Warning! This post contains possible spoilers for Star Wars: Rogue One!
Here’s the short story as it stands today. According to the rumor mill, Darth Vader’s costume has been completely remade based on the design from A New Hope, by the same guy who made the original suit nearly 40 years ago. Rumors also persist that the legendary James Earl Jones will reprise the role of Vader’s intimidating voice. The size of the role Vader is reported to play in Rogue One is still very much up in the air; from major player, to a few scenes with significant impact, right down to glorified cameo.
You can read a more detailed report from the kings of the scoop at makingstarwars for more info, but I want to discuss whether having Vader is the first spin-off movie is a necessity, or a marketing request from Disney?
I don’t like black and white assessments, so the truth probably lies in the middle. Certainly, it makes sense to have Vader in this movie, especially since he’s in the opening scene of A New Hope. Nobody is going to complain about seeing him in Rogue One, especially not Star Wars fans who usually slurp up everything and then ask for seconds. But they could probably write a great movie without having Darth Vader in it. There can always be enough layers of Imperial goons of various threat levels that Vader’s involvement in Rogue One isn’t needed. Afterall, we know how commandos fare against Sith Lords (if you’ve read the ‘Vader Down’ comic book series, you know what I mean). That said, Darth Vader is directly involved in chasing down and recovering the stolen plans for the Death Star, so if they plan to have Rogue One lead directly in to A New Hope – and I mean directly – then having Darth Vader in the movie makes a lot of sense. It makes the stakes a lot higher for the protagonists of Rogue One if the Empire’s top thug is the main villain.
As the first of the Star Wars spin-off / anthology movies, a lot is riding on Rogue One’s success. Just being a Star Wars movie guarantees it a certain level of success, but if you want to kick off this new vein of Star Wars film, you’d be smart to use one of your most iconic characters to help launch, legitimize and underpin that success. Conveniently, it also gives Disney the key merchandising angle it needs to make Rogue One a smash at the retail level, too. Anything with Darth Vader’s image on it sells like hotcakes and at the end of the day, that’s what Disney really wants.
Having Vader is Rogue One is a marriage of convenience, but nobody is going to complain, not the fans, and certainly not Disney.
As always, your thoughts are appreciated!