Q&A: Star Wars bad­die

Char­lie Reddy, England

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John replies

There are an in­fi­nite num­ber of ways to por­tray a vil­lain, but in the case of Star Wars, there are cer­tain con­ven­tions that are up­held. For in­stance, Sith Lords usu­ally wield red lightsabers, and gen­er­ally wear red and black out­fits. Clutch­ing hands ra­di­at­ing Force light­ing are a typ­i­cal vis­ual an­chor. Pros­thetic limbs are also com­mon, as they re­flect the re­lent­less am­bi­tion of an un­stop­pable char­ac­ter who doesn’t even let the de­struc­tion of their phys­i­cal body hold them back.

A cool colour pal­ette dom­i­nates the look of Im­pe­rial troops’ uni­forms and equip­ment. There are ex­cep­tions, but Im­pe­rial of­fi­cers are known for their cold, me­chan­i­cal obe­di­ence. It’s prob­a­bly no co­in­ci­dence that their uni­forms are sim­i­lar in colour to the ‘ feld­grau’ of the Nazis from World War II, and their hats have a sim­i­lar shape to those of Im­pe­rial Ja­panese of­fi­cers.

If you look at clas­sic vil­lains (es­pe­cially Dis­ney), many of them are char­ac­terised by sharp fea­tures, down­ward-tilt­ing eye­brows, nar­row eyes sur­rounded by dark cir­cles, and smug ex­pres­sions. Their smiles aren’t re­flected in their eyes. It’s easy to por­tray the bad guy as a fang-toothed mon­ster, but I’ve al­ways thought hu­manoid vil­lains are the scari­est be­cause they re­flect mankind’s ca­pac­ity for evil.

Sith Lords are con­sumed by a lust for power, and this should be re­flected in their grim coun­te­nances. Paint­ing dark cir­cles around the eyes can help. I like my vil­lains to have a cold, in­tel­li­gent look to them. Sharp fa­cial fea­tures, a hooked nose and thin lips are a great start­ing place.

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