DUEL OF THE GREATS

THE CASE FOR VADER

Empire (Australasia) - - Greatest Villains - BY CHRIS HE­WITT, AS­SO­CIATE EDI­TOR

HERE’S A FUN lit­tle game you can play at home. Think of the great Darth Vader lines. The stuff you quote all the time, per­haps even with­out think­ing about it. “I am your fa­ther,” of course. “We would be hon­oured if you would join us.” “In time, you will call me master.” For a man of few words, most of them wind up rat­tling around your head.

Now think of the great Kylo Ren lines. I’ll wait. Of course, that’s a slightly face­tious way of com­par­ing the two Star Wars wrong-’uns, but make no mis­take: Darth Vader re­mains the great­est vil­lain of the great­est fran­chise. Which makes him the great­est vil­lain, full stop.

Ev­ery­thing about Vader is de­signed for max­i­mum malev­o­lence. That mask, un­blink­ing, de­signed so that you never know what Vader’s truly think­ing. That voice, cour­tesy of James Earl Jones. Cal­cu­lat­ing; chill­ing; deep as the Mar­i­ana Trench. That rasp­ing rat­tle, guar­an­teed to keep kids awake at night. That feel­ing that he’s in com­plete con­trol of ev­ery sit­u­a­tion and, if you even so much as look at him funny, it’s brown-britches time. This is what pure evil looks and sounds like. Vader will haunt your night­mares.

The Em­pire Strikes Back, in par­tic­u­lar, might as well have been called Vader Strikes Back. It is his movie. He be­strides it like a bucket-headed colos­sus, out­smart­ing Rebels to the last, ca­su­ally ex­e­cut­ing min­ions who dis­please him, drop­ping truth bombs on his son. He gets the best new mu­si­cal theme as well, an omi­nous blast of pure dread that’s also kinda catchy.

Yes, Kylo Ren is a bet­ter ver­sion of Anakin Sky­walker’s tor­tured Youtube celebrity act. You could even ar­gue that Ren has more com­plex­ity and emo­tional res­o­nance than Vader, but that would be to ig­nore the strug­gle the Sith Lord faces in Re­turn Of The Jedi be­fore his late lurch to the light. Though when it comes to pure out-and-out vil­lainy, he re­mains lit­tle more than a trib­ute to the orig­i­nal and best.

And while Rian John­son reme­died that some­what in The Last Jedi, re­mov­ing the hel­met and the overt fan wor­ship, what re­mains is still lit­tle more than Don­ald Trump with a lightsaber; a blus­ter­ing blowhard with leg­endary mood swings. And not a quotable line in sight. When it comes to the clash of the red lightsabers, ac­cept no sub­sti­tutes.

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