When The Phantom Menace premiered, and for many years hence, the one constant that everyone, even the haters, seemed to like was the new villain, Darth Maul. His face was in more of the merchandise than even the main characters. He was cool-looking, he was mysterious, he had…
Wait a minute…
Cool-looking, mysterious, has a unique weapon, had very little screentime in the film before being killed off, was resurrected in EU material, fans and merchandising seem to miss the point of his character elevating it to be more important than it actually was…
Now THIS sounds familiar. Where have I heard this before?
|"What's that? I can't hear you over all these beautiful women."|
I seem to recall there was another movie, something about the striking back of some sort of Empire, that had a similar character in it who had few lines, whose purpose was to simply be an obstacle, but because of his design and demeanor was elevated to be many fans’ favorite character.
Parallels can easily be drawn between Darth Maul and Boba Fett both in how they impact the Saga and how they impact on the fans. For all intents and purposes, Darth Maul could be seen as the Boba Fett of the Republic-era films.
Are they the same character? Certainly not. There are many differences. But they do share a commonality.
|"Aside from this place, because, you know, EVERYONE has been here."|
George Lucas needed a Bounty Hunter to lead Vader to Han and Leia, saw a character design from the Holiday Special that stuck out, and said “why not?” Lucas needed a Sith Apprentice to establish Palpatine’s pawns and get Qui-Gon out of the way, saw a rejected design for a senator, and said “why not?”
One of Lucas’ gifts seems to be coming up with minor villains and side-characters that are infinitely more interesting than the heroes. Grievous, Jabba, Watto, even the Tusken Raiders pop into people’s minds before many of the main human cast. I know when I was a kid, I didn’t give a fig about Luke, Han, and Leia – to me, the movie was about the Droids and Chewie.
|"At last we will have...revenge..."|
But it did take me a while to warm up to Darth Maul precisely because everyone was giving him the Boba Fett treatment, and my confusion as to what made Boba so special was firmly cemented by that point. Besides, all this Maul worshipping was, in my mind, taking the focus away from the main hero of the picture – you know, that duck-billed clown?
|"Yousa knowin' meesa showin' up sooner or later."|
The more I watched, however, the more I really came to appreciate Maul and what he represented in a way I still at times struggle to with Boba. And I came to even feel sort-of sorry for him, for he was closest to Palpatine and in the end was just as disposable. Events of the following films make it clear that if Obi-Wan hadn’t sliced him in half – one of the most gruesome deaths of the Saga – Palpatine may have himself once he outlived his usefulness. Treachery is, after all, the way of the Sith.
Plus, Doublesabers are cool. Impractical, but cool.
|"AND I have ALL of my original limbs!"|
As a note to my regular readers, this column will be officially bi-weekly for the next few months due to recent developments in my personal life, so don’t worry – I haven’t disappeared, and I’m still dedicated to bringing you the best pro-I-III commentary as often as I can. May the Force be with you all.