We have a new segment we are going to try as I recouperate and get back to full health and schedule. It is a piece where a staff member or myself picks a topic and then writes a piece on it. I will then offer my two cents and we will update it later with the original authors reply to my feedback.
I picked the topic, and Joseph Saulnier is off and running with one that will ensure huge debate.
Can Star Wars Sequel writers ever hope to create a better bad guy than Darth Vader?
Absolutely! In fact, my opinion is that the character has already been created, just waiting to be adapted. I was more than disappointed when it was announced that the new movies would not be adapted from The Thrawn Trilogy: Heir to the Empire, The Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. This book series is also named after the series’ antihero: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Thrawn may not have the force on his side, but he is one of the most calculating, brilliant villains I have ever read. He is dangerous because of his brilliance, his ability to see the consequences of actions, and his natural command that emanates from him. There is much more to him than that, but these are the things that stood out to me as I read the books.
Now some may argue that he was ultimately defeated, but think on it. So was Darth Vader. Okay, so he turned back to his good side and ultimately saved a lot of lives in taking out Emperor Palpatine and bringing about his own demise. But that’s just it. He had a good side to him. He had an empathy that, while buried deep down, was still there none the less.
Thrawn is cold, calculating, evil, and so on. He did not have a bit of empathy, sympathy or good. Not a single ounce of humanity coursed through his veins. Every move he made was for the good of the Empire. It was to bring the empire back to power. He also had more vision and power than the Emperor and Vader. He was a strategist who was not the, how do I say this, “specie-ist” that the Emperor was. For those that didn’t catch on in the movies, or haven’t read any of the extended universe, Palpatine was very much the Hitler of the Star Wars universe in that he did not really have any high ranking officers that were not human… with the exception of Thrawn. But nobody knew of the existence of Thrawn until after Palpatine was gone.
The other half of this equation though, is casting. The only way Thrawn can pull off being the better villain than Vader would be the correct choice in casting. If the actor casted cannot pull the role off, it ultimately just negates the argument altogether.
The good news is that even though this next trilogy will be an original story line, with the rights to the Star Wars universe being in Disney’s hands there will still be a chance that it could be made in the future. Maybe we will see that villain who can trump Vader… someday.
Gareth Von Kallenbach’s Point of View
While I’m hesitant to say never and I hear the words of Master Yoda admonishing Luke’s tendencies to say something cannot be done, I have to admit that I do believe that topping Darth Vader may be a next to impossible task.
This is not to say that it cannot be done but when you look at the enduring cultural impact of the character since his debut in 1977 and the fact that is constantly listed as one of the top villains and every annual poll done since, this is a monumental undertaking.
Even George Lucas who created the character of Darth Vader could not come close in the prequels and while there were other reasons viewers cited for their dissatisfaction with the prequels, I believe the lack of a strong central villain was a key point. Darth Maul had the potential to be a very intriguing character. He was cold, brutal, and driven by rage, all of which would really have been interesting to see explore of the three films.
Imagine the possibilities of Anakin and Maul having to face off against one another and in what should have been his triumphant moment, Anakin’s defeat of Maul is actually what tips him over fully to the dark side underscoring Sidious’s ultimate skillet manipulation and deception.
I’m sorry but Count Dooku and General Grievous although dangerous did not come across as a larger-than-life threat. The only real threat was the Grand Master himself, Palpatine but he was content to work in the shadows and only came for when his hand was called or when it suited his needs.
For the new film the challenge is going to be to either create an iconic new villain or a team of villains that will torment heroes old and new and create an epic threat to the galaxy. Let’s not forget it was 1983 when we last saw the classic characters on the big screen. Since then there have been gigantic leaps in technology, which will create all manner of intriguing possibilities for director JJ Abrams and the creative team of the prequels.
One of the ideas that I kick around is that the classic heroes have spent the time since we last saw them trying to restore the Republic and dealing with the remaining threats of the Empire. This is been covered extensively in the extended universe but I think it’s a logical place to look for clues as to where the next film will go. They will be essentially living legends, iconic figures that are propped up to meet with heads of state, chair committees, and influence and determine policy. While this may not be what they choose to do, there sheer celebrity if you will doesn’t allow them to do much more than this.
This is where the crux of the new story is essential. A new threat has to arise, one that is much larger than anything they’ve faced in the year since the fall of the Empire, one that goes beyond petty crime, corruption, system rivalries, people with a score to settle, etc.. The threat must be so epic that it will put the galaxy at its most pivotal point since the Empire and perhaps create a threat the likes of which has never been encountered before.
You could go with the threat of the invading army from another galaxy as they did over the course of several books. I found this interesting at first but it quickly became a little too drawn out for my taste. The word is that they will be moving an entirely new direction not based on any expanded universe content, which I think is a very wise move.
The new villain must combine everything that made Vader iconic. An interesting look, cold brutality, an air of mystery, and a constant emanating of danger and menace with every step they take.
Vader was aided greatly by the mask as part of the allure was wondering what was beneath that black armor and what could drive a person to such extreme measures. In many ways his creation was a perfect embodiment of everything from Frankenstein to an evil wizard for rogue samurai mixed in for good measure.
So the important thing for me is that they go in a very fresh manner this time out. Do not try to re-create Vader, do not resurrect Vader, and do not give us forms of CGI created monsters to carry the threat and except one simple truth. Nobody has been able to come up with a villain as iconic as start Vader since his debut and to attempt to do so is only setting up for failure. Simply create a bold and compelling villain and let things progress from there as to where they compare to Vader when all is said and done.
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