maybe Vader would still win the day. It was amazing and gave me a new appreciation for the character, something I didn’t think was possible.
His First Appearance in A New Hope
It’s hard to believe now, but there was once a moment when we were seeing Darth Vader for the first time. He appeared from an elevator out of a cloud smoke and simply observed the dead rebels at his feet without comment. George Lucas shot him from a low angle so he would appear tall and imposing, and it worked. He didn’t need words; the black suit, helmet and heavy breathing were enough to tell us that this guy is a special kind of evil. The next scene had him interrogating Captain Antilles while choking him to death (after we learn that Vader is able to Force choke people, this scene becomes even more personal). This was the beginning, this was what set the tone for Vader for the rest of Star Wars’ history.
Anytime He Force Choked Someone
Whether it was to demonstrate the power of the Force, like when we first saw him choke Admiral Motti in A New Hope, or as a punishment, like when he killed Admiral Ozzel for coming out of lightspeed too close to Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader was at his most intimidating when he was using the Force choke. While lightsabers duels are awesome, the Force choke was frightening in its effortlessness, and no one could make it look quite as frightening as Vader (and the blank black mask staring back at you added to that).
Torturing Han Without Even Asking Him Anything
Look at Vader back there just watching this whole scene unfold without a care in the world. We didn’t get to see much here, but we heard the desperate screams of Han as Leia and Chewie sat outside helpless. We later learned that Vader didn’t even ask Han any questions. That is cold (but not as cold as getting frozen in carbonite).
“I am your father”
It’s the most iconic scene in all of Star Wars, it’s probably the most iconic scene in the whole sci-fi/fantasy genre, and it’s arguably the most iconic scene in cinematic history. People who have never even watched a single Star Wars film will know what you’re referencing if you say, “I am your father.”
Aside from its importance in film history, this was an important moment for Vader. As I wrote in my second moment, Vader learned long ago that Luke was his son, so he was planning to turn him to the dark side and against the Emperor for quite some time. This is the most pivotal moment in the story for both of these men. Vader has made his final decision to turn against the Emperor, the man who lied to him about being able to save the love of his life. That rejection by Luke, and Luke’s choice to plummet to his own death rather than join his own father (I’m assuming Luke didn’t know he would survive that fall) give us our first real visual of the saga at how broken Vader really is.
Vader tried once again to turn his son to the dark side and failed. Vader’s ultimate desire is still to destroy the Emperor, and he thinks he needs Luke to do that. In the end, he was right. Luke beat Vader, but Vader had to be the one to ultimately defeat the Emperor. And he did that while turning back to the light instead of turning his own son towards the dark. The fact that Vader sacrificed himself proved Luke was right when he said he could feel the good in his father.
Thanks for reading!