Max explores the fundamental changes made to Darth Vader between Legends and the Disney era
Darth Vader is perhaps one of Star Wars‘ most iconic characters. When casual or non-fans think of Star Wars, an image of Vader almost always comes to mind. Clad in all black with a distinctive wheeze from his respirator; ever since 1977, he has dominated pop culture forevermore.
Now fans know the man behind the cape and mask is named, Anakin Skywalker, who was portrayed by Hayden Christensen in Episodes 1-3. Now fans of the Expanded Universe also have spent presumably many years following Anakin’s further adventures as the Dark Lord Vader. Media from 1991-2014, had the old canon of Star Wars and that Vader is quite different than the “new” Vader in the comics, books, and TV media from 2014 and then onwards. What is different, you may ask? A lot. Legends Vader (as we will call him) was very conflicted about his new role as a Sith Lord and regretted having turned to the Dark Side. A comic even went so far as to have him declare himself as evil, and weep for all his mistakes. He also experiences a lot of discomfort with his new suit and complained heavily in the ‘Rise of Darth Vader’ book by James Luceno.
This seems like a very realistic approach to the character and showed really how poorly Palpatine invested in his apprentice’s rehabilitation. Vader mentioned claustrophobia, difficulty walking, phantom limb pain, sluggish movements, and many other grievances with the suit. Yet, Disney took a far different approach and I don’t know if it is better or worse. In ‘Lords of the Sith’; one of the first New Canon books; it said that Vader was “one” with the suit, that he felt stronger and more complete with it on. Also in Legends, another highly realistic malady that Vader had was a loss of some his power and his suit’s extreme sensitivity to Force lightning.
In New Canon, his powers remained stronger than ever, and right after Palpatine put (presumably) millions of credits into the suit (that Dr. Cylo made), he hits Vader with a dose of Force Lightning as a way to teach him a lesson. I always assumed that Vader never experienced a blast of that power in his suit until ROTJ. It was like the Bantha in the room; Palpatine could overpower Vader anytime he wanted and Vader knew this and was subservient to him.
Canon took this power away and you wonder what the heck was stopping Vader from overthrowing Palpatine before Luke showed up. Disney I felt has made a big plot hole with what was once an excellent plot point. Alas, like many fictional characters, Vader’s story will change from author to author and we will only have our headcanons to rely on along with some healthy doses of “suspension of disbelief.”
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Max Nocerino is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter @MaxN2100 where he channels his passion frequently!