On Poetry, Prose, and Videogames

JLawrence Kenny

Maniacal Monday: Darth Maul, from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

on August 22, 2011

Star Wars is highly regarded as the Holy Grail of the entire Science Fiction genre. George Lucas created a highly diverse universe, populated with countless worlds, species, and technologies, while also managing to throw a healthy dose of fantasy in the mix. It has even become self-sustaining, as the Star Wars series has expanded far beyond the 6 movies that Lucas created as numerous writers have written novels from millennia before the story to millennia after. And out of these stories, many evil villains have arisen. From the original movies, however, the villain that stood out most to me was the evil Zabrak Sith, Darth Maul.

Recruited by Darth Sidious from his home planet of Dathomir, Maul was trained from a young age in the ways of the Sith. Maul quickly learned to use the Dark Side of the Force from his new Master, and soon grew a reputation for ruthlessness and pure hatred, though he maintained a sense of honor, respecting those opponents he deemed worthy. (Though his respect was limited to granting them quick, painless deaths rather than long, drawn-out ones) Count Dooku, Darth Sidious’s second apprentice, called Maul nothing more than a savage beast, but this savagery contributes to his character, making him an even more frightening villain, as there was never any chance for reason with him; only battle and death.

Doesn't get much more terrifying than this, readers.

Like the rest of his Sith brethren, Maul wears a long black cloak to conceal his identity and appearance, and for very good reason, as his visage is quite terrifying to behold. Though his structure is the same as a normal human, Maul’s bald head boasts a set of vestigial horns. A tribal pattern tattoo covers the majority of his face, his skin is blood red, his hateful irises a sickly yellow tinged with red, and his ever-present grimace exposes rotten teeth. The result of all this gives Maul the appearance of none other than the devil himself, enhanced by an expression of malice that never seems to leave his face. While according to Lucas, all of these traits are common in the Zabrak race, with variations in horn size and skin and eye color, Maul is still imprinted on the consciousness of many Sci-Fi lovers everywhere as one of their worst nightmares. In my opinion, Maul’s visage is even more frightening than Darth Vader, as Vader’s suit tends to diminish his humanity to the point where we can no longer associate with him, whereas Maul is both young and visible. It serves as a visual reminder of what we could become if we chose a path of evil rather than good.

Flying in style. Evil style.

Aside from the Force, Maul also demonstrates an affinity for technologies. He pilots a specially-made starship known as the Sith Infiltrator, and a small hovercraft called the Bloodfin, both of which are sleek and stealthy in design, allowing him to pass through space without drawing attention to himself. He also crafted his lightsaber in an uncommon double-bladed design – called a saberstaff – which gave him an edge in most duels, as the opponents he encountered were not expecting such a weapon. Though unwieldy, and quite dangerous to himself if used incorrectly, the saberstaff was effective as a weapon, and at provoking fear in his opponents. Like all Sith blades, it glowed red, reflecting both his skin tone and the Dark Side of the Force.

With his saber, Maul is like two enemies in one, so it's a fair fight.

In the story, Maul is sent by his master to eliminate the two Jedi – Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn – who are protecting the Queen of Naboo as she attempts to thwart a criminal blockade of her planet. He first encounters them on Tatooine, engaging Master Qui-Gon in single battle. However, Jinn escapes, leaving Maul behind to follow them until he encounters the duo again when they return to the planet of Naboo. This time, Maul faces both Jinn and Kenobi at once. Throughout the battle sequence, it seems as though Maul is remaining on the defensive, as he keeps falling back further and further from the assault of the two Jedi, but in reality, he is leading the two of them to a battleground of his choosing, a small reactor room accessible only by a series of laser force-fields. Using these barriers, he manages to separate the two Jedi, and manages to kill Qui-Gon Jinn right in front of Kenobi’s eyes. When Kenobi rushes in to attack, Maul easily outmaneuvers him, causing him to fall into the reactor hole, though he manages to hang on to an outcropping along the wall. It is at this point that Maul’s honor turns against him, as he toys Kenobi before attempting to finish him off, which gives the young Jedi ample time to leap out of the hole and slice Maul in half, ending his reign of terror prematurely.

John Williams Is The Man!

The battle sequence also contains what is probably my favorite song in the entire Star wars franchise, entitled “Duel of the Fates.” It is an amazing score that opens with a choir singing in Sanskrit, the words of which translate loosely to, “Under the tongue root a fight most dread, and another raging behind, in the head.” The lyrics illustrate the fights that occur, not only in physical form, but in the mind as well, whether it be Force power against Force power, or the psychological battles that people wage within themselves as they make split-second decisions on which way to parry, strike, and counter, as well as how they feel about the battle. The instruments trade off the melody, leading to bombastic brass moments as the conflict gains in intensity, quiet strings as the fight reaches a lull as they change battlefields, and even a number of staccato measures that could signify the clash of the weapons against each other. Whatever the exact intentions behind the music, one thing is for sure; it adds plenty of musical drama to a scene that requires it, and makes Maul seem even MORE menacing, if that were possible.

Here's another picture, just for good measure. Damn, he's scary.

Unfortunately, Maul’s quick demise meant he did not leave a lasting impression on the plot of the series, besides illuminating the Jedi to the existence of the Sith after millennia of supposed extinction. Due to his limited time on-screen, Maul tends to fade from the memory of many Sci-Fi lovers, though he has spawned a series of books chronicling his tutelage under his Master, and I feel that such a terrifying character deserves more recognition. And so, I applaud Maul for reminding us of the evil that lurks inside all of us if we didn’t do our best to restrain it every day. Keep on scaring us, Maul.

Next Week: Artemis Fowl, from the Artemis Fowl book series

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