The Phantom Menace: Why Darth Maul Is A Great Villain (& Why He’s Not As Great As Vader)

When George Lucas kicked off the Star Wars prequel trilogy with The Phantom Menace, the movie proved to be wildly controversial among the fanbase. From the family-friendly comic relief provided by Jar Jar Binks to the adorable nine-year-old boy we’re promised is the future Darth Vader, The Phantom Menace had a lot of elements that polarized fans.

One thing that almost all fans could agree on, though, is that Episode I’s new villain, Darth Maul, is awesome. He might not have made as much of an impression on moviegoers as Vader, but that might not even be possible — Maul is still an unforgettable baddie.

What made Darth Vader so instantly iconic in the original Star Wars trilogy is that from the moment he marched onto Tantive IV and strangled a Rebel officer to death, he was a truly terrifying presence.

Darth Maul doesn’t have David Prowse’s towering stature, but thanks to his frightful demonic appearance and martial arts prowess, he’s a similarly intimidating presence.

While the man underneath the mask was later fleshed out as a Hamlet-esque tragic hero, Darth Vader was initially designed and introduced as the faceless embodiment of evil.

His iconographic visage quickly became a universally known symbol of malevolence. His suit does a lot of the legwork, with his mask’s big, vacant eyes creating a haunting emotional distance between the character and the audience.

Every lightsaber-wielding character in the Star Wars universe had a single-bladed weapon until Darth Maul came along with his badass double-edged saber in The Phantom Menace.

While the fact that Maul carries a double-bladed lightsaber is common knowledge now, the movie itself nailed the revelation of the second blade. He uses just one blade until the final duel. As John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” kicks in, Maul ignites his second lightsaber blade, ready to effortlessly take on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan at the same time.

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