There are many things I’m excited to see in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but none are as big as the return of Darth Vader to the big screen.
The last time we saw Darth Vader on the big screen, it was at the end of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. He was just entombed in his classic armor and was making the final transition from Jedi Knight to dark Lord of the Sith. Over the intervening years more and more of Anakin slipped away and became buried under that digital carapace. We know that the light was never truly extinguished. However, there was a time when the dark side overshadowed it, a point where any flicker of light or hope, appeared to be all but lost. That is the Vader we saw in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and it’s the Darth Vader I expect to see in Rogue One.
In Rogue One the Empire is poised to tighten its grip on the galaxy with the Death Star; a technological marvel that Vader views with skepticism. Vader believes in the Force and his devotion to that religion puts him at philosophical odds with the Empire’s military elite.
This exchange between Vader and Admiral Motti from A New Hope frames the relationship that I expect to see between Vader and Director Orson Krennic, the man in charge of the Death Star project.
Darth Vader: “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”
Admiral Motti: “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels’ hidden fort-… “
If Motti was able to speak further, he might have reminded Vader that he’s more machine than he is a man and that it’s technology and not the Force that’s keeping him alive. A predicament that Vader knows all too well and resents.
In the Empire Strikes Back we see him in his meditation chamber with his helmet off, presumably using the Force to unsuccessfully break the shackles of his iron lung.
This is what is at play here. It’s the Force versus the technology. As Tarkin tells Vader, “The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.” Although no longer a Jedi and now a disciple of the Dark Side, Darth Vader perhaps feels like the lone torch bearer of the galaxy’s mystical higher power. After all, while his own master is a powerful Force user, he does not see technology and the Force as mutually exclusive, perhaps relying too much on the latter.
It’s a sentiment that reared it’s head in Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens between Kylo Ren and General Hux. Snoke and Palpatine seeing the value in both the Force and technology, whereas Vader and Ren are more pure disciples to their ancient religion.
Hatred and anger are important tools for the Dark Side, and this tension between the Force and technology is an endless font to fuel Vader’s Dark Side lust. He and the Empire’s military brass are not on equal footing. The military is subordinate to him and Vader keeps them on a short leash.
We know that the Rebel spies are successful in stealing the Death Star plans, and I fear that will lead to a classic “You have failed me for the last time Director.” moment, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the return of Darth Vader.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!