Image Credit: Lucasfilm
On November 13th, 1998, the first trailer for The Phantom Menace dropped and audiences throughout the United States were taken aback by a shadowy, dark figure brandishing a crimson, double-bladed lightsaber: Darth Maul.
The Quick Demise of Darth Maul
By May, Maul was revealed to be the Sith Apprentice to Darth Sidious, the future Emperor Palpatine. But his style was far from what viewers had seen previously in Sith. Unlike the deliberate, imposing nature of Darth Vader or the cackling arrogance of the Emperor, Maul was a silent assassin. His acrobatic and relentless fighting style, paired with a plethora of force pushes and leaps would overwhelm his opponents’ defenses.
In single combat, Maul quickly dispatched a formidable enemy in Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jin. Forcing Jin on the defensive, Maul undercut the Jedi’s vertical strike with his own horizontally-oriented blade, causing the Jedi to momentarily lose his balance. In the same stroke, Maul twirled 360 degrees and impaled Jin through the chest. But like Maul’s master would learn decades later, his arrogance would soon lead to his own defeat. Just as Maul thought he had bested Jin’s Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the young Jedi leaped from his low-ground position and sliced Maul in half.
To most moviegoers, Darth Maul suffered an undeservedly quick end. Audiences never learned his motivations, where he was from, or anything meaningful about his character. By the end of the Prequel Trilogy, villains like Jango Fett, Count Dooku, and General Grievous made Maul an afterthought. Though none would survive through the end of the prequels, each villain was iconic in his own right.
Ironically, Maul would outlive all of them. Just as Darth Vader survived horrendous injuries at the hands of Kenobi, Maul survived his as well.