Despite the many negatives associated with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the character Darth Maul was one of the fan favorites. His unique appearance -- blood-red face with black tattoos, cloaked in a cool dark Sith outfit, with scary-looking horns and fiery eyes -- made him instantly recognizable as the key antagonist in The Phantom Menace, making the audience take notice whenever he was on the screen. His acrobatic, martial arts fighting style with a double-bladed lightsaber made his duel with the Jedi Knights the true climactic moment of the otherwise disappointing first episode of the Star Wars saga. But George Lucas did not give the character as much screen time as fans would have liked and his demise at the end of the battle against Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meant that he would make no further appearances in future episodes.
But, like Boba Fett, when a character strikes a chord, he or she manages to keep showing up. The novel Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter revealed his backstory and a couple of stories in Star Wars Tales and Dark Horse Comics resurrected him, although they were only clones or holograms.
Now, the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is introducing a new villain named Savage Opress whom Lucas described as "Darth Maul's brother." Early images of the new bad guy depict him as a more armored, badder version of Maul, only with bigger horns and yellow skin. We shall see if he has as big an impact as his more crimson sibling. I personally would like to see a flashback of Darth Maul or even some clever storytelling way of bringing him back. He was such an under-used character who had the potential to really play a role in some more interesting plots than some of the stuff we were giving in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Speaking of revenge, Darth Maul's only memorable line from the first film had both intriguing exposition of what might have come before and also fascinating yet ultimately unfulfilled foreshadowing of what might come after: "At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge." The entire conflict between the Sith Lords who embraced the Dark Side of the Force and the seemingly more noble Jedi Knights was sadly under-developed and never fully explored in the films. What could have been a wonderful examination of the duality of good and evil, looking at the motivations of the Sith villains and maybe showing the Jedi Knights as conflicted protectors of the Old Republic whose philosophy may have caused split factions in their own ranks (those who use the Force for physical power versus those who focus more on its zen-like spirituality), instead became a sluggish, uneven, often passionless display of computer generated effects bogged down in an often confusing plot about trade wars and political machinations, with enough holes and unanswered questions in the story to make even the most loyal fans of the saga scratch their heads in bewilderment.
I've said before how weary I have become of the prequel universe, and how I hope Lucas will finally bring his epic forward with new movie adventures set after Return of the Jediinstead of dwelling in the past, but maybe I'll give The Clone Wars another shot, and hope that the live action series that is still in development might be something worth the wait. If Savage Opress can live up to half the promise that Darth Maul displayed, maybe he will be able to recapture some of the fun and excitement of the old Star Wars and keep us entertained until Lucas someday makes Episodes 7, 8, and 9.
Welcome to the online journal of Nick Leshi, his official daily blog about pop culture and the wide world of entertainment in all media. Nick Leshi is a writer, actor, media professional, and aficionado of entertainment. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org (or search for him on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+, and LinkedIn)
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