For all of its mythic storytelling, visually splendorous space battles, and rich space fantasy world-building, Star Wars has one massive problem: its villains. While they look incredibly badass and usually have an air of genuine menace about them, they fold like a house of cards when push comes to shove. The Last Jedi showed us that it’s okay for our heroes to disappoint us, but the same cannot be said for its villains. While this problem isn’t endemic to every Star Wars villain—Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt, and Emperor Palpatine, for example, have satisfyingly crafted narrative arcs—it is unfortunately the case that so many otherwise awesome-looking villains in the galaxy far, far away wind up being deeply disappointing.
Let’s start with the O.G. lame-o: Boba Fett. How do you mess up a bounty hunter with a jetpack, a rocket launcher (depending on which action figure prototype you have), and a flame thrower? By having him be so bad at his job that he gets dunked on by a blind guy and knocked into a Sarlacc Pit where he basically becomes Schrodinger’s Fett. This armored dingus excelled at looking cool, and little else. He’s so genuinely bad at what he does that we had to make a video about it.
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Or how about Boba Fett’s spiritual successor, Captain Phasma? SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi, but the First Order’s resident chrome-armored ass-kicker once again gets trounced by a lowly sanitation engineer-turned-stormtrooper, with an assist from the galaxy’s most powerful ball droid. (Seriously, BB-8 is basically droidus ex machina.) You’d think that after being shoved into a trash chute in The Force Awakens, she would get a modicum of revenge in The Last Jedi. But no, Phasma is dropped to a fiery death, thus thoroughly and completing wasting Gwendoline Christie so that Finn can have a victorious, smiling moment where he’s proud to be “rebel scum.”
But the ignominy doesn’t stop at people with cool armor; it extends to what are supposed to be the most sinister villains in all the galaxy far, far away: the Sith. Darth Maul’s arc in The Phantom Menace is basically one-and-a-half lightsaber battles before unceremoniously getting chopped in half and dropped to his supposed death. Sure, he got robotic spider legs later on in The Clone Wars TV series, but the movies set up an incredibly cool character, only to cut him down in his prime with little-to-no narrative payoff. And speaking of little-to-no narrative payoff, Supreme Leader Snoke! After spending months obsessing over whether he was a tallboi or a smolboi, Snoke turned out to be just a sneering, arrogant doofus with a skin condition. He demonstrated incredibly robust Force powers, bridging minds across the universe and reaching out through a hologram to turn General Hux into his personal rag doll, only to get cut in half by his moody young apprentice. While it may have been a pivotal moment for Kylo Ren, it still feels like Snoke was given short shrift and far too much time was spent building up his mystique to get done dirty like that. With Episode IX around the corner, the new Star Wars trilogy has to start whittling down its expansive cast of characters, but there are more effective ways to do it than abruptly pulling the rug out from beneath characters it spends an entire film building up.
Make your villains more wily and less Wile E. Coyote, and it will go a long way towards serving the grand tapestry you’re weaving across nine movies. No one will complain about a movie that has too many excellent villains, but they will complain about one in which the baddies are genuinely bad at what they do.
What do you think? Does Star Wars have a villain problem or are you fine with such gross incompetence when it comes to bein evil? Let the Sith hit the fan in the comments below.
Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).