One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers celebrate the Halloween season by pledging themselves to the most terrifying dark side apprentice.
There’s no contest. It’s Maul, says Dan.
We love our Star Wars villains, particularly those loyal to the dark side. It goes all the way back to the opening sequence of Star Wars: A New Hope, when Darth Vader casually strutted onto the Tantive IV and into our baddie-worshipping hearts. The dark-hued outfits, the cold and calculated methodology, those red-bladed lightsabers. Really, what’s not to love? And when it comes to those strong with the dark side, the scarier the better.
But who’s the downright scariest, StarWars.com wants to know? Darth Vader, the Emperor, Count Dooku, Kylo Ren — they all had their horrifying moments, and no one will match ol’ Palpy in the evil department. Yet when you tally up all the attributes — looks, attitude, acts — there’s only one answer: Maul.
To start, Maul looks nightmarish and that’s literally by design. As Star Wars: The Phantom Menace concept artist Iain McCaig told StarWars.com, he was described as “a vision from your worst nightmare” in the script. McCaig’s first attempt went too far in that direction, and the design was rejected by George Lucas. Second time, however, was the charm, with a design that pays homage to McCaig’s real-life childhood fear of Bozo the Clown and a crown of feathers that was reinterpreted by make-up designer Nick Dudman into Maul’s horns.
When Episode I was released, Maul looked like no one else in Star Wars. With his red and black facial tattoos and an unbelievably rad double-bladed lightsaber, he was, immediately, the villain you loved to hate, terrifying and cool at the same time. And his brief stint as Spider-Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars? Now, that’s horror-movie level scary.
Over the years, Maul has evolved, changing from silent assassin to master manipulator. But throughout, a sense of unpredictability has remained. A calm demeanor, a quiet voice…until he has reason to explode. Maul hides his anger, or at least controls it until he needs to act. I find both — serene and volcanic Maul — equally frightening. Look at him in Star Wars Rebels, playing the part of “Old Master,” pretending to be feeble as he convinces Ezra Bridger to help him. Moments later, he’ll blind Kanan Jarrus with a swift stroke of his lightsaber. With Maul, you never really know what he’s thinking, or when he’ll strike.
And when he does act? Look out.
I’d argue that when it comes to agility, no other Sith can touch him. Maul’s gifts for combat are astonishing; he’s impossibly fast and skilled with a lightsaber, as evidenced by his duel with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. And even with mechanical legs, he bested the warrior Pre Viszla, proving that Mandalorian weaponry was no match for his skill. This doesn’t mean Maul can’t be defeated, of course. Just that you’re in for the fight of your life against him.
And beyond his pure fighting ability, Maul’s moments of wrath are horrifying. The killing of Satine to torment Obi-Wan, the blinding of Kanan, even the slaughter of clone troopers in the “Siege of Mandalore” arc of The Clone Wars. They all represent a chilling, precise display of evil.
Yes, Maul may not have been the strongest of those on the dark side. When he finally achieved some notable power on Mandalore, Darth Sidious defeated him with ease. And his obsession with revenge would prove to be his undoing. But as a purely scary Star Wars villain, Maul bows to no one.
Maul is frightening, but no one can beat Darth Vader, says Jenn.
Darth Vader. He’s one of a kind, which is a good thing. His billowing black cape and glowing red lightsaber strike fear in those who cross his path. Even the most ruthless Imperial officers shiver at the sound of his mechanical breathing. His Sith rap sheet is longer than a Super Star Destroyer, but I have four specific reasons why Darth Vader is the scariest dark side servant of them all.
First of all, he’s strong. Vader can easily deflect Han Solo’s blaster bolts. He can split the earth with the palm of his hand. While he may not be as agile as Maul, but Darth Vader’s strength in the dark side makes him an unstoppable force. And it’s not just physical power that makes this Sith so sinister. Vader’s rage and anger fuel him. He relishes tormenting his victims, like Force dragging his old friend Obi-Wan Kenobi through a ring of fire. When Kenobi mortally wounds him (again), Vader refuses to admit defeat. Instead, he takes back his power by telling his former master, “You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.”
Secondly, his design has become iconic, synonymous with Star Wars and one the most recognizable villains of all time. There’s only one character that kids, adults, and pets dress up as every year for Halloween. Yes, a guinea pig wearing a Darth Vader helmet may not look menacing, but the reason his costume is so popular is because Vader looks downright scary. Those who have met Darth Vader in real life, whether it’s on a Star Wars set or at Disney resorts, can attest that he is a towering figure no one wants to mess with. Perhaps what makes Darth Vader so petrifying is that we know who he was before he earned the title of Darth. Anakin Skywalker was a sweet and inquisitive child who, over time, allowed his anger and desire for power to consume him. Vader’s armor and helmet are iconic, but Anakin’s transformation in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith shows the horror of the terrible path he has chosen.
For a third point, Vader keeps people on their toes. Maul has been known to give dramatic monologues before his duels. Darth Sidious cackles before unleashing lightning at his fingertips. But when Darth Vader is ready to strike, he’s a man of few words. When he walks through the village on Mapuzo in Part III of Obi- Wan Kenobi, he causes death and destruction without saying a word. He prefers the element of surprise, which is exciting for us to watch, but terrible if you’re on the receiving end. Just ask Director Orson Krennic. Or Admiral Ozzel. Or the rebel soldiers that got stuck in a hallway with him in Rogue One. His silent but deadly tactic is what makes Vader unpredictable and when it comes to a hulking figure wielding a lightsaber, unpredictability is the most terrifying thing imaginable.
And last but not least, there’s Vader’s legacy. Several years back, “Vadering” became popular in internet culture. The meme meant taking a photo of a person pretending to use Darth Vader’s signature move — the Force choke. It wasn’t called Dooku-ing or Sidious-ing, even though both dark side users have employed the technique. Darth Vader is the rockstar of Star Wars baddies, ever since he first appeared in A New Hope. He represents the power of the dark side for generations of fans, but his legacy continues on in the Star Wars galaxy as well. In the sequel trilogy, Kylo Ren emulates everything about his grandfather, who was the epitome of strength and terror. But as Snoke lets Kylo Ren know…he’s no Vader. Vader’s fearsome reputation preceded him when he was alive and outlived him after his death. It’s both frightening and fascinating to see how Vader’s shadow looms large in the galaxy even after he’s gone.
In the end, Vader becomes the dark side’s greatest threat. He chooses redemption and with the help of his son, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader brings balance to the Force. It’s a victory for the galaxy, but for Emperor Palpatine and the Empire, the good in Vader turns out to be the most powerful and scariest thing of all.
Which dark side user do you find most frightening? Tweet us your response @StarWars!
Dan Brooks is a writer and the senior editor of StarWars.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks.
Jennifer Landa is an actress, host, and crafter. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferLanda.
Site tags: #StarWarsBlog, #Halloween