Gollum. Bane. Loki. Sherlock. Snape. These are only a few characters that are amazing because of their marvelous depth in the stories they helped create. But there is one character I always automatically think of when it comes to talking about the depth and character arc: Darth Vader. I’ve said it before: Darth Vader is AWESOME. He is my favorite villain of all time. He is the character that made the Star Wars movies; in other words, there would be no Star Wars if there was no Darth Vader. It’s as simple as that. This post is not only for people who 1) think it’s sick to love a character who killed little kids, or 2) hate the Prequels for various reasons. It is also for any Star Wars fan or writer who loves breaking down and analyzing the essence of Darth Vader’s character and the genius twist in the “Chosen One” stereotype.
Image Copyright Susannah Metzler ©2016
I’ve heard many people say they feel lame for liking Darth Vader so much because he killed little kids, and/or that his child homicides are one of the main reasons why they hate the Prequels. I kind of laugh but don’t attempt an answer, the main reason being I can’t verbally speak my thoughts immediately with it coming out clear and rational, particularly on topics such as this. But I do have an argument for this, and since I have time to type … is it lame to like Vader so much when he killed all those young Jedi?
My answer is: No. Not at all. First off, let’s look at it this way: Not all heroes are born heroes. Darth Vader died a noble one. From the beginning, he was just a “normal” kid, he and his mom both slaves to the junk dealer, Watto; he loved his mom and his mom loved him. But then the Jedi arrive and change his life completely when they find he has a certain midi-chlorian count. Anakin faced many hardships that gave him plenty of reasons to encounter problems the way he did; realistically he should have suffered PTSD or trauma. I talk about this a lot in my post Potential in the Prequels: Appreciating the Hated Star Wars Episodes I-III, how these otherwise repelling characteristics shape his character to become the future Darth Vader. But if Anakin had to blame anyone for making his life such a cruel one, he would blame the Jedi. At least I would if I were in his boots.
But why did he have to kill little kids? Of course, I think killing children is wrong; I think murder of anyone is wrong, except if it’s a serious war (and that’s just getting off topic). But the reason why Vader commited child homicide makes perfect sense. Everything Anakin had to deal with is finally helping to unleash his Dark Side, becoming Vader, obeying the orders of the Sith Palpatine. It was not meant to be an overly traumatic scene; we see only glimpses of him hacking down the little Jedi apprentices, and then we immediately go on to the next scene of him showing horrible brutality and something like vengeance as he destroys, betrays the Jedi. This last part of the movie Revenge of the Sith is not an easy one to watch. We are witnessing the phases of Darth Vader, and this phase is the most difficult: as he transitions from a Jedi to a Sith. He loses his friends, he loses Padme and Obi-Wan, he turns over completely, er, well nearly completely, to the dark side. Seeing him slaughtering little children helps to show the horror of his decision, which wasn’t decided all totally by his own means, but also because of the influences of the Jedi and Palpatine, helping to determine that decision. Yes, it was horrible of him to do that, terribly brutal; I do not want you to glorify this side of Darth Vader. But he is still a hero, ready to be redeemed before his death in Return of the Jedi. He killed not only little kids, but commited many more atrocities that the Will of the Force can explain, as the Force is completely involved during this fateful transition.
About his redemption. This is exactly what makes Darth Vader such an amazing character; in the Star Wars saga he is both a protagonist and then the antogonist. This is what makes Darth Vader so special to us, it’s the depth of his character as he went from hero to villain to hero. When he became Vader, Padme was unable to turn him back, so the job went to their son, Luke. At least, that’s how I see it. Luke (and Leia) with the help of the Rebel Alliance, were able to, at the cost of their friends’ lives and the the risk of their own, bring their father Darth Vader out of the stupor that the Dark Side has enveloped him in. But how this was brought about was wonderful: Luke is almost dying from Emperor Palpatine’s Force lightning, and this is when Darth Vader’s expressionless mask comes in handy; we can’t tell what he’s thinking, if he’s enjoying this or not, until he pushes the Sith away and throws him into his doom. Ta-da. The son saving his father turned to the father saving his son all in one scene, and if you’re feeling extra depressed after watching Revenge, just skip to that last scene in Return. Because that’s how it ends. Just imagine if the Star Wars movies were made in chronological order, how we would be left in tears for months after finishing Revenge of the Sith, hardly able to wait for the next story. Thankfully, we already knew what truly happened when the Prequels were released.
Most likely many of you saw A New Hope when it first came out. I assume that your first impression of Darth Vader had dramatically changed as you watched the rest of the saga. In a New Hope, he first enters, surrounded by his stormtroopers, without a single doubt enjoying his epic theme music playing for him. We know that this guy is bad, this guy is the villain. In Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader enjoys much screen time as we get to see the tension in the unusual relationship between father and son, and how they want each other for totally opposite reasons. And then the redepmtion. A post I read on Darth Vader’s character suggested that, through it all, love was the underlying emotion that ultimately won over hate in the end. This is where my theories went completely topsy turvy: it started with love for his mom, his wife, and now, almost unbelievably, love for his son. Could it be that his one and only fault was love? Is love the main reason for everything that happened to him? At first it makes sense, if you think about it, and everything is suddenly more epicly complex. He loved his mom, he loved his wife, and where did those loves take him? But he loved his son, and that was his final redemption. But an inordinate love, as C. S. Lewis would say; perhaps he simply loved power over death, but this is true only with Padme. I think that his love for his mother was real and true, though, and seeing her die triggered that love for power over death: He tells Padme that he won’t let her succumb to the same fate as his mother … maybe I’m reaching too far with my theories, but you get the point, right? On to the next.
Another thing I want to bring up is his destiny as the Chosen One, and how this is so unique when placed with the stereotypes. Darth Vader’s life story was basically showing his struggle with destiny. He knows he is a Jedi and that he is meant to bring balace to the Force. What he didn’t know was that, even though he did turn over to the Dark Side, he still brought balance to the Force. A couple imbalances here and there, of course, will do the trick. Ha, I just realized too, little did the Jedi know that the solution to their problem was their own death … perhaps it was just a different way of restoring the Force’s balance that they were expecting? I’m just theorizing here, but I find that pretty funny. This imbalance was almost obliterating every existing Jedi and letting the Sith rule the galaxy. And then Vader conquers it once in for all; he DOES what he was chosen to do: he brings that very balance to the Force by killing Sith Palaptine. Oh, Yoda, aren’t you proud of him!
All that to say … Darth Vader is a villain. Yes, he was a villain, perhaps the greatest epic villain who ever lived in a galaxy far, far away. In fact, he was so epic, he was a hero. The ending says as much. What do you say to this, my friend? If you say Darth Vader isn’t the best villain and hero ever, than who, may I ask, is taking his place in your opinion? And, most importantly, why? Dare to answer in the comment section below. I’d love to hear any objections to reconsider or any agreements and thoughts.