Since he was first introduced to audiences in 1977, Darth Vader has become one of the most recognizable and iconic movie villains of all time. In the original Star Wars trilogy, he’s basically the Emperor’s attack dog, inspiring fear not only in the Rebel alliance, but in his own men, especially since he doesn’t take bad news well. Just ask Captain Needa.
Vader had countless appearances in various Star Wars media since then, including the prequel trilogy, tie-in novels, comic books, video games, and television shows, and the character’s popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. You need look no further than the fan reaction to his terrifying corridor slaughter scene in Rogue One for proof of that. However, as intimidating as he looks (and sounds), there are still a few chinks in his armor, both metaphorically and literally. Here are the 15 Weaknesses You Didn’t Know Darth Vader Had. Many Bothans died to bring you this information.
15. Luke Skywalker
A bit of an obvious one to start with, but it’s important to stress just how affected he is by his son. After the destruction of the first Death Star, Vader gets obsessed with finding Luke and turning him to the dark side of the Force, noting that he could be a powerful ally. However, is that really the case? Luke is strong with the Force and has great potential, but it’s likely that Vader’s deeply buried compassion for his son is the driving force behind this.
In the third act of The Empire Strikes Back, Vader and Luke clash, but Vader is merely toying with Skywalker, testing his abilities and his suitability for a role as his new apprentice. As Luke’s powers weren’t fully realized, Vader could have easily dispatched him, but chose not to. During their showdown in Return of the Jedi, it could be argued that Vader is pulling his punches again, still clinging to the hope that his son will join him. It’s only when he sees the Emperor cruelly frying Luke with lightning that Vader finally snaps, hoisting Palpatine over his head and sending him careening into a seemingly bottomless abyss. While this moment is Anakin Skywalker’s final triumph, it’s also Darth Vader’s ultimate failure, as Anakin returns to the light and redeems himself.
14. Emotional instability
Anakin Skywalker doesn’t have his emotions in check, which is a big problem for anyone training to become a Jedi master. As you’ll recall, fear, anger, and hatred are all paths to the dark side, and Anakin has these three traits in spades, bubbling just beneath the surface. There are countless examples of his barely-contained rage, but perhaps one of the best is his confrontation with politician Rush Clovis in the Season 6 Clone Wars episode “The Rise of Clovis”.
Rush Clovis has a history with Padmé Amidala and goes to put the moves on her. His advances are rejected, but Anakin happens to walk in as he’s trying to steal a kiss. Skywalker sees red and ignites his lightsaber, but Clovis (for some fool reason) challenges him to a fistfight. Rush is a talented fighter, but he’s no match for Anakin, who easily overpowers him and proceeds to beat him into submission. At one point, Anakin has the helpless Clovis grounded and is pummeling him until Padmé’s cries eventually get through to him and he stops himself. Clovis is lucky to escape with his life, and the whole ordeal shows how dangerous Anakin can be when the red mist descends.
His rage ends up leaving him with nothing in Revenge of the Sith, as he Force chokes Padmé and acts recklessly in his climactic fight with Obi-Wan, resulting in him losing several limbs and burning up next to a lava flow on Mustafar.
Anakin and the Jedi way of life never really gelled. He was a brave and skilled fighter and unusually strong with the Force, but he lacked several key elements that would make him a wise and venerable member of the Jedi Council. One of which was arguably his ego.
In his revealing outburst to Padmé in Attack of the Clones, after the death of his mother (oh, we’ll get back to her), he blames the situation on Obi-Wan, calling him “jealous” of his abilities and lamenting that his master is holding him back. He starts ego-tripping hard, saying that he’ll become the most powerful Jedi ever. While the Jedi do have incredible power, there doesn’t seem to be much ego in their work. They’re servants to a higher cause and seek to bring balance, rather than to be robed rockstars who do whatever they want. Anakin’s frustration with his lot seems to drive him down a darker path that he would never truly recover from.
12. His suit
We all know that Darth Vader’s suit isn’t just battle armor, but also a life-support system to keep him breathing. While it looks all kinds of badass, it’s also basically a prison for Anakin. He is able to remove the suit for short periods of time, as seen in Rogue One when he’s shown floating in a Bacta tank, but he must always return to his oppressive and often painful armor to stay alive.
The suit is clunky and it limits Vader’s movement. One of the biggest changes from when he’s a young man to when he’s Lord Vader is that he had to adapt his fighting style to accommodate his new housing. This is one of several reasons given to explain the difference between his acrobatic, flashy moves in the prequels to his strong, grounded, and methodical style in the original trilogy. Being electrical and mechanical, the suit is also susceptible to damage and malfunctions, as evidenced in his fight with former apprentice Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars Rebels and at the end of Return of the Jedi. If you were unlucky enough to face Darth Vader in a fight, going for the very suit that keeps him alive would probably be your best bet.
11. Self hatred
Hatred is a good thing for a Sith. Self-hatred, maybe not so much. Vader is a conflicted soul, and there are numerous instances both in the non-canonical Legends stories and the new continuity that hint at his turmoil. On the surface, it’s pretty understandable. In his mind, he failed to protect his mother, basically killed his wife and former friends, as well as betraying his brother-in-arms and mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In the novel Rogue Planet, the young Padawan learner Anakin seeks counsel with Mace Windu. Windu states that Anakin throws his spirit and anguish into machines and “pointless competitions” instead of confronting his true feelings. Mace advises him to look inward, to which Anakin replies he doesn’t want to, because he doesn’t like what he sees. In the comic Star Wars Tales, Vader takes on a clone of Darth Maul. After a tough battle, Vader eventually triumphs by plunging his lightsaber through his own body and stabbing Maul standing behind him. The Zabrak manages to choke out a question: “What could you hate enough to destroy me?”, to which Vader simply replies “Myself”.
In the new canon, specifically Rogue One, it transpires that Vader has built his home on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, the same place he was left to burn and die. He clearly has issues if that’s the place he chose to hang his helmet. His hatred of himself is almost certainly one of the reasons that he eventually turned back to the light side.
On paper, the Ysalamiri don’t seem like much of a challenge to the Dark Lord of the Sith. However, these fuzzy lizards have a unique property that would certainly weaken Vader in a fight. The Ysalamiri generate a bubble around themselves that blocks any Force energy manipulation. Grand Admiral Thrawn, crafty devil that he is, once attached a rig containing these creatures to himself and his men when he went up against Dark Jedi clone Joruus C’baoth.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm, most of the Expanded Universe stuff went out the window, but Grand Admiral Thrawn was brought into the new canon. A sculpture of several Ysalamiri can be seen in Thrawn’s office, with one shot in particular (seen above) framed to look like the creatures are perched on his shoulders, as a nod to his past escapades. Whether or not the Ysalamiri will make an appearance in future Star Wars adventures remains to be seen, but we can hope. They’re pretty cool.
It’s tough to tell where Anakin’s arrogance comes from, be it naturally occurring or molded by Palpatine’s influence, but he certainly is just that. Once he’s plucked from Tatooine, he’s basically told that he’s the fabled chosen one from an ancient prophecy and must deal with that in his own way. He’s a gifted warrior, no argument there, but he has an inflated view of his place in the Jedi Order, and he’s always trying to run before he can walk.
His arrogance leads him to make costly mistakes, like in his duel with Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones. He underestimates Dooku and charges at him before he and Obi-Wan can coordinate their attack. Dooku shocks Skywalker with Force lightning and throws him to the side, leaving him in a crumpled heap. He later regroups and attacks with two sabers, but it isn’t long before Dooku bests him again and lops off his right arm. Vader’s complacency can also be seen in his fight with the older Obi-Wan in A New Hope. Despite Kenobi warning him, Vader strikes him down and Obi-Wan becomes a much better ally to Luke in death than he ever could in life. The fact that Vader didn’t see this coming is indicative of how blind his arrogance can make him.
8. His lust for power
Even from his earliest days, Anakin has been drawn to power. Perhaps it’s due to living and working as a slave, but ever since he was visited by Qui-Gon Jinn, he became focused on becoming powerful enough to go back home and free his mother and the planet’s other slaves from their captivity. However, once Anakin grew up learning the ways of the Force, he felt that he wasn’t powerful enough, so he vowed to be the most powerful Jedi ever, to stop people from dying.
It’s only when Palpatine offers him the opportunity to unlock his true potential does Anakin fully commit to breaking bad and becomes a dark apprentice. While kid Anakin wanted power for altruistic reasons, his desire is slowly corrupted by his complete fear of losing loved ones, and soon, Anakin sees it as the only way he can fix all of his problems. As we all know, this backfired on him a wee bit.
7. Father figures
Anakin didn’t have a dad growing up. In The Phantom Menace, Shmi Skywalker says “there was no father”. This fact, coupled with Anakin’s off the charts Force sensitivity, implies that he was immaculately conceived by the Force itself. Due to this, Anakin severely lacked a father figure during his boyhood years, unless you count the sleazy Toydarian Watto.
Once Qui-Gon takes Anakin under his wing, Skywalker finally has a strong male role model in his life. For a while, anyway. Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul, and the unenthusiastic Obi-Wan takes over mentor duties to fulfill a promise to his fallen master. Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship should be more fatherly, but in reality, they were more like brothers, complete with a sibling rivalry. When Palpatine approaches Anakin offering life advice and a sympathetic ear, Anakin soon starts trusting him way more than he should, possibly to fill the father-shaped gulf in his life.
6. His mechanical arms
Including Legends, Vader has lost an arm/hand a grand total of 7 times. Limb removal is kind of Star Wars‘ thing, but even with that in mind, 7 seems excessive. The first time comes in his battle with Dooku, and his metal arm is destroyed again in the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars series when he crushes a crystal powering a massive generator, sending out a huge shockwave that obliterates it and leaves a smoking stump. His arms are a recurring weak spot throughout the Star Wars stories.
Surely a cyborg arm would be an advantage in a fight, right? Well, yes and no. According to several novels, one of the reasons Vader can’t summon Force lighting is due to his unnatural metal appendages blocking the flow of the Force. His metal arm didn’t exactly endear him to the Jedi Council either, with several members believing Anakin had somehow lost some of his humanity when he was fitted for a prosthetic. The Jedi can be real dicks sometimes.
5. The Mind’s Eye
It seems hard to fathom now, but even while the movie was being made, most people thought A New Hope was going to flop spectacularly. Due to this, George Lucas commissioned a book to act as the basis for a low budget sequel using all the same props and sets as the first movie. This would turn out to be Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, in which Luke and Leia are trapped on a jungle planet and go in search for the titular Mind’s Eye, a powerful crystal relic that magnifies Force energy by a huge factor. In the novel, it’s referred to as a Kaiburr crystal, but it’s not to be confused with Kyber crystals, the central components of lightsabers in the current canon.
Vader and Luke have a climactic battle, and Luke uses the crystal to power himself up. Skywalker deflects Vader’s attacks and attacks him with speed and ferocity, cutting off his arm (seriously, Vader has all the limb attachment of a Mr. Potato Head) and beating him in a duel. Vader is so exhausted by the end of their fight that he stumbles and falls into a pit (spoiler: he survived).
4. He’s easily manipulated
Sheev Palpatine is cunning, no doubt about that. He managed to convince the Galactic Senate that he should be given all the power and none of the regulations. That’s impressive, if completely despicable. However, it doesn’t seem like he has to try particularly hard to convince Anakin to turn to the dark side.
All Palpatine does is tell Anakin what he wants to hear. Skywalker’s frustrated with the Jedi, and Palpy tells him that they’re fools who don’t see his true potential. Anakin doesn’t need much convincing to behead Dooku in Revenge of the Sith, and while he almost immediately regrets it, his old pal(patine) tells him it needed to be done. On top of all this, the Emperor tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis and his apparent ability to stop death, and Anakin is completely taken in by it. After Anakin kills Mace Windu and pledges allegiance to his new master, Palpatine states that together, they can unlock Plagueis’ secrets – a far cry from the absolute lock that Palpy made the whole death reversal thing seem to be earlier in the movie. Anakin is taken in by vague promises and once he’s committed, there’s no way back.
3. Padmé Amidala
Of course Padmé was going to be on this list. Anakin’s relationship with Padmé and his urge to protect her was probably one of the biggest pushes to the dark side that Skywalker ever got. For starters, relationships and marriage are forbidden by the Jedi code, the idea behind it being that attachment breeds fear of losing your loved ones. Anakin is so blinded by his love of Padmé that he forgoes the rules and marries her in secret, not knowing that he’s setting himself up for a huge fall later on down the road.
Anakin soon becomes fiercely protective of Padmé, and soon suspects that she may be having an affair with Obi-Wan. When he sees that Padmé has brought Kenobi with her to Mustafar, Anakin loses it and chokes her, later leading to her death in childbirth. He then attacks Obi-Wan in revenge and well…we all know how that turned out.
2. Force lightning
We’ve mentioned Vader’s inability to conjure Force lightning before, and it plays a crucial role in his eventual redemption and death in Return of the Jedi. When Luke refuses to give in to his anger, Palpatine snaps and tortures him with Force lightning from his fingertips. Vader is clearly conflicted by this, as he looks from his pleading pained son to the Emperor’s cruel expression. Vader does the right thing and throws the Emperor to his doom, but not before copping some serious voltage from the lightning, damaging his suit’s electronics and hampering his breathing.
Apart from his mechanical arms, the other reason given for Vader’s lack of lighting (at least in Legends) is that it would interfere with his respirator. This is certainly the case in RotJ. Although Anakin survives long enough to see his son with his own eyes, it’s clear that the lightning and the exertion of fighting Luke have had a grievous effect, and he dies soon after.
1. Shmi Skywalker Lars
Shmi Skywalker seems like a kind, loving mother. She must have had a tough job raising a gifted child into a life of slavery, but she managed to have instilled young Anakin with a sense of altruism and a genuine desire to help people. When Anakin is whisked off-planet away from his mom, things start to spiral downwards for him.
In Attack of the Clones, Shmi’s death at the hands of Tusken Raiders sends Anakin into a blind fury and he wipes out an entire village of them in retaliation. This is his first truly evil act, and it doesn’t get any better for him after that. When you compare all of the elements that made Vader who he is, it’s tough to overstate just how much of an effect Anakin’s relationship with his mother and his rage and guilt over her death had on turning him into the Dark Lord of the Sith. Considering that it was his separation anxiety that planted a seed of fear in the young boy, Shmi is probably his biggest (if not his most obvious) weakness.
What other weakness does Lord Vader have? Let us know in the comments.
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