Darth Vader

One of the Greatest Villains in History
December 17, 2008
One Of The Greatest Villains in Movie History

So I'm back to my villains articles. I was always fascinated with villains much more than with the heroes themselves.I did not side with them, but still found them to be the most interesting characters. The heroes are virtually us. We see through their eyes, they have the same principles, way of thinking and morals. We know their story and everything. With villains, they are always a dark mystery and a big unknown, an opposite side of what we are and the mysterious characters from the dark side. And they always looked cool as hell.

I was saving this character for a long time and finally decided to focus on what is considered by most, and who was described by the Rolling Stones Magazine as the "Greatest Villain in Movie History".

Again, I don't want to tell the story of Darth Vader - you can look it up on the internet with one click. I want to focus on how the villain was viewed by myself and many other movie fans, brushing his origins just a little.


The character of Darth Vader was born in 1976. I think its fascinating how a character that originally was just one of those 70's space Buck Rogers-ish evil movie character developed into such a powerful, iconic and incredibly complex character.

Vader was suppose to be a regular guy at first, an evil lord like someone from Flash Gordon. He would most likely look like the AT AT commanders. A guy in a helmet and uniform. The idea was that he had to have some breathing mask and suit so he could pass through space in the opening scenes of Star Wars when boarding from the Star Destroyer to Tantive IV. That's how it all started.

From such thing a completely new dimension was born - the mask added so much, because it was the fear of whats behind it that gets you. But the idea wasn't fully exploited yet. Not in the first movie

In the first movie, Star Wars (or as later renamed, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Vader is a bad menacing guy already but although he already seemed really cool and I absolutely loved the design, he wasn't anything that would really stick up yet.Darth Vader isn't the main bad guy. He is more of a background person and Governor Tarkin seems to be the main villain and brain. You can sense it in the scene when Tarkin kind of talks down on Vader about his plans "It'll better work!".
Note that even in the way the movie was filmed, it's Tarkin first and Vader in the background, not doing or saying much. He is basically more of an Imperial agent as described.

So Tarkin was the focus at first and Vader was one of those peculiar characters that graced all the 70's space movies. We knew from the beginning he is purely an evil guy and very powerful. I've read in many many places that his entrance is one of the best movie entrances/introductions ever.

And of course the power choke he did on Death Star was very memorable. But I believe it was barely a tease of the character and he was just a background and an addition.
So although Vader became an instant icon, I just didn't "feel it" after the first movie yet.
Also, I know I'll probably get lynched for that, but the first movie, albeit very good, didn't stick up for me from any other 70's space adventures like Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers, and I believe is the only Star Wars episode that is actually dated.

The first time I saw The Empire Strikes Back was couple of weeks or few months after seeing the first movie. It was late 80's and my Dad rented it for me, although it took me a while to remember which one was the first part since all those space movies seemed very similar.
Episode V was unlike any other sci-fi movie, that was just a timeless and epic story. It took my breath away, as I assume did for so many other young people and adults around the world. I was so taken by it and of course for the next few weeks I would draw Star Wars characters and play around with my action figures reenacting the scenes from V. The whole family watched it, my parents and two teenage sisters and everyone loved it. The characters were so well defined, and Luke was this really good boy that I could easily relate to.
Darth Vader on the other hand..
Here, he was the main villain this time, and presented as much more darker and powerful. Even his appearance had changed, as now he was a pure, shining blackness. The only lines you could see on him were reflected lights. And his voice wasn't android like, like it was in the first movie. Here it was deeper and more menacing, without the robot-ish echo. With his cape and cruelty featured extensively in the movie, he was pure evil. Choking his admirals mercilessly for their failures.
And I think the most appealing thing about him was the mystery - what was behind this mask? What kind of evil lurks there? A monster? what is it? Then in the middle of the movie we got a small tease that absolutely fired my imagination. I actually asked to rewind that scene about three times!

Yet another great aspect of this character was the whole "lord" vibe. Everyone referred to him as "my lord" which seemed pretty evil and mystical.

Of course, how would I not mention the breathing?! That didn't scare me, but thought it was super cool, and I could emulate the sound perfectly.
And the scene with the Emperor was pretty scary too, yet Vader still seemed much more evil than his equally mysterious master.
TESB was also the first episode that introduced the famous Darth Vader theme composed by the great John Williams, and that added a whole lot.
And by the end we find out that he is Luke's father! I wish I could, but I simply don't remember how I reacted to that scene or seeing that scene for the first time. Still, the character raised even more questions and was that much more exciting.
The way he fought with Luke without much effort, yet Luke was all sweaty, bloody and lost his hand. That showed the power of this guy.

Watching TESB for the first time also brings back the memory of how I didn't even wanted to go to sleep and I wanted to play Star Wars instead. I think I was 7 or 8 maybe. I used some action figures that I had and played Luke, Han and others, and used the VHS cover as the action figure for Vader.

I stared at that cover for hours

I kept bugging my parents to rent the third part, but we only had the movie nights during the weekends ( I had a cool and happy childhood) because only then I could stay up a little later. I just couldn't wait.

And here it was, the final part of the trilogy. It was cool to see Darth Vader in the opening scene, just as we know him - a shining black figure and the chilling musical theme.
In this movie the circle closes in. We get some answers, but all very partial. How, when what was never explained. We get to see the Emperor and get some answers about Vader from Obi-Wan's ghost. His real name was Anakin, which I always thought sounds a lot like Mannequin, and that he's now more machine than man. As Obi-Wan was recalling history, giving us those very tiny pieces of information, my imagination was all fired up. I was fascinated with Vader and that kind of info was simply something really cool, although it was what - 3 sentences? His name, the fact that he was a great pilot and that he turned evil. Not much, but still a lot for the 80's movies which had a cool way of not explaining things and leaving most of the stuff as a mystery.

The Emperor/Sith theme with the chant was very climatic and made the vibe so much darker when we've seen them both in the same room. You could just feel that darkness

By the end we finally had a big reveal- Darth Vader without the mask, and his real voice. His voice was nothing like what we knew. It was deep and menacing, it was all the mask. His real voice sounded like a voice of a sick elderly man.
And the look? terribly scarred person. It was so cool to see him without the mask, yet it wasn't as surprising because that's close to how I imagined him after seeing the back of his head in TESB.

After that I kept re watching the trilogy every few months like I think everyone else.

I was always fantasizing about Anakin's story. I always imagined it as being the same thing as with Luke, only that the Emperor succeeded in seducing Anakin. There wasn't much to base the story upon. Only three sentences from the movie, that's it. Virtually nothing about what happened. And the biggest question remained unanswered - why is Vader so injured? What happened to him that he's basically a leftovers of a human put into cyborg suit? I found out the answer from my friend who was a major Star Wars geek reading all those novels and expanding universe etc. The original script had Obi-Wan saying that Vader felt into lava after their battle. Why did they cut out such a crucial thing from the movie I have no clue.
The amount of injuries and mechanics built into his body is clearly visible in the scene where we see his skeleton after getting hit with the power lightning.
I imagined that everything was the same just the rebellion was the dominant force and Jedi were living everywhere and the Emperor attacked with his army. Then the Emperor captured Anakin and promised him the universe and got himself a new aid this way.

A decade later, the unthinkable happened. The prequels hit the theaters and whats amazing was that we were actually gonna get THREE movies, a whole trilogy, focusing on the villain! Now, that's has never been done before or after, but the fact that it was done to my favorite and such mysterious character was just beyond cool. Just like everyone, I was hyped like never before...

To be continued
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