There are many reasons why Rogue One was so good. In addition to telling a compelling story, director Gareth Edwards narrowed the focus onto a group of ordinary people fighting for freedom. It presented audiences with a much more realistic and authentic portrayal of war, a far cry from the boring political squabbles that dominated the prequels.
Those reasons pale in comparison to what made Rogue One really special. In just two incredible minutes, the film redeemed Star Wars’ most popular villain.
We knew Darth Vader would be in Lucasfilm’s spinoff, but we didn’t expect him to have such a lasting impact. In the build-up to Rogue One’s release, Vader was said to “loom large” in a key moment. Boy, no kidding.
What’s funny is that up until the end, Vader had a pretty forgettable role in Rogue One, mostly relegated to listening to Director Krennic whine. And he had one of the film’s most eye-roll-worthy lines, too, telling Krennic not to choke on his ambition while Force-choking him. Ha! It was one of those moments that was funny when it wasn’t meant to be.
But that piece of bad dialog can easily be forgiven because a) he’s Darth Vader and b) he’s friggin Darth Vader. At the conclusion of Rogue One’s third act, after Jyn Erso’s team successfully transmit the Death Star plans to the Rebellion, Bail Organa sends a runner to bring them to Princess Leia.
That’s when Darth Vader shows up and kicks all kinds of ass. Remember that hallway sequence from Daredevil everyone talks about? Yeah, well, Rogue One’s hallway scene is better. It’s brutal, scary, and damn entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight that cool in Star Wars.
As the Rebel fighter is running with the plans, one of the doors malfunctions, trapping him and a handful of other Rebels in a tight hallway. An explosion occurs and Darth Vader emerges from behind a cloud of smoke.
You can see the terror in the Rebel fighters’ eyes when they see who it is. They know they’re going to die. What unfolds is a vicious, violent scene that sees Vader straight up murder them.
It’s like if I were to try and fight the Hulk. Vader uses his lightsaber to bat away blaster shots and Force slam bodies all over the place. And he does it so effortlessly, which makes it that much more frightening.
All the while, the Rebel with the Death Star plans is at the end of the hallway, desperately trying to pry the door open. As Vader gets closer, the Rebel finally shoves the plans through a crack in the jammed door. A moment later, Vader thrusts his lightsaber through the Rebels’ gut.
The entire scene lasts maybe two minutes, and it’s some of the most exhilarating cinema I’ve seen in a while. Certainly better than a lot of two hour movies we’ve seen this year.
Although I knew the plans would eventually be delivered to Princess Leia, the way Vader tore through those helpless Rebels put doubt in my mind. For a second, I thought that maybe the plans wouldn’t make it.
There was more tension and excitement in that one scene than the whole of Suicide Squad. The scene was entirely unexpected and beautifully executed, and it redeemed Vader’s comically bad, “Nooooooo!” scream from the end of Episode III.
The Star Wars villain has been tarnished thanks to the prequels. But Gareth Edwards just erased all of that in one fell swoop. And it makes me sad that we’ll never see him destroy Rebels in another movie, unless he shows up in that other Star Wars spinoff Disney has planned.