- Rob Pincombe is a prolific television writer, recovering comedian and sometime comic artist/storyboard artist who just wasn't satisfied with a single blog. He writes about sci-fi and fandom at rebelalert.com, Canadian comics at comicanuck.com, and shares thoughts and insights on writing at starkravingadventure.com
Monday, July 7, 2008
Darth Vader Is Not Clever, Pt. 1
Welcome to the rebellion. Once again, we can blame Spike TV's endless Star Wars summer for my new insights into formerly unnoticed, dusty corners of the Star Wars universe. It's been a while since I've immersed myself so consistently in Lucas' on-screen universe.
I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that Darth Vader is not a creative thinker.
It's too bad too. We all had high hopes for the Emperor's protege. Darth's awe-inspiring first appearance in Star Wars introduced us to the ultimate control freak. The Vader of A New Hope feels like a malevolent force of darkness with absolute power over his troops; always one step ahead of his fearful followers. If only those pesky rebels were so easy to out-think.
Darth Vader's exchange with Admiral Motti, in which he warns the overconfident leader against the dangers of Death Star envy, reveals this dichotomy. It also clearly shows two individuals with more insight into each other than their own situations.
VADER: "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force."
Boo-Ya! Vader disses his number one back talker.
MOTTI: "Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebel's hidden fort..."
Ouch! Mottie scores. In your face Vader -- Gurk! Choke! Motti tries to continue but is strangled under Vader's mystical grip.
VADER: "I find your lack of faith disturbing."
Whoa! Darth shows he's executive material by cutting through the niceties and literally going for the throat. Chalk one up for the schoolyard bully in the black cape.
Vader's main problem in the first film (The first film? The fourth? Shall we split the difference with a representative integer? Math is hard.) seems to be a lack of worthy candidates to delegate his myriad duties to. Find those rebels... Keep track of the secret plans... Lead the fighter squadron... Interrogate a Princess. Darth my man, you are one busy cyborg. Don't feel bad that nothing gets done unless you do it yourself. That's a lot of jobs for even for the most organized of middle managers. And I'll bet none of those duties were in the job description when you got hired by Emperor Palpatine.
If only you hadn't slaughtered all those highly competent Jedi Knights. Perhaps you could have enslaved a few and kept them around. They could have at least cleared up your paperwork so you could let off some steam as lead pilot to your Tie Fighter squadrons without letting so many other things slide.
In the end, Darth Vader tries to do it all himself as the rebels attack. And like so many stressed out, multi-tasking martyrs, he ends up burned out and suffering a (mechanical) breakdown.
After one film, we assume Vader is brilliant. After all, even the smartest people take on too much. We accept that he's the Empire's number one badass. Vader was tough enough that when Grand Mof Tarken mentioned the Emperor, I first assumed he was a puppet ruler. It's not until the much anticipated sequel, the Empire Strikes Back, that we discover the Emperor is the one pulling Vader's strings.
And what does the mysterious Emperor want? An escalation of violence. The same, unoriginal weapons used by petty dictators across the universe. To be fair, this is the only time the Emperor fails to rely on the guile that carried him to his powerful position. When it fails to get him what he wants he will return to his more effective, devious ways.
Vader excels at fulfilling his master's straightforward plan for dealing with the growing rebel threat. He is a man of action, after all. We will see over the course of the movies that follow how prone to action without forethought the Sith Lord is.
Everything goes well when Darth Vader plays to his strengths. The rebels are routed on Hoth and their base is overrun. Flush from his victory, the Sith Lord shows his first hint of adaptability in his search to capture the heroes of the rebellion, Han Solo, Leia Organa and his own son, Luke Skywalker. (We won't even get into how counter-productive it was to "hide" the baby Luke from Vader yet still give him Vader's family name. Not the most effective witness relocation program.)
Once again Vader delegates his search to others. But though he is failed by his own military industrial complex, Darth takes the extra step of hiring outside contractors: bounty hunters. Then Vader actually does some research and discovers Han and Lando Calrissian's on-again, off-again friendship. He makes ne'er-do-well Lando an offer he can't refuse and traps his rebels at last.
Filled with new-found managerial confidence, Vader proves that a good negotiator is also a man of his word, encasing Han Solo in carbonite, just as he threatened he would.
Perhaps it's true that working out stimulates the brain. Vader's just spent time in the bracing cold of an ice-planet kicking rebel butt... his version of a ski vacation. (He may have also added a vigorous work-out fighting off a Wampa attack on his snowtroopers into the mix. A deleted Hoth scene showed an unusually clever move by C3PO. He removes a warning label from their cell in a cut scene.)
Sadly, The Empire Strikes Back is the last time we see anything close to creative problem solving from Darth Vader. Thanks to retired blog Infinite Galaxy Of Fun and Blueharvest.net for the Wampa attaack info.
Next: Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the first film, are doomed to repeat them... in sequel after sequel.