View Full Version : Vader: from thug to servant to zombie

01-07-2005, 04:50 PM
Something I've been thinking about since seeing the ROTS teaser trailer is how Lucas has changed the portrayal of Darth Vader throughout the saga.

In ANH, Vader was a thug, the Emperor's buddy who was a non-military advisor to another (possibly bigger) villain of the film: Grand Moff Tarkin. Vader thought and acted for himself, spoke his mind, even engaged Ben Kenobi in trading verbal barbs, but also took orders from Tarkin and was shown to be more ruthless than situations dictated. It was like Vader was a big boy in the Imperial chain of command, but hadn't really become a "made man" yet in the organization.

Vader's portrayal in ESB was fairly different from the previous film, here Vader was shown to be a driving force in the Imperial naval machine and fully in control of the fleet at his disposal, willing to destroy thousands of Imperial lives aboard a Star Destroyer by making it fly into a dangerous asteroid field. Yet this Vader, with his broad sweeping actions, is clearly shown to put everything else aside the moment his master, the Emperor, requests an audience. When the Emperor orders him to destroy that which Vader is looking to find, Luke Skywalker, Vader suggests taking the boy alive in the most subserviant manner we have ever seen him (this has been changed in the DVD versions, but Vader's manipulation there doesn't really impact any changes to this part of the discussion). Once off the Emperor's leash, Vader approaches Luke about destroying his master and taking his place.

However, in ROTJ, Vader's role changes once again, in the first half of the film he is basically there to tell people to do things the way the Emperor wants, then when he and Luke meet up, Vader talks like a zombie, he "must" obey his master, it is "too late" for him to be saved, even James Earl Jones' reading of the character switches to a monotone zombie-like manner. Vader's actions in the throne room don't take advantage of his ambitions he voiced to Luke on Bespin even though it would have been so easy to do so. Vader simply follows singlemindedly towards his path until Luke ultimately defeats him and then is being destroyed by the Emperor. This plays out like Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom where Indy drinks the blood of Khali and becomes a zombified servant to Mola Ram until Shorty snaps him out of it by burning him with a torch.

I think it is odd that Lucas would change the portrayal of Vader so significantly throughout the series. I know Lucas didn't have a hand in ESB, but he took the character changes there and turned them into something else, and may be back on that ROTJ zombie track with Episode 3. Reading pre-ANH development notes for Star Wars, Vader does go through a lot of changes, but I'm not sure "Zombie" was ever one of them, did Lucas really have this in mind always, or perhaps was there something he saw in Vader in ANH or ESB he thought could be turned into zombification? I don't know, but it seems odd and inconsistant to me.

01-07-2005, 05:14 PM
OK, Vaders grand ploit of ROTJ was to turn Luke and then they could rule the galaxy after killing Palps. I dont think it was Zombie like, more of a "I'm feeling sorry for myself" monotone pity party. He needed Luke t obe his 2nd Sith. We all know Anakin wanted glory and to be the best at everything. He even said we could rule the galaxy as father and son.

But yeah, I agree with you on the ANH stuff. He was Tarkin's lackey. But he didnt answer to him. He still did what he pleased.

In ESB, he was the man. Tarkin is dead. Vader's quest to find the rebels and get revenge and then going after Luke. Everyone knew Vader couldnt be messed with. He choked people who failed, and if they screwed with him and survived, they had to deal with Palps most likely.

01-07-2005, 07:47 PM
I've never seen Vader as Palpy's buddy in ANH. There is only a passing reference to him in the movie, spoken by Tarkin.

As for the rest of the trilogy, I always saw Vader doing whatever he wanted and answering only to Palpy, unless he was given an order by Palpy (such as going to the Death Star and knowing that Tarkin was the head honcho there).
He was like a person so many of us know: talk tougher until the boss is around, then he's a brown-noser.

01-10-2005, 09:06 AM
Tarkin did seem to me to be Vader's superior in ANH. He gave Vader orders "enough of this, Vader release him" and he was after all in charge of the first Death star rather than Vader. Did Palpatine mean for Vader to gain experience as a military leader under (the more experienced) Tarkin? Will Episode III explain how the Palpatine/Vader/Tarkin triangle is to be understood to work? Are Vader and Tarkin like Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci to Robert De Niro in Goodfellas?

01-10-2005, 01:53 PM
Except we know what happens to Pesci when he goes to be a "made man" in that film doesn't happen to Vader. ;)

That's an interesting point about gaining military leadership skills, clearly Vader doesn't have them, yet by ESB the guy is in command and not doing a spectacular job of it, though his "rule through fear AND death" tactics are somewhat effective. In ROTJ, I think there was a conscious effort to subdue that effect though, even a scene of Vader strangling Royal Guards was removed from the film for being too similar to the previous. But I think this makes Vader more a zombie simply by giving him less to do (like TPM made Maul a brainless pit bull by cutting only a couple lines), and we generally don't see Vader giving commands at all to the fleet though we see the Emp give Vader orders to do so and assume he carried them out.

01-11-2005, 10:15 AM
I was actually thinking of Vader as Henry Hill and Tarkin as whoever it was Joe Pesci played. Its not a flawless comparison because Vader in one respect is more like Pesci, being prone to personally killing people. But like Henry Hill, Vader does go on to renounce his evil ways. However maybe both Vader and Tarkin are the proteges of Palpy/DeNiro....of course this fails again because we can assume that Vader and not Tarkin is Palpy's preferance whereas in Goodfellas DeNiro was prepared to kill Liotta/vader and mourned Pesci/Tarkin....anyway....

I think we're meant to assume that offscreen Vader is a proper military leader* whereas in the films they had to convey his obsession with luke skywalker and hence some quite reckless commands like ordering star destroyers into the asteroid field. Also using the capital ship of the imperial fleet along with a number of regular star destroyers in the pursuit of one small ship with a view to capturing luke may have seemed a good strategy to Vader and the Emperor but these resources would have been better put to use hunting down the rest of the rebels. We can probably assume that if there was still an imperial senate at this point there'd have been a lot of debate about this - not that they could have affected any change.

*because you can't allow anyone to think that your main villain is at all incompetent, lest his credibility as an effective villain be compromised. Just imagine the cardback of a Vader figure saying - "The evil sith lord Darth Vader, Commander of the Imperial starfleet, lead a devastating assault on the rebel base on Hoth....but then he made some stupid military decisions, one of which led to the destruction of at least one Star destroyer" - better to leave out the last bit.

I see the Zombie-like Vader of ROTJ paradoxically as a more 'thinking' Vader. He's probably been doubting himself since his encounter with Luke on Bespin and is therefore not up for barking orders or bothering with killing anyone under his command. Wasn't the reason for cutting the scene of Vader choking the guards to prevent too sharp a contrast in his behaviour for when he then returns to the good side at the end of the film? And sure he'll send on the emperors commands to Piett and jerrjerrod if that'll disguise his by now conflicted feelings from the emperor but otherwise he's too busy mulling things over. Even in the scene where he tells Luke "I must obey my master", "the emperor will show you the true nature of the force" etc I think theres room for doubting whether Vader actually believes any of that.

01-11-2005, 10:18 PM
Wow, lots of good thoughts there, though I still don't think Vader was a military leader, his demeanour in the Death Star conference room with the admiralty suggested that he was taken as non-military advisor (as well as a bit of a joke by Motti, who surprisingly survived that mistake).

I had heard Vader choking the guards was cut simply because someone (possibly Lucas) felt it was "been there, done that" since we had seen Vader choking folks out in ESB and ANH, and Luke had choked guards out earlier in ROTJ.

01-12-2005, 07:46 AM
To me the choking never gets old. I think it is awesome. And the choking goes to demonstrate how much of a military advisor Vader wasnt. Dont get his way, choke..... fail me...choke... Now if he had only choked Luke in the trenches.....

The 'Xir
01-19-2005, 10:07 AM
I think you guys pretty much have ANH down, but when Tarkin dies in the end, not to mention most top officials in the Empire, it's only natural to assume that Vader would take over alot of new responsibilities by the time ESB rolls around!

However, I think you guys are forgetting alot about RotJ! Rememeber Vader has offered a deal to luke to destroy the Emperor, so he isn't exactly gonna be running around shouting his plans off rooftops! He's trying to manipulate Palpatine the way Palpatine has been manipulating him for so many years! So of course he's still going to do the Emperor's bidding so he doesn't expect anything. But, I think Vader does show his own will and that he is not totally a zombie, because he goes against the Emperors' wishes..."I told you to wait on the command ship" "A small rebel force, has penetrated the shield and landed on Endor!" "Yes, I know!" "My son... is with them" "Are you sure" " I have felt him my master" " strange that I have not. I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear Lord Vader" "They are clear my Master!" "Then go to the sanctuary moon, find him and bring him to me" "He will come to me" "Ah yes, I have forseen it, his compassion for you will be his undoing, he will come to you, and then you will bring him before me!" "As you wish, my master"

I think that whole scene, sums up exactly what I'm talking about, you have both players trying their best to manipulate each other for their own iterests! I'm sure the Emperor even knows Vaders betrayal, but it doesn't matter, because he wants luke anyways, so he doesn't care what Vader thinks or how he gets luke to him just as long as he does!
So when Vader gets luke, this is his time to convert his son for his plans, However Luke is also trying to get Vader to come with him, so Vader is confused and in doubt(cause he just can't run away with his son and leave the Emperor, who he is trying to destroy, in power) So,this is where the Emperor's grip on Vader is too strong(It's too late for me son), if he can't turn his son for his own plans than he must obey! This is even proven later on, "Then you will be forced to kill me" "If that is your destiny!" Ah-hah but it isn't! ;) :cool: