Rogue One (2016)
Darth Vader is terrifying. Within the Star Wars universe as well as beyond Darth Vader is one of the greatest, most intimidating villains of all time. There’s a reason he has cemented a permanent place in pop culture, a reason that despite his demise more than 35 years ago he is still as relevant to the franchise as he was in the original trilogy. It’s simply because Darth Vader is everything a villain needs to be and more, in many ways Vader is the villain.
Intimidating, merciless and voiced by the great James Earl Jones, Vader defines bad guy. Yet bound by the constraints of a sci-fi adventure for adults and children, the real terror of Vader is difficult to portray. Yes, he mercilessly chokes to death those who disobey or fail him and yes, he will not hesitate to decimate a planet. But the real terror of Vader, the real horror of the Sith lord was best conveyed in Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.
The rebels have the drive with the plans of the death star. They’re trapped in a dark corridor, at least eight of them, all armed with blasters. Sirens wail in the background. The rebels face the darkness, they are aware something lurks in the shadows.
A familiar filtered breathing fills the corridor, a lightsaber retracts, the corridor is illumined with a soft crimson glow and the silhouette of Darth Vader emerges from the darkness. The rebels open fire, Vader bats each away as he calmly approaches the doomed men. What follows is a massacre, an effortless massacre.
Edwards directs the sequence like a horror movie, using the curtains of darkness as a tool of terror.
The director Gareth Edwards had an immense task. To do justice to perhaps the franchise’s most iconic character more than 30 years since he was last seen. This scene which lasts all of just over 60 seconds does exactly that. Not only does it do justice to Vader, it gives the audience an extended look at the violent, merciless and unstoppable force that Vader was.
The art of the scene is in the darkness. Edwards directs the sequence like a horror movie, using the curtains of darkness as a tool of terror. Edwards conveys a frantic panic with continuous shots of rebels desperately scrambling for an escape, their faces drawn in fear and realisation that their chances of survival diminish with each step the Sith lord takes.
We see Vader’s skill with the lightsaber as he deflects every shot at him and his incredible power with the force as he tosses rebels around the corridor like dolls. Vader is outnumbered and outgunned but there isn’t a second Vader is against the wall, he is in. control, he is the superior force, he is the ultimate terror of the galaxy. Vader has just around 15 minutes of screen time in the 2 hour 13 run time of Rogue One, his moments are cameos at best yet undoubtedly some of the character’s greatest moments in the franchise.