I originally intended this article to be a summary of my all-time favorite moments from the Star Wars saga. I spent sometime revisiting the list I first came up with, going back and forth, unable to come to a conclusion on my top ten scenes. The trouble is there are so many moments that it is almost impossible to narrow down to my favorite ten. In the end I realisedthere is one specific scene, one moment that holds so much emotional weight and meaning, one scene that has always truly been my favorite.
It is a scene that conveys the tragedy of the Skywalker family, where one character’s destiny hangs in the balance, his future decided, but will he make it? At the same time another character’s destiny is finally decided, a father and son, the past and the future.
Return Of The Jedi, the film we thought concluded the story of the Skywalker family, the film that ended with Palpatine’s demise and the return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker. With Luke refusing to join the dark side and with his father beaten, all seemed lost as the Emperor brutally tortures Luke within an inch of his life. It is in the next few seconds that the galaxy’s real savior, half man half machine, fulfills his destiny and brings balance to the Force. In these split seconds, Anakin Skywalker, the man who had started it all with the destruction of the Jedi Order, sacrifices himself to save his son, and the galaxy at large. Darth Vader, who was perceived throughout the original trilogy as the most evil being in the galaxy, did the most honorable deed, he gave his life to save his son. He abandoned the selfishness and arrogance that had consumed him for so long, destroying the puppet master he once considered his friend and mentor.
This pinnacle moment in the Star Wars saga stood out to me and many others as a child; this scene taught me the meaning of sacrifice and redemption. In the short amount of time after Luke refuses to join the Emperor, Vader picks himself up to stand behind his master one last time, though this is different: he no longer has the power to do Palpatine’s bidding anymore. He is tired and the end is nigh.
Something that has always stood out to me in this scene is the image of Vader as he watches his son live out his final moments in agony. His mask that had always been kept pristine was dusty. The soulless pits of darkness which covered his eyes looked sad. No facial expressions or words were needed. In this moment I saw the proud mask of Darth Vader turn into a mask of sadness, and his lenses paint a picture of sorrow we can’t see in his eyes. This is the moment Lord Vader becomes a father. This is the moment that Lord Vader becomes Anakin Skywalker once more.
Richard Marquand, director of Return Of The Jedi, excelled with this scene. From the delivery of Emperor Palpatine’s dialogue to the back and forth glances by Vader as he contemplates his final choice, each moment is executed with perfection. The editing by the maker himself, George Lucas, makes this scene for me, the most tense and emotional from the saga. The suspense conveyed by both Marquand and Lucas have you on the edge of your seat and glued to the screen. Even now, knowing exactly what is about to happen, I can’t take my eyes off Darth Vader.
With fantastic direction, suspenseful editing, and a beautifully haunting score from John Williams, the redemption of Darth Vader takes the top spot as my all time favorite scene from the Star Wars saga!
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