Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is already making waves after the premiere at Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theater. Hollywood Boulevard was blocked off with a giant X-Wing and other Star Wars paraphernalia as thousands of fans packed the street to get a glimpse of the cast as they traversed the red carpet. While Rogue One is technically an anthology film, existing outside the episodic Star Wars franchise, there are still plenty of iconic figures in the film — chief among them being Darth Vader.
As far as the Star Wars timeline is concerned, the events of Rogue One take place between episodes III and IV; making Vader’s presence sensible. It was confirmed in early July that he would be in the film, and fans immediately wondered just how much of Vader there would be especially if the Rebellion hasn’t quite had a chance to find its footing. Another wonderful surprise was that James Earl Jones would be reprising his role as the most iconic voice in the galaxy.
There are several small tweaks to differentiate Rogue One from Star Wars, including no opening crawl, new fighters (The U-Wing for Rebels and the TIE Striker for the Empire), and even a new look to Lord Vader’s attire. In an interview with CB, Rogue One’s VFX supervisor and executive producer, John Knoll, lays out the details on why one of the world’s most recognizable characters looks a bit different. On building what he calls a “hybrid” look, Knoll also said:
“If you look in New Hope, especially that white corridor scene at the beginning, you can see all these smudges and all these fingerprints on there because it was cast from a clay sculpt. Then by the time we got to Empire Strikes Back, they made a new one that was really polished and smooth and shiny and perfect. The chest plate is different in every film. [For Rogue One], we matched more what the chest plate looked like in Episode IV, but a little bit more of the high polish that’s in Episode V.”
Later in the interview, Knoll admitted to taking some creative license in this latest version of Darth Vader, saying:
“I figure he’s got more than one version of those outfits. The reason the armor looks a little grungier and dented up in A New Hope is you’re not going to wear your nice armor into battle. You’re gonna wear your beater armor into battle. Then, if you’re going to go talk to the Emperor or something, you put on the nice shiny one, show some respect.”
Darth Vader’s entire presence in Rogue One was always meant to be a direct contrast to the Imperial’s logical thinking given they have no real understanding of the Force (yet). In that regard, Vader’s evolution via his “uniform” presents an opportunity for filmmakers and fans to have yet another tidbit that makes Rogue One a unique piece of the Star Wars puzzle.
By changing small things to major, recurring characters, Rogue One has the chance to exist within and outside of the existing mythology. With the film projected for upwards of a $300 million dollar opening weekend, surely there will be plenty of fans discussing Vader’s wardrobe change and what new meaning it could present for the original trilogy.