(original article written by Aaron Farrington, of The Movie Guys)
As more and more details emerge over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we get a better idea of what the antagonist, Kylo Ren, is all about. He’s played by Adam Driver and looks like trouble, with his mask, cloak and unorthodox red Sith lightsaber. Sounds like a recipe for classic Star Wars villainy, right?
Unfortunately, while the Star Wars canon has featured some real baddies in the past, there have been less intimidating flops as well. With a new director and the hard lessons of the Prequel Trilogy, mistakes could be avoided this time around. To show how Kylo Ren could avoid Star Wars fan ridicule, let’s rank and review 6 Star Wars villains, narrowed down to the darkest of the Dark Side:
6. General Grievous
Sadly, as can be said for much of the Prequel Trilogy, the execution was disappointing.
Evil: Again, cool concept for a villain, plus the combat potential of this mostly-machine Jedi slayer was portrayed quite well, to a point where I became worried for Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Not-So-Evil: As expected, a villain *cough* should have a way with words *cough, hack* that shakes his peers and opponents with *cough cough wheeze huff* terror and *HACK BLGRGHRGH COUGH* intimida-*cough*
Seriously!?: *cough COUGH HACK wheeeeze, huff huff BLRGHH* -tion… *cough*
5. Anakin Skywalker
I thought it was important to make two separate entries for Anakin and Vader even though they’re the same character. There is, after all, more to the transition into the iconic black suit than appearance. It’s worth our time to look at the man he once was: an insufferable crybaby.
Evil: Anakin’s heinous acts at the end of “Episode III” were the perfect setup to his fall and rise as Vader. Remember the part when he slays innocent younglings? Yeah. Pretty hardcore.
Not-So-Evil: Hayden Christensen’s awful, awful acting. I would even argue that the Prequel Trilogy would have vastly improved given the absence of his morose, pouty, and dull expressions of angst and frustration.
The Real Tragedy: “I love you, Padme. Let me make uncomfortable advances toward you and then whine about the Jedi Order that I chose to be a part of. Did I mention I love you, Padme? With a fiery passion inside of me? Because I do, Padme.”
4. Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious)
The first time I saw Emperor Palpatine in “Episode VI” I thought “Ughhhhh… this guy looks like bad news.” His vibe, let alone his pruny-with-evil face, really drove the point home that he was definitely the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Evil: He plotted an intergalactic civil war against his own Republic, leading up to a rise to absolute power through crafty political manipulation, and then topped it off by massacring the Jedi Order. This guy is science fiction’s Josef Stalin.
Not-So-Evil: He can shoot lightning out of his hands, and in “Episode III” proved he was capable of Force-leaping great distances with ease. Somehow, in “Episode VI”, the Emperor seemed a bit slow and tired. What’s the deal, Grandpa Palpatine? Did you forget to take your evil pills and skip your evil nap?
3. Count Dooku
The late Christopher Lee (RIP) was known for playing other great villains in film history, and once again nailed it with his role as Count Dooku. His time in the Prequel Trilogy, albeit relatively short, made for a solid performance of A-grade “Star Wars” villainy.
Evil: The dark cape, a history of treachery and playing sides, and his signature deep voice. Sticking with classic villain attributes for Count Dooku was a good move; such a good move that I myself could forgive whoever thought Viceroy Nute Gunray would be just as menacing.
Not-So-Evil: Creating a character who utilized fencing techniques during lightsaber combat was a fresh and exciting addition to the Star Wars universe. Having said that, could the Count’s fighting style be a little less flashy and pose-y? This is a Sith, not some sci-fi twist on one of the Three Musketeers.
Really Though: The Viceroy were terrible. What were they even, if not some awful attempt at crossing a frog with Will Ferrell’s impersonation of Harry Carey?
2. Darth Maul
By first impression alone, his yellow eyes and double-bladed red lightsaber should clue you in on just how far into the Dark Side that Darth Maul is.
Evil: Him. Just him, being a master lightsaber-wielder and undeniable force of pure evil. He’s the kind of villain that would keep a Xenomorph as a pet.
Not-So-Evil: His death, particularly the long delay in countering Obi-Wan and the dumb look of surprise on Darth Maul’s face when he was slain. Y’know, because you don’t expect a Jedi to be any good with acrobatics or special powers.
Background: What they don’t show you in the movies is that Darth Maul was brought up to be wholly committed to the Dark Side of the Force. His will was carried out by means of fear and power alone. Cool, right? It would have been a great backstory to see on film, but then we wouldn’t have had time to watch Jar-Jar’s annoying antics and existence in general, now would we?
1. Darth Vader
The big name that the “Star Wars” movies are known for, and one of the few characters that appears in all six. All for good reason, as Darth Vader is not just some monster to hate, but a man with a story that you get to see from beginning to end; a scared young boy with great potential for good becomes a great force of evil, and in the end redeems himself.
Evil: There are quite a few factors that make Vader an intimidating villain, but narrowing it down to the biggest for me, it would have to be the Force Choke. This ability is one that sent shivers up my spine when I first saw it as a kid, and still bothers me to this day. Any officer within the ranks of the Empire would learn quickly with one raise of Darth Vader’s hand that their need for breathing air outweighed any contrary opinion they might have had.
Not-So-Evil: It’s nothing major, but given Vader’s track record of being effortlessly dark and intimidating in the Original Trilogy, one directorial choice stands out as a sore moment for fans of “Star Wars”. That moment, when Vader learns of the death of Padme, he bellows in super-cheesy fashion: “nnnnnnNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
Good job, George Lucas; you let one of the most iconic villains in film history go untouched by cliché until the last few minutes of your last “Star Wars” film.