Darth Vader is returning to the Star Wars universe in Disney’s first spinoff later this year and details about how large of a role he’ll play have been revealed. Turns out, he’s more of a symbol of fear rather than someone who drives the plot.
(Side note: 85-year-old James Earl Jones is returning to voice the character, which, hurray; it just wouldn’t be the same without him.)
Because Rogue One is largely about a new band of characters, Vader’s presence is going to be sparse.
“He’ll be in the movie sparingly,” revealed Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “But at a key, strategic moment, he’s going to loom large.”
At this point in the narrative, it’s 19 years after Revenge of the Sith, which is when Anakin Skywalker was cut into pieces by Obi-Wan. Now, in Rogue One, Darth Vader is a kind of “background player in galactic politics,” more of a mythic figure among the Empire’s faithful. But what he lacks in political savvy he more than makes up for with his looming frame.
“Vader is the muscle,” wrote Entertainment Weekly. “The Fixer. And also… the breaker, when he needs to be.”
Perhaps the biggest reveal is how Vader’s presence challenges that of Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Orson Krennic, an Imperial officer “with Machiavellian tendencies.” While the two villains fight for the same side, they’re not exactly friends. We saw this same dynamic in The Force Awakens with Kylo Ren and General Hux.
“Vader’s present in the military structure, but he’s not beholden to it,” explained Kiri Hart, Lucasfilm’s chief of story development. “He’s not accountable to anybody, really, except Palpatine.”
With the two villains almost waging a psychological war on each other, I wonder how large of a role that will play in the Death Star plans being stolen. And I also wonder if Vader will impose his power on Krennic in Rogue One. Perhaps that’s the “strategic moment” Kennedy is referring to.
We’ll find out when Star Wars: Rogue One hits theaters on Dec. 16, 2016.