Warning: There are some spoilers ahead for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
Audiences are reintroduced to Darth Vader in “Rogue One” and the Dark Lord has two scene-stealing moments in the “Star Wars” spin-off.
While this may be Vader at his peak, the truth is that day in and day out he’s living out his own personal hell.
Viewers are introduced to Vader’s lava lair on the planet of Mustafar, a purgatory meant to capture the character’s visual terror and menace. Concept artists turned to original artwork from famed “Star Wars” artist Ralph McQuarrie to create Vader’s “nightmare castle,” as it’s described in the book.
“The castle on Mustafar is this insanely uninviting place — a really evil place, deeply uncomfortable. But this is where Vader stays, because it’s the only place he feels comfortable,” says concept artist Christian Alzmann in “The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” “The idea is that he would have a massive cylindrical machine in the center of the room — and in the center of that machine is a one-person bacta tank that looks out through a window onto the lava fields of Mustafar. It’s both a meditation and a healing chamber.”
While we see glimpses of what’s left of Vader’s burnt and battered body in the chamber, the kicker is that viewers don’t see the most tragic part of his current existence. The prequel simply glosses over it.
According to “The Art of Rogue One” Vader — or the little that’s left of him — spends the majority of his time inside his own personal healing tank that overlooks his final dueling place with Obi-Wan in “Revenge of the Sith.”
“You realise that he’s this crippled, broken, tragic figure — and that what he’s looking at through his window is the location where his duel with Obi-Wan took place,” says screenwriter Gary Whitta, who wrote a draft of “Rogue One.” “The fact that he’d chosen to build his living mausoleum here is a nod to the conflict in him — that he would go back to this place to reflect on what happened to the man he once was. At the same time, it’s also terrifying, and when he emerges with all of his armour, he’s Darth Vader.”
Every day, Vader subjects himself to a personal reminder of how he lost his wife, mentor, and nearly burned to death alive.
What exactly is Vader thinking about there?
I like to think, among other things, he’s probably considering how he should have listened to Obi-Wan when he told him he had the high ground. If he never attempted to jump over him, he wouldn’t have lost his limbs.
More seriously, he’s probably reflecting on how everything in those few moments in “Revenge of the Sith” went so terribly wrong. He not only lost his wife and his unborn child — remember, Vader didn’t know about the twins — but also his mentor. Though Vader is ruling the galaxy with Emperor Palpatine, this is not the future he imagined. He was trying to find a way to prevent his wife from dying while he ultimately ended up bringing on her demise.
What makes it more heart-wrenching is that Obi-Wan Kenobi is probably pondering some of those same thoughts each day while hiding out on Tatooine, about how he failed his former Padawan who went astray to wipe out the Jedi.
Knowing the exact location of Vader’s lair makes it clear he hasn’t forgotten about his old master either.
It also makes the confrontation between the two years later in “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” even more momentous.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is currently in theatres.
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