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On the opening night for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you could practically hear the jaws drop in theaters everywhere as Darth Vader made what could have been a token cameo but instead was a badass exercise in mowing down his enemies. But, surprising as it may have been, the bigger surprise has been waiting in the wings, and director Gareth Edwards has revealed it for all to see. As it turns out, Vader's role in the Battle of Scarif was originally going to be much less substantial, and even less cool than what we ultimately saw on screen.
During a conversation with Fandango, Edwards detailed the original appearance that the legendary Sith lord would have made in his blockbuster Star Wars Story, which is set for release on Digital next week. What originally happened, and how it was changed, were described by Gareth Edwards in full.
He arrives and obliterates the Calamari ship, and then the blockade runner gets out just in time and he pursues the blockade runner. And then Jabez [Olssen] was like, 'I think we need to get Darth on that ship,' and I thought, yeah, that's a brilliant idea and would love to do it, but there's no way they're going to let us do it. It's a big number and we had, what, like 3 or 4 months before release. Kathy [Kennedy] came in and Jabez thought, fuck it, and pitched her this idea, and she loved it. Suddenly within a week or two we were at Pinewood shooting that scene.
The scene described above definitely sounds like the sort of cameo appearance that one could have reasonably expected from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. When the fact that the first 10 minutes of Star Wars: A New Hope would be the cutoff point between this new film and the original trilogy, Vader and his encounter with the Tantive IV blockade runner was always going to be referenced somehow. So just having Vader blow up a starship and give chase to his daughter and the stolen Death Star plans sounds pretty much in line with what we're used to in the post-prequel Star Wars universe. Instead, we got a fantastic sequence that put the fear of Vader back in the hearts of fans and newcomers alike.
With the decision-making process on display in both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the balance between fan service and genuine thrills seems to have been struck. Gareth Edwards has taken on yet another pop cultural watershed, and thanks to his trust in his editor, the better scene seems to have prevailed. Here's hoping that Rian Johnson continues to carry the torch as we think he will with Star Wars: The Last Jedi this December, as the series has now grown to the point where more artistic decisions can find their way into that galaxy far, far away.