I shared my personal history with Star Wars back in December last year just before Rogue One came out. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading it (and I’m sure you’ll want to if you haven’t) you’ll know that what originally got me into the series, was happening upon the duel between Darth Maul, Qui Gon Jinn, and Obi Wan Kenobi. This scene from Episode I: The Phantom Menace was awesome to watch and introduced me to a series that I’ve come to adore since.
The general consensus seems to be that the Star Wars prequel trilogy had some cool moments but ultimately would not match the originals.
But that’s not what I’m taking about today. Today I want to discuss a particular character in the first Star Wars film who people seemed to agree was perhaps one of the best characters there, giving us an action scene that was awesome to watch.
We’ve mentioned him already, so you likely know who I’m talking about:
Introduced in Phantom Menace and played on set by martial artist Ray Park, Maul was perhaps one of the most promising aspects of that film. He had a distinctive look, a skilled warrior and wielder of a double bladed lightsaber, and also had very few lines. The result was a character that very few could criticise, and gave viewers an enjoyable ten minutes at the end of Episode I.
And then he died. Oh spoiler alert by the way..
Yeah, if there were any criticisms regarding Maul, his death was probably one of the biggest. I count myself among those who believe that he could have been used as a character for much further than his limited appearance in one of the more disappointing films for Star Wars fans.
Consequently, in the nearly 18 years since Phantom Menace was first released Darth Maul has left quite the legacy in Star Wars‘s Expanded Universe. Imitations of the character, previous missions he partook, and eventually revived in the Clone Wars series, ensured that he would continue to enjoy attention from the Star Wars community.
For myself, there are some particular stand out moments for Mr Maul that I thought would be fun to go through together.
Darth Maul vs Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) July 1999
Most who know about Star Wars and Darth Maul will at least know about this duel; from the moment the Naboo hanger doors open and the dramatic music begins to play, you know that you’re in for a good time. And for good reason; it had an excellent display of lightsaber and martial arts combat, showing that lightsaber battles had come a long way since the days of the original trilogy. And the music? Duel of the Fates is a fantastic score by John Williams that had continued use in the other prequel films.
But for all intents and purposes, the “Duel of the Fates” is a great demonstration of action and drama told through music.
Darth Maul vs Darth Vader (Star Wars Tales 9: Resurrection) September 2001
You ever wonder who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and Darth Maul? Well, that episode of the Death Battle series on Youtube was sadly never made (though they did have Vader vs Batman, that was cool… but I digress) but in 2001, Star Wars comics provided us with an answer. The plot is essentially an excuse to have these masters of the dark side go up against one another. However, its still a pretty cool duel, demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses of both dark lords, leading to a satisfying conclusion.
Oh and for those wondering, it takes place on a lava planet… not the one in Episode III… there are a lot of lava planets. Reading this in 2001, the concept was awesome, one of the few times in Star Wars where they did these sorts of “who would win” scenarios.
There’s not as much I can say about the duel itself shown here; its yet another demonstration of how powerful Maul is. But what I will talk about is the amazing job the creators did in bringing this film to life. All fan made, all acted out, computer-generated and boasting excellent cinematography. They did fantastic work, and you should definitely watch it.
The Shadow Collective Arc (Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5) September 2012
Maul’s resurrection in The Clone Wars TV series was.. interesting to say the least. Giving us a hand waving “saved by the power of the dark side” excuse that I read more as “saved by a bunch of fans.” This isn’t complaining, by the way, especially when it led to the Shadow Collective Arc in Season 5. Maul returns to seek revenge on the Jedi, his Sith master and.. well everybody really, allying with Mandalorian Death Watch leader Pre Vizsla, Maul and his brother Savage Opress recruit the most powerful criminal factions in the galaxy to take control of the planet Mandalore. Maul’s success in gaining significant power in the galaxy is something that’s cool to watch, with him able to intimidate the various factions that doubt him, manipulating Mandalore into accepting him as leader, a fight to the death with Pre Vizsla. And the last two are worth mentioning; exacting revenge on Kenobi by striking a blow emotionally to him, showing that Maul does possess a great deal of cunning.
And finally… there’s the last duel; Darth Sidious against his former apprentice is one of the best duels the series has ever done. Though its cliffhanger ending would never be resolved until…
Maul vs Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars Rebels: Twin Suns) February 2017
Having Maul back is great and all, but even he could not last forever. This drive for vengeance that he constantly has can only go so far. And it shows in this recent episode of Star Wars Rebels. Maul in Rebels describes himself as ‘lost,’ something which really comes across in his appearances in the series. He is searching for something he knows he can never have again; a purpose, a reason to exist anymore. This leads him back to where it began; Tatooine. There, he encounters old Ben Kenobi, an enemy that was a target of his revenge for decades.
The result of this is a showdown in the desert. Although its resolution was controversial to many, I feel this was perhaps the best way to end it; a stand off that shows more in its actions (while limited) rather than their words or flashy lightsaber martial arts. A lot of effort was put into how this duel played out, and I for one am satisfied with what they did with the time that they had with these characters. Its thematic, both of how far they’ve come and how much they’ve lost.
Maul was a character that had a lot of impact; perhaps not as much as the likes of Vader or Luke or others but he was part of the story nonetheless, a story that did try to include him in more material than his limited film appearance.
I do recommend checking these pieces out in addition to others that I may not have mentioned, such as the book Darth Maul: Lockdown, or the ongoing Darth Maul comic series or some of the other materials that I’m sure that I’ve missed.
Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you.