The Phantom Menace 25th Anniversary: The Vengeful Legacy of Darth Maul

25 years ago, the world was introduced to Darth Maul, an instantly iconic Star Wars character who has left an undeniable legacy on the franchise.
Darth Maul image courtesy of
Darth Maul image courtesy of /

25 years ago, in the summer of 1999, one sinister face was everywhere; this inescapable face was one of pure evil, red and black, horned, and with piercing yellow eyes. The devilish face described belonged to Darth Maul, the iconic villain of the hotly anticipated Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Like Darth Vader before him, Maul was a fearsome and aggressive villain, but unlike Vader, Maul possessed unrivaled athleticism and an awesome new double-bladed lightsaber. Most fans, like myself, would agree that Maul was the definite highlight of the film. Unfortunately, though, Maul has a relatively short amount of screen time in the 1999 film and quickly meets his "end" at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, disappointing fans who expected more from this fascinating new character.

For over a decade, Maul had yet to make another canon, on-screen appearance in Star Wars. That all changed in “Witches of the Mist,” the Season 3 episode of the 2008 animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maul was poised to finally make his grand return to the Star Wars universe. And that he does, as during the Clone Wars, in pursuit of vengeance and a lust for power, Maul rose from the dark depths of insanity among the trash heaps of Lotho Minor, conquered galactic crime syndicates like Black Sun, and finally, ruled the planet of Mandalore. His dark journey throughout the Clone Wars is legendary and, without a doubt, the highlight of the series, in this writer’s opinion. Maul is cunning and resourceful, and his rise to power is a thrill to watch unfold. Maul’s voice actor, Sam Witwer, brings the Zabrak to glorious life with his delicious, near-Shakespearean cadence; every word drips with overzealous venom.

Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) from Season 7 of Star Wars The Clone Wars /

In the follow-up series to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 2014’s Star Wars Rebels, in the season two finale, “Twilight of the Apprentice,” fans saw Maul many years later, broken and defeated, wandering and lonely, robbed of all his power.

Kanan Jarrus voice actor Freddie Prinze Jr. once described Maul’s journey as “Sisyphean,” recalling the mythic Greek tragedy of Sisyphus. For those unaware, Sisyphus was a murderous tyrant who, as punishment from the gods for deceiving them and cheating death, was forced to roll a boulder all the way up a hill only for it to come crashing down again. Sisyphus was doomed to repeat this process for an eternity in damnation. Like Sisyphus, Maul is a clever and cunning tyrant who is able to cheat death, but every time he gains power, he quickly loses it and is forced to start his bloody quest anew, each time with a renewed vengeance.

One thing that prevails in Maul throughout his entire life is his ultimate desire: revenge. Every single thing that Maul does is in pursuit of vengeance against the Jedi, against Obi-Wan Kenobi, and against the Empire. Palpatine had molded Maul into a vessel of pure vengeance. In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, after Darth Maul kills Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi Master, Obi-Wan promptly "kills" Maul. The Sith Lord immediately swears vengeance upon Kenobi. Maul makes it his life's mission to get revenge upon Kenobi, while Kenobi moves on with his life, contrasting the lifestyles of the Jedi and the Sith.

In Star Wars Rebels, Maul's true end is met in the season three episode "Twin Suns," where he is finally and truly killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi. In their climactic duel, Maul attempts the same move he used to end Qui-Gon Jinn's life, reinforcing the fact that Maul had never moved on from that fateful day all those years ago on Naboo. With absolute mastery, Kenobi swiftly dispatches Maul, showcasing that he has learned from his lifetime of mistakes, unlike Maul.

25 years ago, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace introduced an instantly iconic character that leaves an incredible legacy in the Star Wars saga. If you happen to be a Star Wars fan who has yet to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, you are absolutely missing out on the spectacular story of one of the saga’s most compelling and enthralling characters: Darth Maul.

Next. Phantom Menace is why I have 2 Star Wars movie ranking lists. Phantom Menace is why I have 2 Star Wars movie ranking lists. dark