Thursday, June 25, 2015

Best Character Ever 4: Darth Maul

Best Character Ever is a feature where I look at characters that inspire me, intrigue me or captured my mind at one point in time.

I have heard every complaint I think I can hear about the Star Wars prequel trilogy. They are far from perfect films. We all know that. But at the same time, I think they were also films faced with far too much anticipation to ever truly impress many viewers. The original Star Wars trilogy was mythologized so hard by so many people that George Lucas could never produce something that would truly impress most people.

That being said, the prequel movies have their share of great moments and great characters. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had one figure that stood out beyond the rest. That was Darth Maul. Going into that film in 1999, so many fans only had the great visuals to go on. While Jar Jar or Queen Amidala both presented intriguing images, it was Darth Maul that captured my interest. Here was a bad ass with black skin and a tattooed face. Best of all, he carried the awesome double bladed lightsaber from Tales of the Jedi.

Ultimately, Darth Maul’s role in the film would be little more than cannon fodder. He is a means to an end to remove one jedi from play and start Obi-Wan Kenobi’s journey through the following films. It was clear even going into the film that his chance of survival was slim. After all, if only two Sith ever existed, he would have to make way for Darth Vader in another decade.

But Maul’s awesomeness has less to do with his characterization as it did with his visuals. Maul is the prime example of just how good George Lucas was with visual shorthand. His appearance marks him both as evil and as deadly. His build wasn’t imposing, but every movement he makes in the film marks how centered he is in his pursuit of his master’s wishes. He clearly is a man that knows how good he is.

So much of this is due to the visuals of actor Ray Park, the man behind the makeup of Darth Maul. His martial arts prowess and great facial work set the character apart. Coupled with amazing makeup work by Lucasfilm, Maul became the face of villainy that year. His action figure and apparel sold like hotcakes. And while many fans nitpicked The Phantom Menace to pieces, most folks can agree on one thing: Darth Maul is awesome.

He's also one of the best Star Wars Black toys.
So awesome, in fact they brought him back on the animated follow-up Star Wars: Clone Wars. I haven’t watched his appearance there yet, but it is good to know that one of the coolest figures in Star Wars history is allowed an expanded, amazing history.

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