The expanded Star Wars canon isn’t known by many aside from those that, in the tradition of the Jedi and Sith novice, seek it out for enlightenment. Series upon series have been slowly piled on top of three initial movies that still muster a following far beyond mere fandom—a pop-culture religion, ripe with saints and martyrs. Even abusing the originals with horrible add-on CG (thanks, Lucas) couldn’t spoil the magic for my brother and I when we watched their theatrical re-release just before The Phantom Menace launched. We cling to our mainstream heroes and villains from that first trilogy. They sparked the storyline for the prequels (following a younger Obi Wan and Anakin Skywalker), gave emotional depth to Episode 7 (Han’s demise, Leia’s loss), and made powerful cameos in Rogue One (Vader’s slice n’ dice aboard Leia’s ship, various uncanny plastic-faces).
Vader (of episodes 4-6) is especially special to us. It’s the black helmet, the cape, the strut and thrumming voice. He seems reserved, but can lash out with anger. He commands quiet authority, but beneath it all is a simmering rage that we only get momentary glimpses of. He’s almost corporate—impatient with excuses and results-driven.
I’ll admit that I was always more of a Luke fan—especially when Luke gets his shit together and shows up at Jabba’s palace in black, ready for a brawl. But I understand the overwhelming love for a villain you can cheer for. The only problem I have now, after even fractionally expanding my understanding of the broader Star Wars universe, is that there are Sith Lords in the lore who offer so much more than Darth Vader
Darth Revan wasn’t my first thought when I wanted to write about this, but he did come quickly to mind. There is only one Revan book, with the rest of his narrative (placed nearly 4000 years before episode 4) being told in the Knights of the Old Republic video games on Xbox. He was a Jedi who had been kicked out of the the order after going rogue and nearly wiping out the Sith entirely. He then turned to the dark side with Darth Malak, and rebuilt the Sith into a powerful army. Later, after getting back the memories of his former Jedi life, he re-joined the side of good and tried to kill the acting emperor.
If by only perusing his page on Wookieepedia, Revan’s is a tale worth knowing. I suspect that in the Sith world, where relics of dead Sith masters are the highest form of treasure, Kylo Ren’s eerily imitative mask might have even been a quiet homage to Darth Revan.
The man I really wanted to talk about is the hulking, brutish, yet insanely tactical and patient Darth Bane. For his entire story, look no further than a trilogy of truly awesome books (penned by Drew Karpyshyn) that outline his beginnings as a debt-shackled miner, to Sith initiate, and finally as a rampaging, unstoppable Sith Lord. He single-handedly wiped out the Sith army at the climax of their war with the Jedi, seeing the Sith as a weakened version of what the order used to be. Subsequently he instituted The Rule of Two, which stated that there could only ever be two Sith at a time: one master and one apprentice—one with power and one who would crave to take it for their own, always striving to become stronger.
The trilogy features a kind of coming-of-age or awakening for Bane as he learns about his innate abilities, defies his own masters and then eventually tears them down. The latter stages of his story show a side of the Sith we’ve only seen in the main canon through Emperor Palpatine: devious guile mixed with brilliant planning. The Jedi react to disturbances and keep the peace, while the Sith have goals in mind that might take generations to achieve—time is rarely a factor so long as they can ultimately win.
While I do appreciate the original George Lucas trilogy for its inventiveness, Episode 7 for its endearing heroes and enraged villains, and took both good and bad things from Rogue One, the movie trilogy my heart is really set on won’t likely ever be made. Vader had his hands full with a half-trained Luke, while Darth Bane and his apprentice took on three battle-hardened Jedi masters and a Jedi knight at the same time—in an era that saw the Jedi at the height of their fighting prowess. All the hallmarks of a good movie series are present in Darth Bane’s tale: massive space conflict, alien worlds, loyalty turning to backstabbing, hardship into triumph. And it has a stunning twist ending which I don’t dare spoil.
Through it all Darth Bane oozes badass. He’s Darth Vader on steroids. He doesn’t fly around in the protection of a Star Destroyer, tasking minions and keeping an orderly army. He’s hands-on with his problems, often solving them with wit or fiery violence. He and his apprentice work alone—and sometimes against each other—to begin dismantling the entire Jedi order, paving the way for Palpatine’s future place at the head of the galaxy.
While we’ll keep trawling the waters of the original trilogy for any bankable substance, be it the new young Han Solo series, or a rumored bounty hunters movie that will feature Boba Fett, Darth Bane is the villain-to-love that we really deserve to see on the silver screen.
The ultimate problem might be in where Darth Bane comes from: The older canon. In 2014, after Disney purchased Star Wars, LucasBooks informed us that the expanded universe was being severed. Over time they’ve begun to warm up to some of those stories again (they sure didn’t stop selling the books), but that initial split likely damaged the possibility of reaching back into the older canon for storylines to be used in modern films—unless, I suppose, if they changed them (Disneyfied?) and added their own twist. That kind of meddling would tarnish the brutal nature of Darth Bane’s story.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Disney has begun their sprint with the Star Wars franchise, but I also recognize the tightrope of quality and correctness that they navigate with each project. So maybe it’s for the best—at least get out and read the books if you can. I’ve only just started easing into the expanded universe and am already feeling happily engrossed.
Header image credit: Wookieepedia