Sequel TrilogyThe Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Does a Darth return (concepts and rumors)?

There is an old rumor and it isn’t going away. The way I’ve heard it is that Luke Skywalker pulls an Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m not talking about style, beards, and being old. I’m hearing he has a lot of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s flaws. I’m talking about how he injures someone really badly and they literally become Darth Vader at the end of the film. That’s come in several times from different people with honest connections to the production in one way or another. There is another rumor with some weight behind it that Luke Skywalker does something really bad at the end of the film and it has great costs. In this rumor he tries to kill someone that will commit great atrocities in the future, fails, and that person becomes the new Darth Vader, not just spiritually but cosmetically, which seems to mostly interface with those rumors.

This week is about bad people in the Star Wars universe and their helmets in the Star Wars fandom. We’ve discussed a cyborg holding Darth Vader’s helmet in the past and we’re going to discuss further iterations of it today. The non-cyborgs holding the mask and what they’re wearing on their faces in these pieces is interesting to me in context of the rumor above. We’ll also discuss the recent helmet leaks of the villains we’ve seen in the last twenty four hours or so. Many people are attributing various helmets to different actors and some are thinking they’re Kylo Ren’s helmets.

There’s an absolutely striking piece of concept art we talked about a long time ago about a cyborg holding Darth Vader’s helmet. Then our friend at Indie Revolver leaked the piece (a piece different from the pieces we have but on the same theme). There’s a man in a robe holding Darth Vader’s helmet in his hands. The posture and gesture he’s making is someone reverent. Of course in the piece Indie Revolver shared, the man is a skeletal cyborg and that gesture can be easily overlooked in that particular instance. Well, today I’m going to tell you about two more pieces that were done in nearly the same exact style with interesting variations.

In the Indie Revolver piece, the background is just a blurry impression of light and filler. Another one we have seen shows the cyborg on a Star Destroyer bridge with stars in the background. When one piece in this series of work leaked, I was criticized for my interpretation, but those critics saw one piece of many designs on this particular theme.  The two I’m going to discuss today take place in an enclosure highly reminiscent of Darth Vader’s breathing chamber in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. For all intents and purposes, its a redesign of the same contraption Darth Vader used to breath with his mask off (but a lot smaller). So that’s the setting more or less of these works.

The man sits in the chamber, his cyborg hand resting on his knee. The hand is very much like that of Anakin Skywalker’s from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, from the end of the film where he takes his wife’s hand with his artificial appendage. I believe the implication is that this person has Darth Vader’s hand as his own now.  The cloak the man wears in both instances is very much like Luke Skywalker’s in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The lighting is very blue and white. The piece is back lit so the figure appears to be evil and plotting as he exists in the shadows.

In the first piece you can see the man has a red artificial eye but he’s still a human. The eye is red from technology, not supernaturally illuminated and powered by evil. He’s a white male. He has a black mask on that only reveals his mouth. In this piece the mask is formed to his face but its really subtle what it is, it just look like black pieces of something unidentifiable on his face. It isn’t until you see the second piece it is clearer what it is.

In the second piece, it is not subtle at all. This character has literally cut a part of Darth Vader’s mask out from a helmet and is wearing it on his face like he’s The Phantom of the Opera (note a previous piece featuring a cyborg holding Rey is a lot different in design than the ones here for what its worth) . He has a cloak on his head and the mask covers his nose, eyes, and forehead. The helmet in his hands in both pieces is complete. So he has multiple Darth Vader helmets in his “collection.” To me, he looks happy to have acquired the newest helmet. Looking at it, it would be fun to speculate Darth Vader’s helmet is the MacGuffin of The Force Awakens and the bad guys get what they want at the end. I’m not saying that though. It just seems very important he has acquired this helmet.

In the first piece, the Darth Vader mask in his hands is the burnt one from Endor, the one Luke Skywalker set ablaze after Anakin Skywalker returned to the light side of the Force. The helmet is burned but in good condition, however, its lost its shine. The second piece has the helmet malformed. It melted in the pyre Luke set, but its condition is more extremely damaged and misshapen.  This sort of theme or idea is present in the countless different versions of this particular subject.

I’m not sure if the hand is significant or not. But it does appear to be Anakin Skywalker’s robotic hand. The robotic hand is the same in both pieces (and most of them actually). The artist simply did one and then edited the work and made the different changes to offer different explanations for it existing. In the various incarnations of this piece, sometimes the character holding the helmet looks like Luke Skywalker, other times its a cyborg, or a face entirely new to us. This could be Kylo Ren and I think this character is most likely Ren.

I’m of the mindset that Luke Skywalker is somewhat mentally off kilter in this film based on several trusted friends which I have no reason to ever doubt. That’s why Luke being evil is a misconception about his state in the new film.

Are these pieces just artists exploring their imagination’s whims and desires? Maybe to an extent. Maybe the ones that look like Luke are simply exploring the ideas this is Luke Skywalker’s son. Concept art is a thing that helps get a story told. But concept art is also a thing of inspiration and these artists, in non-verbal ways attempt to steer the course of the story in a direction they find visually compelling. So if its Luke in these pieces, his son, or Kylo Ren, we might not know until we see the film, read the novel, the comic book, young adult reader, and so on. If it is Kylo and he was always supposed to look like a human male, I have to assume the shot is from the end of the film, after the character sustains some serious injuries but wins the prize he was after. Now that he has it, he contemplates his future.

One thing is for sure, the amount of work behind this particular conceptual shot, it seems to be of some crucial importance. Care went into making this shot look right. The severity to which the person holding the helmet is “more machine than man” is be reconciled from the written page to the painted picture.

The Darth Bane style helmet that was recently unveiled in action figure form and by Indie Revolver shows a helmet that is a cross between a ninja and Darth Vader’s helmet. The new generation of evil is reverent of the past atrocities Darth Vader brought to the galaxy far, far away. With other costumes looking like Darth Revan, and rumors Kylo’s sword is ancient, it seems to depict a reality where the “artifact” collector rumors are true. It is said a group of evil people want to resurrect the Sith or tap into their power via the instruments of evil they have left behind.

The question that also remains from yesterday pertains to the costume we saw of the McQuarrie-Vader-ninja-helmet-Darth Bane-design. Is that Kylo’s helmet? What about the Revan helmet? Well, both helmets are in the film. Maybe Kylo wears both and has different suits of armor for different battles he’s fighting. Or maybe he simply chooses different pieces from his collection? That could be confusing to audiences who expect the bad guy to look one way the entire film more or less. Others have suggested its Gwendoline Christie’s costume. That’s possible. But I’ve heard she’s the Chrome Stormtrooper Commander and wears a chrome costume herself. If the helmet and action figure we’ve seen so far is Christie’s, that helmet will likely be chrome if the rumors pan out. However, the Chrome Stormtrooper Commander concepts never show that helmet in chrome to the best of my incomplete knowledge. Anything is possible but I wouldn’t put money on it just yet.

As I look at all this art based on the evil in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I start to see a lineage. This is probably just my interpretation of looking at loose ends of a puzzle. But it seems like we could see Kylo’s costumes like The Three Bears. The first two costumes just aren’t him. The final choice is “just right” after he sustains serious injuries. Maybe that “just right” costume is Darth Vader’s old wardrobe and we see Darth Vader return for all intents and purposes to the Star Wars galaxy. It is the only somewhat convincing way I’ve heard of it happening yet.


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Jason Ward (EIC)

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