Against all odds, the Star Wars saga rebounded in a big way with the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
While the prequels were financially successful, some fans felt they diluted the mainstream popularity of the franchise and undermined the appeal of central villain Darth Vader.
J.J. Abrams’ film may have restored moviegoers’ goodwill for the series at last, but it was actually Rogue One – the recently released Star Wars anthology piece – that renewed Vader’s reputation as a world-class movie villain.
Although Vader (once again voiced by James Earl Jones) appears fleetingly in the film, he does receive a key scene toward film’s end that gives fans their first true onscreen taste of his unbridled rage. In pursuit of the Death Star plans, Vader massacres a small band of rebel soldiers, armed only with his signature red lightsaber and his unparalleled mastery of the dark side of the Force.
It’s a scene that has left audiences cheering, but it almost never appeared in the film.
In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Rogue One editor John Gilroy revealed the final Vader sequence was one of many tweaks that resulted from the much-talked-about reshoots on director Gareth Edwards’ film.
Although Vader always was intended to make an appearance in the film, his narrative involvement was initially intended to be much more of a looming threat than an aggressive onscreen presence. Part of this approach actually remains in the final cut, with Vader conferring with Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic mid-film and whipping out his notorious Force choke.
Yet, when the time came for reshoots, the decision was made to capitalize on the production’s plan to tie directly into the start of A New Hope, with Vader narrowly missing the rebel ship carrying the Death Star plans.
Due to scheduling, a different actor was even brought in to don Vader’s armor. Daniel Naprous played the Sith Lord during the action scene, and Spencer Wilding assumed the role during the scene with Mendelsohn.
While fans may be curious to see what that alternate version of Rogue One may have looked like, it’s hard to argue against the decision to punch up Vader’s role in the film. His rampage easily has been among the most popular scenes in the film, and seeing as Rogue One was recently crowned the highest-grossing film of 2016 domestically, we can’t imagine Disney has any regrets about it either.
Robert Yaniz Jr.
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