Photo Credit: [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story]Lucasfilm
2. Darth Vader boards the Tantive IV
Though the character says nothing and does little, Darth Vader’s first appearance in A New Hope is incredibly powerful.
In it, Vader and a group of Stormtroopers board the Rebel starship Tantive IV in search of the stolen Death Star plans. Vader’s unit encounters heavy resistance, and several Stormtroopers are killed in the initial conflict. Ultimately, the Imperial forces succeed in seizing control of the ship.
After the Stormtroopers secure the perimeter, Vader makes his appearance. Unusually tall and dressed in all black armor, he immediately cut the striking figure. And his ominous inhuman breathing makes Vader feel viscerally unsettling.
The greatness of Darth Vader’s first appearance is due to how information rich it is. The way the attack unfolds, it’s clear that he’s the raiding party’s leader. For one thing, Vader allows his lower ranked subordinates to bear the brunt of the enemy’s fire.
He doesn’t board the Tantive IV until the coast is clear. His importance within the Imperial military is further confirmed by the fact the Stormtroopers immediately form up on Vader upon his arrival. And by his indifference to the dead bodies surrounding him, the film makes it clear that Vader is as callous as he is powerful.
With that one 30-second scene, A New Hope’s audience gains a lot of crucial information about the villain of the piece. And everything suggested to the viewer about Vader in his introduction – his tactical acumen, his lethal temperament and his monumental cruelty – would be confirmed by his actions in the rest of the film.
Truly, Darth Vader’s introduction is one of the most economical pieces of character work in modern film history.