Fondness for a character as a character is not the same as fondness for a character as a person. For example, it is perfectly possible for someone to see a villain as a horrible person but have respect for the way that said character is used in the narrative. Humans being humans, one kind of fondness can lead to the other kind, as shown by a wide range of fans belonging to a wide range of fandoms who will go to great lengths to excuse the inexcusable. One excellent example is the Star Wars fandom, which has a noticeable segment of fans who are very serious about their claim that the Empire was in the right.
Primarily, said individuals’ fondness for the Empire seems to be based on the perception that Imperial characters are cooler, which to be fair, is a perfectly understandable position for someone to take. After all, Star Wars is far from being the first fandom that has had fans who found the villains to be cooler for whatever reason. For that matter, it hasn’t been the last in that regard either. Regardless, the appearance of Darth Vader in Rogue One was very interesting in how it both strengthened and weakened such sentiments, which was rather remarkable considering his very limited screen-time.
What Did Darth Vader’s Scenes in Rogue One Say About the Character?
First and foremost, if people remember one Darth Vader scene from Rogue One, chances are good that it would be the scene at the end in which he participates in a boarding scene for the purpose of reclaiming the stolen Death Star plans. Unsurprisingly, Darth Vader fails to retrieve said plans, but the scene makes it clear that he is a figure of pure terror for the Rebels. For example, the crucial moment in the scene comes when the Rebel holding the Death Star plan is cut off from the escape route by a sealed door, which causes him to pound on it for a time before mustering up the presence of mind to hand the plans to someone on the other side in the sure knowledge that he is about to die. Furthermore, the terror of the Rebels is supported by the outcome of Darth Vader’s one-man assault on them, which was not very sporting of him to say the least.
On the whole, that scene was interesting because it confirmed a powerful image of Darth Vader that has been lingering in the Star Wars franchise for decades. Simply put, while Darth Vader might not have spent much time on the movie screen tearing through the enemies of the Empire, his image was that of a ruthless and relentless enforcer of the Empire who cut through its enemies like a hot knife through butter. As a result, when this image was confirmed in Rogue One, that made Darth Vader that much cooler to a lot of Star Wars fans out there.
However, it is interesting to note that this impression of Darth Vader is undermined by the rest of his screen-time in Rogue One. He is depicted as being a powerful fighter, to be sure, but at the same time, he is also depicted as being pathetic in more than one sense of the world. After all, Darth Vader is shown to be someone who has to spend his time in a healing tank whenever he is outside of his suit, which is what provides him with the means to move about. Even worse, the fact that Darth Vader chose to build his home on Mustafar makes it clear that he will never be free of what happened to him on that particular planet. As a result, Darth Vader will remain in constant agony of a physical nature as well as constant agony of an emotional nature, thus neatly undermining the impression of him as the ruthless and relentless enforcer of the Empire.
On the whole, Rogue One showed that while Darth Vader was physically impressive, he was very much a broken husk of a man by that point in time. As a result, it made him look as cool as he should be, but at the same time, it introduced enough complications that will make it that much more difficult for people to turn their fondness for a character as a character into a fondness for a character as a person.