There’s a fresh variety of opinions where the topic of Star Wars is concerned. More so about the franchise entries that were released after Disney bought the franchise. But there’s one thing that’s been done consistently well in the post-Disney Star Wars years.
Darth Vader has always been a force to be reckoned with, but the Disney canon takes that to another level. And the Disney Plus series Obi Wan Kenobi is just the latest example of how Star Wars manages to give one of its coolest characters his due.
Read next: Obi-Wan Kenobi was originally pitched as a trilogy — what does this mean for possible season 2?
Darth Vader is, arguably, one of the best things about Star Wars. He’s menacing, powerful and brutally intimidating. Whether you’re talking about his appearance, voice, the constant rasping of his breathing, or the fact he has as much control over his temper as a toddler.
Vader hasn't always been given his due
But at the same time, the prequels stripped Vader of his mystique by giving a bit too much of Anakin Skywalker. We saw where Vader came from, and it turned out he used to be a rather wooden 20-something that could have some of the galaxy’s most explosive tantrums.
Coupled with appearances in games like The Force Unleashed, where Vader appears as the final boss and kind of a pushover, it’s easy to forget that Vader is supposed to be one of the most powerful individuals in the Star Wars universe.
But his appearances in the new Disney canon have pushed that in the other direction. Mainstream audiences got their first glimpse of this in Rogue One, during Vader’s infamous hallway scene. Check it out now to refresh yourself:
In the original trilogy Vader had a tendency to be slow and cumbersome. That’ll be a product of the era the movies were made, since Vader was a dude (Dave Prowse) in a time before CGI. While the Sith Lord is still fairly slow-moving, Rogue One transformed Vader into an unstoppable juggernaut that could tear through rebels as if they were made of single-ply toilet paper. All without breaking stride.
Disney's done well with Vader before Obi-Wan Kenobi
But Rogue One was only part of the equation. Vader has been a certifiable badass since the earliest days of Disney’s new canon — in both comics and on television. Vader Down, a Marvel Comics crossover 2016 shows how much of a terrifying presence Darth Vader really was.
After crash landing on the surface of the barren planet Vrogas Vas, Vader finds himself surrounded by legions of rebel troops. Almost an entire army of rebels, there with the goal of taking Vader into custody. After being told he’s surrounded, the dark lord of the Sith is able to drop a line few readers will forget.
“You are surrounded!”“All I am surrounded by is fear. And dead men.” pic.twitter.com/OQJvVZkjOIApril 25, 2019
Vader’s response is to activate all the grenades of every rebel soldier, destroy a tank with a single flick of his lightsaber and walk away as if nothing had ever happened.
The same can be said for Rebels. Kanan admits that he and Ezra don’t stand a chance against Vader, while Ahsoka Tano only escaped death thanks to some cop-out force-powered time travel. The show also shows Vader surviving falling AT-DP walkers and the descent of an ancient Sith pyramid.
Plus, as players of Jedi: Fallen Order will know, the game doesn’t fall into the trap of making Vader a final boss Cal Kestis has to overcome. It’s unrealistic to think that a former-padawan like Kestis could trump Vader, and the game knows that. Should you try and take on the Sith Lord in the bowels of Fortress Inquisitorious and you will die. There’s literally no way to beat him, and your only option is to run - and fast.
Disney also figured out Vader as a human
But characterizing Vader as the unrelenting master of evil is only part of the equation. Rather than putting Vader front and center at every available opportunity, he’s actually been used pretty sparingly since Disney took over the franchise. Outside the comics, at any rate.
Vader is popular, and it would be very easy to push him front and center at every available opportunity. That tended to happen in the Legends canon, and it played a big part in why the prequel trilogy was all focused on Anakin. It was about unravelling the history of Anakin Skywalker and why he became the rasping cyborg killing machine in the first place.
But like Creed in The Office, The Borg Queen or Boba Fett, Vader is best when he’s not in your face all the time. As The Book of Boba Fett showed us, spending too much time with a character can be a bad thing. Or at least it can for some people.
From the very beginning Vader was marketed as playing a key role in Obi Wan Kenobi. But we still only see the artist formerly known as Skywalker on screen for a handful of scenes — a good proportion of which involve lightsaber dueling. The enigma of what Vader’s all about adds to the charm, if you can call it that, of the character.
Outlook: Is this only the beginning?
Through all this we get to get to see snippets of what Vader in his prime is actually capable of. He may not be the spinning agile fighter Anakin Skywalker was, but he makes up for it in sheer strength and pure brutality towards everyone around him. Whether that’s getting his revenge on Obi Wan for Mustafar, or snapping that kid's neck for the hell of it.
Disney’s Star Wars may have its faults, but the approach to Vader has been absolutely spot on. Here’s hoping things stay this way.