After watching Luke Skywalker duke it out with his formidable father Darth Vader across the three original Star Wars movies, many fans were shocked to see his face revealed at the end of Return of the Jedi. There was some surprise that one of the coolest movie villains ever was revealed to be a bald, pale, sickly-looking old man.
The architect of Star Wars, George Lucas, anticipated that not all of the fans were going to be onboard with the face reveal of the iconic Star Wars villain, and he wrestled with the important decision to have Luke remove his dying father’s helmet during the trilogy’s finale.
“After Darth Vader has become thrust into this huge persona that I never expected to have happen, [I wondered] do I still take the mask off and have him be this funny little man? Well, I came to the decision that that was the original story, that’s the way it should be, and if the public can’t deal with it, then what can I do about it?” Lucas said in an interview at the time.
Lucas continued; “A lot of people have objected to the fact that there’s a human in there at all. But the film is about human frailties, it’s not about monsters.” Arguably much of what has followed, including the three prequel movies, couldn’t have existed if we didn’t have this moment.
Darth Vader is, of course, revealed to be the very human Anakin Skywalker on the inside of his intimidating helmet. This set fans wondering who this person was and how he ended up trapped inside the suit and mask, which spawned the prequels. While the prequels had a mixed reception, one of the best moments is at the end of Revenge of the Sith where we see Hayden Christensen’s Anakin burn in lava. This explains why he needs the life-supporting apparatus that he dons for the original trilogy.
If you watch the Star Wars movies in order, you can see how Anakin becomes fleshed out into three dimensions. He ends up as one of the most complex Star Wars characters, with a really engrossing arc – which is far better than just being a scary guy in a suit. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t get a massive thrill out of his extremely cool cameo in Rogue One – A Star Wars Story, don’t get us wrong. Christensen has recently returned in the Disney Plus series Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka, as fans will never tire of getting more Darth Vader lore.
George Lucas is definitely right that finding out that there’s a very real, frail and vulnerable human behind Darth Vader’s mask was the right thing to happen at this point in the story. Vader has just killed Emperor Palpatine and sacrificed his own life for his son, bringing balance to the force by doing the right thing at last. In his dying moments, Anakin wants to have a brief human connection that he hasn’t experienced for around 20 years.
While not every Lucas decision works (don’t get us started on midi-chlorians or the immaculate conception), Vader’s unmasking is definitely one of his better strokes of genius. We’re of course extremely excited for Andor season 2, as well as the upcoming Skeleton Crew and The Acolyte. While we wait for those, we’ll get hyped for the next MCU movie, The Marvels.