Saturday, January 26, 2013
CHARACTER CLOSE-UP : Darth Vader
Darth Vader (born Anakin Skywalker) is the central character of the Star Wars saga, appearing as one of the main antagonists of the original trilogy and as the main protagonist of the prequel trilogy.
The character was created by George Lucas and numerous actors have portrayed him. His appearances span all six Star Wars films, and he is an important character in the expanded universe of television series, video games, novels, literature and comic books. The films establish that there was originally a Jedi Knight named Anakin who fell to the dark side of the Force; he is also revealed to be the father of both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, the two main protagonists of the original trilogy. After turning to the Dark Side, Vader is a ruthless henchman of Emperor Palpatine; he secretly intends to overthrow Palpatine to establish himself as ruler of the Empire. Vader is ultimately revealed to have personal honor in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when he sacrifices himself to save his son, Luke.
While the first draft of The Star Wars includes a tall, grim general named Darth Vader, the character came closer in line with his final depiction in the second revision. A character named "Anikin Starkiller" also appears in an early draft of Star Wars, playing a role similar to Luke Skywalker's, as the 16-year-old son of a respected warrior. Vader's mask was originally designed by Ralph McQuarrie as part of Vader's spacesuit, and not intended to be part of the regular costume. Brian Muir sculpted Vader's costume based on McQuarrie's design.
After the success of Star Wars, Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II (later retitled Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is very similar to the final film, except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke. Lucas was disappointed with the script, but Brackett died of cancer before he could discuss it with her. With no writer available, Lucas had to write the next draft himself. In this draft, he made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader claiming to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the year-long struggles writing the first film.
The new plot element of Luke's parentage had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was a separate character from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978 (further reinforcing this is Obi-Wan Kenobi calling Vader "Darth", as if it is his true name rather than his new Sith name). After writing the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker had been Obi-Wan Kenobi's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply a politician). Anakin battled Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was badly wounded, but was then reborn as Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Galactic Republic became the tyrannical Galactic Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequels.
After deciding to create the prequels, Lucas indicated the series would be a tragic one examining Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side. He also saw that the prequels could form the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the film series into a "Saga".
Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the dark side prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith to have Palpatine kidnapped and his apprentice, Count Dooku, murdered by Anakin as the first act in the latter's turn towards the dark side. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the dark side; his fall from grace would now be motivated by a desire to save his wife, Padmé Amidala, rather than the previous version in which that reason was one of several, including that he genuinely believed that the Jedi were plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished both through editing the principal footage, and new and revised scenes filmed during pick-ups in 2004.
Bodybuilder David Prowse's size and stature allowed him to fill out the large Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy, although stunt performer Bob Anderson portrayed Vader during the intense lightsaber fight scenes in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Sebastian Shaw originally portrayed the unmasked Vader in Return of the Jedi, although stock footage of Hayden Christensen replaced Shaw's appearance of Vader as a ghost in the 2004 DVD release. James Earl Jones, who provided the voice of Darth Vader, was initially uncredited in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back because Jones felt his contributions were too small to warrant recognition.
Jake Lloyd was chosen from over 3,000 prospective child actors to play Anakin in The Phantom Menace. Casting director Robin Gurland initially thought Lloyd was too young to play the role; however, upon another meeting several years later, Gurland believed Lloyd was an appropriate choice for the part.
Hayden Christensen played Anakin in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith; he also donned Darth Vader's armor for the final scenes of the latter film. Mat Lucas voiced Anakin for the 2003 Clone Wars animated TV series and in various Star Wars video games, while Matt Lanter voiced the character in the CGI The Clone Wars film and subsequent 2008 The Clone Wars animated TV series.
Darth Vader is introduced in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) as a ruthless cyborg pursuing the film's protagonists. Vader is charged with recovering technical schematics of the Death Star stolen by the Rebel Alliance, who seek to overthrow the Galactic Empire. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) tells Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) that Vader is a former Jedi who "betrayed and murdered" Luke's father. Obi-Wan and Luke — along with smugglers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and droids R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) — help Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) escape the Death Star. Vader kills Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel, and later escapes the Death Star's destruction during the film's climactic battle scene.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), set three years later, depicts Vader leading an Imperial starfleet in pursuit of the Rebels. Emperor Palpatine (voiced by Clive Revill; portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in subsequent films), Vader's Sith master, tells Vader that "the son of Skywalker" (later revised to "the offspring of Anakin Skywalker") must not become a Jedi; Vader promises that he will turn Luke to the dark side. To this end, Vader captures Leia, Han, Chewbacca and C-3PO on Cloud City, using them as bait for Luke, who has by now been partially trained as a Jedi by Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz). During a lightsaber duel, Vader cuts off Luke's right hand and reveals that he is Luke's father; he then entreats Luke to convert to the dark side and help him overthrow the Emperor so they can "rule the galaxy as father and son". Horrified, Luke throws himself into Cloud City's reactor core, ultimately escaping aboard the Millennium Falcon. Onboard his Star Destroyer, Vader telepathically tells Luke that it is his destiny to join the dark side.
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), a dying Yoda confirms to Luke that Vader is indeed his father; moments later, Obi-Wan's spirit tells him he has a twin sister — whom Luke almost instantly divines to be Leia — and that he must confront his father to save the Rebellion. Luke surrenders himself to Imperial forces, hoping to turn his father back "to the light side". Vader brings Luke onto the second Death Star, where Palpatine tries to seduce Luke to the dark side. During their duel, Vader learns Leia's true identity and threatens to turn her to the dark side if Luke will not submit. Enraged, Luke attacks and overpowers Vader, severing his mechanical right hand. At the last minute, Luke realizes he is close to suffering his father's fate, and refuses Palpatine's command to kill Vader and take his place. An enraged Palpatine unleashes a torrent of Force lightning upon Luke, who begs his father for help. The sight of his son's suffering breaks the dark side's hold on Vader, who kills Palpatine by throwing him into the Death Star's reactor core; in the process, however, he is mortally wounded by his master's lightning. The redeemed Anakin Skywalker asks Luke to remove his helmet; in his dying breaths, Anakin tells his son that there was good left in him after all. Luke escapes with his father's remains, which he burns in a funeral pyre. The same night, the Rebels celebrate the destruction of the Death Star and the fall of the Empire, and Luke sees the spirit of Anakin standing alongside the spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda.
Anakin Skywalker appears as a nine-year-old slave in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999). He is raised on the planet Tatooine by his mother, Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August), who says Anakin had no father, implying miraculous birth. He is a gifted pilot and engineer, and has the ability to "see things before they happen". He even creates his own protocol droid, C-3PO. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) meets him after an emergency landing on Tatooine and becomes convinced the boy is the "Chosen One", foretold by a Jedi prophecy as the one who will bring balance to the Force. Anakin wins his freedom in a podrace, but is forced to part with his mother. Qui-Gon takes Anakin to the Jedi Council, who forbid training on the grounds that the boy's future is clouded by the fear he exhibits. During the invasion of Naboo, Anakin helps defeat the Trade Federation by destroying their command ship. After Qui-Gon is killed in a duel with Sith Lord Darth Maul (Ray Park), his apprentice, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), promises to train Anakin, a proposal the Jedi Council reluctantly accepts. During the film, Anakin forms a close bond with Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), Naboo's queen. Palpatine, newly elected as the Republic's Supreme Chancellor, befriends the boy, telling him that "we will watch your career with great interest."
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), set 10 years later, depicts Anakin as Obi-Wan's Padawan learner. Palpatine assigns Anakin and Obi-Wan to investigate an assassination attempt made on Padmé, who is now a senator. Anakin travels with her to Naboo, where they fall in love. Anakin has a vision of his mother in pain, and goes to Tatooine, where he learns that Shmi had been kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. He goes to the Tusken camp, where he finds his mother, who has been tortured by the tribe; she dies in his arms. Anakin flies into a violent rage and kills the entire tribe. He returns with his mother's body, and tearfully confesses his crime to Padmé, who comforts him. Soon after, Anakin and Padmé travel to Geonosis, hoping to rescue Obi-Wan from Jedi-turned-Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and his army of Separatists; instead, they are captured and sentenced to be executed. Anakin and Padmé profess their love for each other moments before being rescued by an army of clone troopers and Jedi. Anakin loses his right arm in a lightsaber duel with Dooku; it is replaced with a prosthetic. At the end of the film, Anakin and Padmé marry in a secret ceremony.
Palpatine eventually reveals to Anakin that he is the Sith lord Darth Sidious, the mastermind behind the war, and that the dark side holds the power to save Padmé's life. Conflicted, Anakin reports Palpatine to Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). Despite orders to remain behind, Anakin follows Windu to the Chancellor's office to ensure Palpatine is captured alive. He walks in on Windu ready to kill Palpatine and intervenes on the Sith lord's behalf, severing Windu's lightsaber arm; Palpatine then kills Windu with a blast of Force lightning. Desperate to save his wife, Anakin pledges himself to the Sith as Palpatine's apprentice, Darth Vader.
Palpatine sends Vader to kill everyone inside the Jedi Temple, and then to assassinate the Separatist leaders on Mustafar. Padmé meets him there and pleads with him to flee Palpatine's grasp with her. He refuses, saying that the two of them can overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy. When Obi-Wan emerges from Padmé's ship, Vader accuses her of conspiring against him and uses the Force to choke her into unconsciousness. Vader then engages Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel, which ends when Obi-Wan severs Vader's legs and remaining organic arm in mid-air. Vader then slides too close to a lava flow and catches fire, sustaining life-threatening third-degree burns. Obi-Wan picks up Vader's lightsaber and leaves him to die.
Moments later, Palpatine rescues Vader and reconstructs his apprentice's ruined body with the cybernetic limbs and black armor first seen in A New Hope. When Vader regains consciousness, Palpatine tells him Padmé died as a result of Vader's anger. The news of her death breaks what remains of Vader's spirit, and he screams in torment. He is last seen alongside Palpatine and a young Grand Moff Tarkin (Wayne Pygram) viewing the construction of the first Death Star.
In the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003), Anakin (voiced by Mat Lucas) is made a Jedi Knight despite the Council's reservations. During the next three years of fighting in the Clone Wars, Anakin becomes a legend throughout the galaxy, renowned as "The Hero With No Fear". Anakin's adventures in the Clone Wars are also chronicled in the Star Wars: Republic comic series. In the 2008 animated film The Clone Wars and the subsequent television series, Anakin (voiced by Matt Lanter) takes on Padawan learner Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein). In the episode "Ghosts of Mortis", he sees a cryptic vision of his eventual transformation into Darth Vader.
Vader appears numerous times in comic books such as Dark Horse Comics's Star Wars Tales and Marvel Comics' Star Wars series (1977–1986). Vader's Quest (1999) which depicts Vader hiring a bounty hunter to bring him information about the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, ultimately meeting Luke for the first time.
In the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978), Vader and Luke duel, and Luke cuts off Vader's right arm. Shadows of the Empire (1996) reveals that Vader is conflicted about trying to turn his son to the dark side of the Force, and knows deep down that there is still some good in him. In James Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2005), set a few months after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Vader disavows his identity as Anakin Skywalker as he systematically pursues and kills the surviving Jedi and cements his position in the Empire. The novel also reveals that Vader plans to eventually overthrow Palpatine, and that he betrayed the Jedi because he resented their supposed failure to recognize his power. The redeemed spirit of Anakin Skywalker appears in The Truce at Bakura (1993), set a few days after the end of Return of the Jedi. He appears to Leia, imploring her forgiveness. Leia condemns him for his crimes and banishes him from her life. He promises that he will be there for her when she needs him, and disappears. In Tatooine Ghost (2003), Leia learns to forgive her father after learning about his childhood as a slave and his mother's traumatic death. In The Dark Nest trilogy (2005), Luke and Leia uncover old recordings of their parents in R2-D2's memory drive; for the first time, they see their own birth and their mother's death, as well as their father's corruption to the dark side. In The Unifying Force (2003), Anakin tells his grandson, Jacen Solo, to "stand firm" in his battle with the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong. In Bloodlines (2006), Jacen — who has himself turned to the dark side — uses the Force to "watch" Anakin slaughter the children at the Jedi Temple and become Darth Vader.