‘Rogue One’: How the ‘Star Wars’ Film Finally Showed Fans Darth Vader’s True Power

Disney’s reboot of the iconic Star Wars franchise has been met with mixed reviews. Since purchasing the franchise from Lucasfilm in 2012, the media giant has released three sequel films and two anthology films, collectively grossing several billion dollars. 

Despite the enormous financial success of the franchise’s new film installations, fans haven’t always been satisfied with the quality of the productions. Many fans felt the storylines, comedic tone, and lack of continuity between the new films and the classic films are too obvious, making it difficult for hardcore fans to fully enjoy them. 

Rogue One, in particular, also received criticism from fans due to its writing, pacing, and character development. But there are some redeeming qualities to the film as well — particularly its characterization of Darth Vader. 

Previous ‘Star Wars’ films relied on writing more than special effects

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The Star Wars franchise’s most popular films were primarily produced between 1977 and 1983 from A New Hope to Return of the Jedi. Because on-screen technology and special effects were limited in comparison to the tools filmmakers have today, George Lucas instead had to rely on superior writing, suspense, and carefully choreographed fight sequences to articulate Darth Vader’s strength.

The Star Wars prequel trilogy came out around the turn of the millennium and had the advantage of numerous technological advances that could impress fans. This is not to say the original trilogy did not have amazing special effects for its time. The detailed costume designs for characters such as C-3PO and the grueling stop-motion work required to operate the menacing AT-ATs show that innovation was an integral part of the Star Wars franchise.

However, specifically in regard to Darth Vader, fans don’t get to see many examples of this enormous Force power he has. There are limited scenes where viewers see him do a Force choke on someone or wield his lightsaber with superior skill, but these moments do little to show on screen how powerful Darth Vader is compared to others. For the most part, viewers’ primary understanding of Vader’s power is based on everyone else’s fear of him.

‘Rogue One’ illustrates Darth Vader’s true power, at long last

Released in 2016, Rogue One was the first anthology film added to the Star Wars universe. While fan responses to the film were mixed, critical reception was positive with an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Rogue One was also a financial success, grossing just over $1 billion. 

Even though the film featured an array of characters with different roles in the war, the most impressive had to be Darth Vader. Although he had a minor role in the film, his scenes were meaningful, and all of them lent credence to the mystique he had created in previous Star Wars films. His most powerful moment comes at the end when he boards a rebel ship in an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve the plans to destroy the Death Star.

In the closing scene, director Gareth Edwards utilizes a combination of evocative lighting, modern special effects, and aggressive fight choreography to finally show viewers Darth Vader’s true strength. As he lurks in the shadows, rebel soldiers could only hear his intimidating mechanical breathing before his red lightsaber illuminates the room, casting his silhouette. From that moment on, a bloodbath ensues as Darth Vader effortlessly rips through the crew, using a combination of Force energy and his lightsaber to decimate the team, throw open doors, and toss enemies to the ceiling.

This was the first time fans really got to see the fearsome power Darth Vader used to terrorize the rebellion and rule the galaxy.