Real Name: Anakin Skywalker
Positions: Sith Lord, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet
Voiced By: James Earl Jones
Star Wars Episodes IV, V, VI (Canon Films)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I & II (“Legend” Video Game)
Star Wars: Infinity (Alternate Universe Comic Books)
Now, before I get started on this review let me make one thing perfectly clear. If it weren’t already obvious by this point I am in point of fact, a nerd. However, I am more of a fantasy buff, particularly when it comes to dragons, and while I know a fair share of information in regards to Darth Vader as seen from the original trilogy as well as the hit games Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I & II but nothing more beyond that. Yes, I’ve seen the prequels and I’ve managed to catch a fair share of the animated series but those pertain strictly to Anakin Skywalker and not Darth Vader himself, who can be argued as being an entirely different person from Anakin in the long run.
Heck, I recall a particular episode of the Clone Wars wherein Anakin foresees what he’ll become and vows to never do so only to succumb to the Dark Side then and there as a means of stopping that possible future from occurring. Of course, his memory of the future and his brief fall were wiped from his mind but the fact remains that Anakin is an entirely different individual from Darth Vader as the former sought to incapacitate his master and padawan whereas Darth Vader would have seen them killed by his own hands.
I should also mention to those that might not be aware, due to the recent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise by Disney and the beginning of the next trilogy of films, there has been a massive upheaval in what is and is not considered canon at this point in time. As of this post, everything and anything that was made prior to the acquisition is no longer canon, which includes the multitude of books, comics, and even video games.
This makes some bit of sense as a good many of said materials take place in the future that the upcoming trilogy may end up retconning by accident or intentionally. However, there was one game in particularly that I not only enjoyed playing but was a huge source of backstory for the Rebel Alliance, particularly the source of their insignia, that I cannot, and will not, ignore in my review of Darth Vader. That being said, let’s get this review started properly shall we…?
Darth Vader is one, if not the absolute, greatest film villains of all time bar none. There is hardly a person alive who has not at the very least heard of the name and the infamous breathing sound accompanying his presence. His long list of crimes against life, never mind the galaxy that he calls home, is so long that it could likely cover an entire sheathes worth of paper ten times over and that’s from before the canon debacle mind you. If I were to count the major ones however…
Well, one could argue that prior to his full transformation into Darth Vader, infamous helmet and all, it would be his murdering of innocent younglings – children— of the Jedi Order because of his succumbing fully to the Dark Side of the Force and believing Emperor Palpatine could ensure that his visions of his wife Padme’s death would never come to pass. Ironically, it was this action and his attacking her himself that would lead to Padme dying from a broken heart.
Which I call complete and utter BS on considering we’re talking about a society where robotic prosthetics were all over the bloody place and one could special order an army of freaking clone soldiers. That and I’m sorry but she didn’t have the heart to live? Not even for her two children whom she had just given birth to and could only bring herself to live long enough to name them?! PLEASE!
… Sorry. That and a few other… moments… in the prequels still irk me to this day… Where was I? Ah yes…
As Darth Vader proper however, I believe that the greatest crime that Darth Vader committed was the destruction of Alderaan. True, it can be argued that he did not make the decision himself but it was well within his power to stop it seeing as he is the Emperor’s Right Hand as it were. It should also be mentioned that Alderaan, at its prime, was considered as the Heart of the Republic and, at the time of its destruction, had roughly two billion people living on it.
In a single instant, Darth Vader was responsible for the death of two billion people. No one mortal man, not one in fiction or fact, can make this claim.
Then there’s the whole affair with one Galen Marek, Darth Vader’s “secret apprentice” as he is often called despite his much more awesome call-sign of Starkiller. Having discovered the young boy when he was hunting for Jedi when who had survived Order 66, Darth Vader was surprised by the boy’s skill with the Force, as it was powerful enough to actually steal Darth Vader’s lightsaber straight from the man’s own hands, and so took him on as an apprentice. He even went so far as to kill his own people to ensure the boy’s safety and secrecy from the Emperor. A boy who would eventually grow to be so powerful that he could literally rip Star Destroyers straight out of the sky and still had a difficult time besting his master.
There’s not enough Holy Sugar Honey Iced Tea in the entire galaxy for how utterly terrifying that thought is.
Yet… there is one particular aspect to Darth Vader’s character that is almost as prominent as his evil and his power. His redemption. It was his love for his wife and fear of her death that drove Anakin to the Dark Side of the Force but it was those same emotions in regards to his children that would actually save him in the very end. Though I’m loath to say that it forgives him for all the crimes he committed willingly and at times gladly in service of the Empire.
Heck, in a particularly interesting mini-series of comics that takes place in the original trilogy of films, the ways that Darth Vader is redeemed is taken to the extreme. A word of warning before I proceed though, there will be SPOILERS AHEAD. If you’d rather not have this occur then I suggest you skip down to the absolute last paragraph for the wrap-up.
This series, called Star Wars Infinities, each consider an interesting key moment in the series occurring differently. In the case of Episode IV, what if Luke failed to destroy the Death Star? That story lead to Leia not only being captured but being turned into a Sith by Darth Vader himself but upon the revelation that he had done so to his own daughter, torturing her both physically and mentally, redeemed him at the end as he fought against the Emperor long enough for Yoda to come crashing in via the Death Star.
No joke. Seriously, look up those issues, it was amazing in so many ways.
Of course, the fun doesn’t stop there, oh no. For the following Episode V, the key moment that’s changed is Luke actually dying on Hoth and, as a result, Leia ends up becoming a Jedi herself. What makes it rather distressing is that Darth Vader, despite hearing rumors of Luke’s death on Hoth refuses to accept it being true as he senses Leia’s growing prowess with the Force and thus mistakes her familiar presence for Luke and so grows more and more determined to find Luke, going so far as to wipe out Cloud City in the process. I don’t know whether it was the art style or not but I really like Leia’s Jedi outfit and her far more sensible hairstyle as well.
Seriously, this what-if comic made me almost wish that it had been canon because, as good a Jedi as Luke is, Leia was honestly much better at it for how short a time she had being one.
As to the Episode VI the what-if changes comes two-fold. First and foremost due to Jabba’s rough handling of him, C-3PO literally loses his head and thus the confrontation with a disguised Leia goes south so unbelievably quick it’s downright scary. The second part is Han Solo becoming blind due to an errant blaster bolt striking him while he was still otherwise “on ice.” During the infamous confrontation on the Death Star II, Leia is present and the revelation of her and Luke’s relation in made clear to Vader who though he fights Luke, cannot bring himself to harm either of his children.
What makes this a particularly interesting alteration though is that due to the Death Star II coming apart at the seams via an attack by the Rebels, Palpatine makes for a secret escape and though Darth Vader lies injured and alive, it is Leia who insists on taking the time to save him not Luke. True, the boy might have said something to that affect but considering Leia, of all people, beat him to the punch… This altered Episode ends though in a spectacularly out-of-left-field way in that Darth Vader not only survives, along with the Emperor, but he actually joins with the Rebels and still retains his awesome armor now redone in a shining white.
Y’know, say what you will of that idea die-hard fans but the idea of a literal “white knight” Vader… yeah, okay, that’s a little too much all considering but dang if that wouldn’t be an awesome fight of good versus evil right there…
All in all, Darth Vader is my fourth favorite villain because… well, to be honest, because he and numbers three, two, and yes, even one, are all virtually tied with one another for one reason or another as all four are dictionary definitions of villainy at its absolute worst to varying degrees from frightening vile to horrifically cruel. Darth Vader earns his place at number four not because he falls lesser than the remaining three but because… Well, to be honest, it is a tongue-in-cheek nod towards his premiere film in the Star Wars original trilogy and nothing less than that.