Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Great Debate - Darth Maul - Awesome or Not?

So my Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade 2 post caused quite a stir when I said that Darth Maul was a "mediocre villian." I stand by this assertion. Please allow me to defend my position that Darth Maul, as presented in Episode I, is NOT a good villain.

First of all let me acknowledge that Darth Maul isn't completely worthless. He has three things going for him: His appearance, the double sided lightsaber, and the fact that he was in Ep. I. Sure, Darth Maul looks cool. Red and black with horns... what a sinister look! But ultimately, that's all he is - a cardboard stand up that looks bad but really isn't. As for the double sided lightsaber, this wowed fans (as Lucas intended) simply because it was new. Once again, style over substance. As Maul benefits greatly from what I call the "Ep. I 'WOW' Effect." Meaning, Star Wars fans were so hungry for SW and Ep. I was so devoid of redeeming qualities that die hard fans clung to even the tiniest redeeming qualities of the film.

Now, the case for Darth Maul's lameness...

1) He's essentially a thug on a leash. What makes Darth Vader and Palpatine great villains isn't only their prowess with a lightsaber but rather how they use psychological warfare to upset or distract their opponents while locked in combat (think of the Palpatine-Yoda, Palpatine-Luke, Vader-Kenobi, or any of the Vader-Luke fights). Darth Maul doesn't do that at all. When he has the chance to taunt Qui-Gon during the break in their second battle, he simply stalks back and forth like a caged lion. Palpatine treats him like a bouncer at a nightclub - no more than hired muscle. DISPOSABLE hired muscle at that.

2) Like a bouncer or concert security, what Maul does best is stand with his arms crossed and say nothing. When he does speak, it certainly isn't memorable. So let's list everything Maul says in Ep. I:
"Tatooine is sparsely populated. If the homing trace is correct, I will find them quickly, my master."
"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi . At last we will have revenge."
"Yes, my master."
Wow. THREE LINES - 35 words. That doesn't exactly scream "villain hall of fame," does it? None of these lines are memorable and they only serve to support the idea that Darth Maul is a brute with a lightsaber.

3) Like I said, he's disposable. And how does Maul die? A PADAWAN KILLS HIM! That's right - the big, bad Sith Lord is taken down in one-on-one combat with a padawan learner. He dies and Palpatine doesn't even blink - he just replaces him easily with the much more capable Count Dooku.

4) Where are the Maul stories? If Maul is so cool and has so much fan support where are all of the Maul books? Sure, there are a few but if you look up Maul's biography at http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_maul you realize that very few stories have been told using this character. Truth be told, this just isn't a very interesting character and people don't want to read about him. If they did, his few books would have sold well and there would have been more produced.

5) Maul is a completely two dimensional character. In Ep. I we're not given any background on the character. We don't even know his real name! His "story" isn't interconnected with those of other Star Wars characters (except Palpatine, of course). He has no personality to speak of. He's basically a blank slate as far as character development goes.

6) Lucas didn't even bother to give Maul any memorable gear beyond his lightsaber (which we only see used as a double-sided weapon for a minute or two). His speeder bike, Bloodfin, is stupid. It's reminds me of one of those ridiculous reclined adult tricycle bikes.

7) Screen time. Or, more accurately, the lack of it. If you add up every second of every scene in Ep. I while Darth Maul is in it you get a whopping total of 7:33. And the vast majority of that is after one hour and forty-two minutes into the film. Less than ten minutes of screen time for the film's major villain in a movie that's over two hours long? Looks like Lucas is trying to hide the film's inadequacies.

8) In a fight, Darth Vader, Count Dooku, and Palpatine could all take Maul. He's the low man on the totem Sith pole. Look at their comparative records. Maul held his own against Qui-Gon for a few seconds in one-on-one combat, but against both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Maul is forced onto the defensive. Comparatively, Palpatine cuts down three Jedi in seconds and holds his own against Yoda in Ep. III. Count Dooku actually defeats Obi-Wan and Anakin and goes toe-to-toe with Yoda in Ep II. Darth Vader's record certainly speaks for itself (anyway, Maul and Vader actually fought with a resurrected Maul in the Expanded Universe... Vader won, of course). Can you imagine how the fight would go if Maul fought Yoda one-on-one? I can. Maul would end up in more than two pieces, that's for sure. Perhaps the reason Palpatine kept him around was because Palpatine knew Maul wasn't any threat to him.

9) He's no leader. If Maul had lived, can you see him leading the droid armies the way Dooku and Grievous did? Certainly not! For that, he'd have to speak.

So, in conclusion, Maul is a not a good character and certainly not a good villain. He's not competely without merit but he's all style and no substance. Maul is a forgettable thug of a character unworthy of the name Sith, let alone fan adoration. I'd say calling him "mediocre" was being kind.

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