Any movie starring a combination of Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan MacGregor should be a box office smash, not a film that history doesn’t fondly reflect back on. But for many fans, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, is a low point in the entire Star Wars franchise. But for all its various faults and instances of having Jar Jar Binks appear on the big screen, the Phantom Menace did give birth to something that actually added to the Star Wars mythos: Darth Maul.
A tiger in a black cloak, Darth Maul was a ferocious antagonist and a force-wielder that set the bar for future Jedi in the Star Wars franchise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: That moment in the third act, where Maul ignites his double-bladed lightsaber so that he can fight both Qui-Gonn Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is still one of the finest moments in cinematic history.
It’s just a pity that he only had around a few minutes of screen time in the entire trilogy. Fortunately, Star Wars: The Clone Wars saved the character from obscurity. Repurposing him into an adversary who took no sides in the Galactic Civil War, Darth Maul was now a seasoned antagonist and one of the most dangerous Force-wielders alive. He seemingly met his fate yet again when he crossed paths with his former master, Darth Sidious, but only the good die young. Evil is forever.
Earlier, a trailer for the second season of Star Wars Rebels revealed that Maul is still alive, an old master living in the ruins of a Sith temple on Malachor, a location that the Ghost crew has been searching for.”The genesis of this idea is actually kind of an interesting one,” Rebels producer Dave Filoni said to EW.
I had pointed out several times in story meetings that we have an opportunity – if we wanted to – to actually have Darth Vader fight Darth Maul. That was something that [co-producer] Simon Kinberg and I were like, ‘Oooh…’ Then there was the opponent in the story meetings who would say, ‘Well, that’s fan service,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah –exactly.’ [Laughs] I don’t see the problem with that, but you know we were very careful that we don’t just do things because they’re cool.
We want to do things that are story driven.
Maul is more than just potential fan service however. He’s also a possible mentor to Ezra Bridger, and possibly an unlikely ally in the fight against the Empire. “He’s this person who has been on the dark-side, that has been thrown out repeatedly from the Emperor’s hierarchy but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a lot of the same tendencies as the Emperor and have the same desire for power,” Filoni said.
It became a really interesting story to tell, and a challenge, because at face value, Maul isn’t a guy you look at and go, ‘I trust you, devil-looking guy with horns on your head.’ So we had to paint an interesting picture here to get this kid to perhaps believe in him. One of the big backstories was what has Maul been doing and how did he get to this planet, Malachor? The other story was what the heck happened on Malachor?
So I actually wrote a history of it and what goes on there a thousand years ago – which explains the stone figures, and the temple, and all the mechanism you see there.
Maul has cleary aged in the 15 years since the republic fell and the Empire took over. But don;t count him out yet. “What is just a lie in terms of his behaviour and what is actually the truth? People were commenting when we were recording the episode that they’d never seen a sincere, sweet Darth Maul,” voice actor Sam Witwer explained.
You know kind of a sweet, old man. To lie that convincingly, he has to understand the emotions he’s hitting. And in order to understand them, he must possess them in some degree. So in order to portray that level of sincerity, there’s got be some piece of him that is actually sincere.
If there’s one character who deserves a definitive ending to his story, it’s Darth Maul. The more you explore of the former Sith Lord, the more you see that his tale is just as tragic as that of Anakin Skywalker, a fascinating parrallel that has been wonderfully fleshed out in the years since he appeared in the Phantom Menace.
Star Wars Rebels kicks off the season finale this week, with an hour-long special that is also promising a tense reunion between Darth Vader and his former apprentice, Ahsoka Tano.
Last Updated: March 30, 2016