Darth Vader (born Anakin Skywalker) is one of the main characters of the Star Wars saga, appearing as one of the main antagonists of the original trilogy and as one of the main protagonists of the prequel trilogy.
The character was created by George Lucas and numerous actors have portrayed him. His appearances span all six Star Wars films, and he is an important character in the expanded universe of television series, video games, novels, literature and comic books. The films establish that he was originally a Jedi who was part depicted in the prophecy of being the Chosen One by restoring balance to the Force but fell to the dark side of the Force; he is also the father of both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, the two main protagonists of the original trilogy.
Concept and creation
While the first draft of The Star Wars includes a tall, grim general named "Darth Vader", the character came closer in line with his final depiction in the second revision. A character named "Anikin Starkiller" also appears in an early draft of Star Wars in a role similar to Luke Skywalker's, as the 16-year-old son of a respected warrior. Vader's mask was originally designed by Ralph McQuarrie as part of Vader's spacesuit and not intended to be part of the regular costume. Brian Muir sculpted Vader's costume based on McQuarrie's design.
After the success of Star Wars, Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment. The treatment is very similar to the final film, except that Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke. Lucas was disappointed with the script, but Brackett died of cancer before he could discuss it with her. With no writer available, Lucas had to write the next draft himself. In this draft, he made use of a new plot twist: Vader claiming to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the year-long struggles writing the first film.
The new plot element of Luke's parentage had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was a separate character from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978 as Obi-Wan Kenobi referred Vader as "Darth" as if it is his true name rather than his Sith name. After writing the second and third drafts in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin had been Obi-Wan's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Palpatine (a Sith and not a politician). Anakin battled Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was badly wounded, but was then reborn as Vader. Meanwhile, Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Galactic Republic became the tyrannical Galactic Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequels.
After deciding to create the prequels, Lucas indicated the series would be a tragic one examining Anakin's fall to the dark side. He also saw that the prequels could form the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the film series into a "Saga".
For the first prequel film, Lucas made Anakin nine years old to make the character's departure from his mother more poignant. Movie trailers focused on Anakin and a one-sheet poster showing him casting Vader's shadow informed otherwise unknowing audiences of the character's eventual fate. The movie ultimately achieved a primary goal of introducing audiences to Anakin.
Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the dark side prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence of the third prequel to have Palpatine kidnapped and his apprentice murdered by Anakin as the first act in the latter's turn towards the dark side. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the dark side; his fall from grace would now be motivated by a desire to save his wife rather than the previous version in which that reason was one of several, including that he genuinely believed that the Jedi were plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished both through editing the principal footage, and new and revised scenes filmed during pick-ups in 2004.
In the original trilogy, Darth Vader's size and stature was filled out by bodybuilder David Prowse, stunt performer Bob Anderson performed the character's intense lightsaber fight scenes, Sebastian Shaw portrayed the character's unmasked and ghost forms in Return of the Jedi, and James Earl Jones provided the voice but was initially uncredited in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back because he felt his contributions were too small to warrant recognition.
Vader has been voiced by Scott Lawrence and Matt Sloan for several video games over the years. Anakin has been voiced by Mat Lucas for the 2003 animated TV series and by Matt Lanter in the CGI 2008 film and subsequent animated TV series.
Introduced in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Darth Vader is depicted as a ruthless cyborg pursuing the film's protagonists. Along with Grand Moff Tarkin, Vader is charged with recovering the Death Star's technical schematics stolen by the Rebel Alliance seeking to overthrow the Galactic Empire. According to Obi-Wan Kenobi's story to Luke Skywalker, Vader was a former Jedi who "betrayed and murdered" Luke's father. While Luke, smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca, and droids R2-D2 and C-3PO help Princess Leia escape, Vader kills Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel. During the Battle of Yavin, Vader personally leads a squadron of TIE fighters and shoots down several Rebel fighters. After being clipped and sent flying into deep space, he survives the Death Star's explosion.
Three years later in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader leads an Imperial starfleet in pursuit of the Rebels. Intent on turning Luke Skywalker to the dark side, Vader captures Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and C-3PO on Cloud City to used them as bait for Skywalker. During a lightsaber duel, Vader cuts off Luke's right hand and reveals that he is Luke's father; he then entreats Luke to convert to the dark side so they can "rule the galaxy as father and son". Horrified with Vader's confession, Luke throws himself into Cloud City's reactor core and ultimately escapes aboard the Millennium Falcon. Onboard his Star Destroyer, Vader telepathically tells Luke that it is his destiny to join the dark side.
One year later in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker surrenders himself to Darth Vader's Imperial forces in to hopes to turn his father back "to the light side". Vader brings Luke onto the second Death Star, where the Emperor tries to seduce Luke to the dark side.
During their duel, Vader learns Princess Leia's true identity as Luke's twin sister and threatens to turn her to the dark side if Luke will not submit. Enraged, Luke attacks and overpowers Vader, severing his mechanical right hand. At the last minute, Luke realizes he is close to suffering his father's fate, and refuses the Emperor's command to kill Vader and take his place. Enraged, the Emperor unleashes a torrent of Force lightning upon Luke. The sight of his son's suffering breaks the dark side's hold on Vader, and Anakin kills his former master by throwing him into the Death Star's reactor core. However, he is mortally wounded when the Emperor's lightning surges through his body, shorting out his life support system.
Redeemed, Anakin asks Luke to remove his helmet; in his dying breaths, Anakin tells his son that there was good left in him after all. Luke escapes with his father's remains, which he burns in a funeral pyre. The same night, the Rebels celebrate the destruction of the Death Star and the fall of the Empire, and Luke sees Anakin's spirit standing alongside the spirits of Obi-Wan and Yoda.
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker appears as a nine-year-old slave. Raised on the planet Tatooine by his mother Shmi Skywalker, Anakin had no father, implying miraculous birth. He is a gifted pilot and engineer and has the ability to "see things before they happen". He even creates his own protocol droid C-3PO. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn meets him after an emergency landing on Tatooine.
After discovering that Anakin's blood has an unusually high number of midi-chlorians, Qui-Gon becomes convinced the boy is the "Chosen One" foretold by a Jedi prophecy as the one who will bring balance to the Force. Anakin wins his freedom in a podrace, but is forced to part with his mother. Qui-Gon takes Anakin to the Jedi Council, but they forbid training on the grounds that the boy's future is clouded by the fear he exhibits. During the film, Anakin forms a close bond with Naboo Queen Padmé Amidala. During the invasion of Naboo, Anakin helps defeat the Trade Federation by destroying their command ship.
After Qui-Gon is killed in a duel with Sith Lord Darth Maul, the former's apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi promises to train Anakin, a proposal the Jedi Council reluctantly accepts. The Galactic Republic's Supreme Chancellor Palpatine befriends the boy.
10 years later in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker is depicted as a Padawan learner of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Palpatine assigns Anakin and Obi-Wan to investigate an assassination attempt made on Senator Padmé Amidala.
Anakin travels with Padme to Naboo where they fall in love. Anakin has a vision of Shmi in pain and goes to Tatooine, where he learns that Shmi had been kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. He goes to the Tusken camp, where he finds his mother tortured by the tribe and dies in his arms. Anakin flies into a violent rage and kills the entire tribe with his lightsaber. After he returns with his mother's body, he tearfully confesses his crime to Padmé.
Soon after, Anakin and Padmé travel to Geonosis, hoping to rescue Obi-Wan from Sith Lord Count Dooku (Darth Tyranus) and his army of Separatists; instead, they are captured and sentenced to be executed. Anakin and Padmé profess their love for each other moments before being rescued by an army of clone troopers and Jedi. During a lightsaber duel with Dooku, Anakin loses his right arm and later has it replaced with a prosthetic. At the end of the film, Anakin and Padmé marry in a secret ceremony.
Three years later in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker is a Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars. He and Obi-Wan Kenobi lead an attempt to rescue Palpatine after the Chancellor been kidnapped by Separatist leader General Grievous. During the rescue, Anakin defeats Count Dooku in a lightsaber duel, and decapitates him in cold blood at Palpatine's urging. When he returns to Coruscant, he meets with Padmé and discovers she is pregnant with his child. That night, he has a vision of Padmé dying in childbirth; he fears it will come true as it is similar to visions he had of his mother before she died. Meanwhile, Palpatine names Anakin his representative on the Jedi Council; the Council, suspicious of Palpatine's dictatorial power in the Senate, denies Anakin's rank of Jedi Master and asks him to spy on Palpatine, whom Anakin considers a friend and mentor. Angered by the snub and instructions to commit what he believes to be treason, Anakin begins to lose faith in the Jedi.
Palpatine eventually reveals to Anakin that he is Sith Lord Darth Sidious, the mastermind behind the war, and that the dark side holds the power to save Padmé's life. Conflicted, Anakin reports Palpatine to Jedi Master Mace Windu. Despite orders to remain behind, Anakin follows Windu to the Chancellor's office to ensure Palpatine is captured alive. He walks in on Windu ready to kill Palpatine and intervenes on the Sith lord's behalf, severing Windu's lightsaber arm; Palpatine then kills Windu with a blast of Force lightning. Desperate to save his wife, Anakin pledges himself as Sith apprentice Darth Vader.
Palpatine sends Vader to kill everyone inside the Jedi Temple, and then to assassinate the Separatist leaders on Mustafar. Padmé meets him there and pleads with him to flee Palpatine's grasp with her. He refuses, saying that the two of them can overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy. When Obi-Wan emerges from Padmé's ship, Vader accuses her of conspiring against him and uses the Force to choke her into unconsciousness. Vader then engages Obi-Wan in a lightsaber duel, which ends when Obi-Wan severs Vader's legs and remaining organic arm in mid-air. Vader then slides too close to a lava flow and catches fire, sustaining life-threatening third-degree burns. Distraught, Obi-Wan picks up his former friend's lightsaber and leaves him to die.
Later, Palpatine rescues Vader and reconstructs his apprentice's ruined body with the cybernetic limbs and black armor first seen in original trilogy. When Vader regains consciousness, Palpatine tells him Padmé died as a result of Vader's anger. The news of her death breaks what remains of Vader's spirit, and he screams in torment. He is last seen alongside Palpatine and Tarkin viewing the construction of the original Death Star.
In the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker is made a Jedi Knight despite the Council's reservations. During the next three years of fighting in the Clone Wars, Anakin becomes a legend throughout the galaxy, renowned as "The Hero With No Fear". In the 2008 animated film and the subsequent television series, Anakin Skywalker takes on Padawan Ahsoka Tano.
Darth Vader appears numerous times in comic books such as Dark Horse Comics's Star Wars Tales and Marvel Comics' Star Wars series (1977–1986). Vader's Quest (1999) which depicts Vader hiring a bounty hunter to bring him information about the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, ultimately meeting Luke for the first time.
In the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye (1978), Vader and Luke duel, and Luke cuts off Vader's right arm. Shadows of the Empire (1996) reveals that Vader is conflicted about trying to turn his son to the dark side of the Force, and knows deep down that there is still some good in him. Anakin's adventures in the Clone Wars are also chronicled in the Star Wars: Republic comic series. In James Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2005), set a few months after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Vader disavows his Anakin identity as he systematically pursues and kills the surviving Jedi and cements his position in the Empire. The novel also reveals that Vader plans to eventually overthrow Palpatine, and that he betrayed the Jedi because he resented their supposed failure to recognize his power. Anakin's redeemed spirit appears in The Truce at Bakura (1993), set a few days after the end of Return of the Jedi. He appears to Leia, imploring her forgiveness. Leia condemns him for his crimes and banishes him from her life. He promises that he will be there for her when she needs him, and disappears. In Tatooine Ghost (2003), Leia learns to forgive her father after learning about his childhood as a slave and his mother's traumatic death. In The Dark Nest trilogy (2005), Luke and Leia uncover old recordings of their parents in R2-D2's memory drive; for the first time, they see their own birth and their mother's death, as well as their father's corruption to the dark side. In The Unifying Force (2003), Anakin tells his grandson Jacen Solo to "stand firm" in his battle with the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong. In Bloodlines (2006), Jacen — who has himself turned to the dark side — uses the Force to "watch" Anakin slaughter the children at the Jedi Temple and become Vader.
Darth Vader plays a central role in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008). He is a playable character in the first level of the game, where he and his armies invade Kashyyyk to hunt down a Jedi who had survived the Order's destruction. Vader kills the Jedi and kidnaps the man's young Force-sensitive son, whom he raises as his secret apprentice. Vader sends this apprentice — the game's protagonist — on various missions throughout the galaxy, with an ultimate goal to assassinate Palpatine so that Vader can rule the galaxy himself. Toward the end of the game, however, it is revealed that Vader isn't planning to overthrow Palpatine at all; he is merely using his apprentice to expose the Empire's enemies. At the game's climax, the player chooses between attacking Palpatine to help his Rebel friends escape the Death Star or killing Vader to become the Emperor's new apprentice. He also appears in the sequel Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II as the main antagonist and final boss.
Vader is a playable character in the other games Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Soulcalibur IV, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Star Wars: Empire at War and its Forces of Corruption expansion, and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. He also is an active but non-playable character in Star Wars Galaxies.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker feels "smothered" by Obi-Wan Kenobi and is unable to control his life. By Revenge of the Sith, however, Anakin's "father-son" friction with his master has matured into a more equal, brotherly relationship. Once he becomes Darth Vader, each evil act he commits makes it harder for him to return to the light, but Vader ultimately escapes the dark side and redeems himself before he dies by saving his son and killing Palpatine.
Eric Bui, a psychiatrist at University of Toulouse Hospital, argued at the 2007 American Psychiatric Association convention that Anakin meets six of the nine diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD), one more than necessary for a diagnosis. He and a colleague, Rachel Rodgers, published their findings in a 2010 letter to the editor of the journal Psychiatry Research. Bui says he found Anakin Skywalker a useful example to explain BPD to medical students. In particular, Bui points to Anakin's abandonment issues and uncertainty over his identity. Anakin's mass murders of the Tusken Raiders in Attack of the Clones and the young Jedi in Revenge of the Sith count as two dissociative episodes, fulfilling another criterion. Bui hoped his paper would help raise awareness of the disorder, especially among teens.
Darth Vader's iconic status has made the character a synonym for evil in popular culture; psychiatrists have even considered him as a useful example to explain borderline personality disorder to medical students. Anakin's origin story in The Phantom Menace has been compared to signifiers of African American racial identity, and his dissatisfaction with his life has been compared to Siddhartha's before he became Gautama Buddha. A Mexican church advised Christians against seeing The Phantom Menace because it portrays Anakin as a Jesus figure. A slime-mold beetle of the genus Agathidium is named after Vader, and several buildings across the globe are regularly compared to him. A grotesque of Darth Vader looms over the east face of the Washington National Cathedral's northwest tower. During the 2007–08 NHL season, Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber performed so well in an all-black mask that fans endearingly termed him "Darth Gerber".
Many commentators and comedians have also evoked his visage to satirize politicians and other public figures, and several American political figures have been unflatteringly compared to the character, including General George Custer, the subject of an acrylic painting titled "Darth Custer" by Native American artist Bunky Echohawk. In 2005, Al Gore referred to Tele-Communications Inc.'s John C. Malone as the "Darth Vader of cable", and political strategist Lee Atwater was known by his political enemies as "the Darth Vader of the Republican Party".
On June 22, 2006, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney referred to himself as the Darth Vader of the Bush administration. Discussing the administration's philosophy on gathering intelligence, he said to CNN's John King, "It means we need to be able to go after and capture or kill those people who are trying to kill Americans. That's not a pleasant business. It's a very serious business. And I suppose, sometimes, people look at my demeanor and say, 'Well, he's the Darth Vader of the administration.'" Jon Stewart put on a Darth Vader helmet to address Dick Cheney as a "kindred spirit" on The Daily Show on January 25, 2007. Cheney's wife, Lynne, presented Stewart with a Darth Vader action figure on her appearance on the show on October 10, 2007. Both Stewart and Stephen Colbert have occasionally referred to Cheney as "Darth Cheney". In the satirical cartoon show Lil' Bush, Dick Cheney's father is portrayed as being Darth Vader. At her presidential campaign event on September 19, 2007, Hillary Rodham Clinton also referred to Cheney as Darth Vader. At the 2008 Washington Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, Cheney joked that his wife Lynne told him that the Vader comparison "humanizes" him. George Lucas told The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, however, that Cheney is more akin to Emperor Palpatine, and that a better stand-in for Vader would be George W. Bush. An issue of Newsweek referenced this quote, and compared Bush and Cheney to Vader and Palpatine, respectively, in a satirical article comparing politicians to various Star Wars and Star Trek characters.
Many films and television series have paid homage to Darth Vader. Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985), dressed in a radiation suit, calls himself "Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan" to convince the past version of his father to ask his mother to a dance. Rick Moranis plays "Dark Helmet" in the Star Wars parody Spaceballs (1987). In Chasing Amy (1997), Hooper X speaks at a comic convention about Darth Vader being a metaphor for how poorly sci-fi treats black people; he is especially offended that Vader, the "blackest brother in the galaxy", reveals himself to be a "feeble, crusty old white man" at the end of Return of the Jedi.
The character has gained much positive reception as a classic film villain. The American Film Institute listed him as the third greatest movie villain in cinema history on 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains, behind Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. Darth Vader was also ranked number two on Empire magazine's 2008 list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters. Premiere magazine also ranked Vader on their list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. On their list of the 100 Greatest Fictional Characters, Fandomania.com ranked Vader at number 6. Darth Vader was also the #1 supervillain on the Bravo series Ultimate Super Heroes, Vixens and Villains. Darth Vader was also ranked as #1 in IGN's list of top 100 Star Wars characters. Furthermore, Darth Vader's quote in The Empire Strikes Back — "No, I am your father" (often misquoted as "Luke, I am your father"), — is one of the most well known quotes in cinema history. The line was selected as one of the 400 nominees for the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of the greatest American movie quotes. Vader received the Ultimate Villain recognition at the 2011 Scream Awards.
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- Further reading
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Novelization, 1st edition paperback, 1999. Terry Brooks, George Lucas
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Novelization, 2003. R. A. Salvatore, ISBN 0-345-42882-X
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Novelization, 1st edition hardcover, 2005. Matthew Woodring Stover, George Lucas, ISBN 0-7126-8427-1
- The New Essential Guide to Characters, 1st edition, 2002. Daniel Wallace, Michael Sutfin, ISBN 0-345-44900-2
- Vader: The Ultimate Guide, 2005.
- Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, hardcover, 1998. Dr. David West Reynolds, ISBN 0-7894-3481-4
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The Visual Dictionary, hardcover, 1999. Dr. David West Reynolds, ISBN 0-7894-4701-0
- Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary, hardcover, 2002. Dr. David West Reynolds, ISBN 0-7894-8588-5
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: The Visual Dictionary, hardcover, 2005. James Luceno, ISBN 0-7566-1128-8
- "Darth Vader in Games: A Visual History". IGN. October 28, 2010.
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- Anakin Skywalker in the Official StarWars.com Encyclopedia
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- Anakin Skywalker on Wookieepedia: a Star Wars wiki
- Darth Vader at the Internet Movie Database