Going Solo: Darth Maul

Before writing my previous post – Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul – my intention had been to write this post. Wanting to discuss (spoiler!) Darth Maul’s incredibly brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I sat down to write but my brain had other intentions. Acquiescing to my train of thought, I ran with my imagination and wrote about how I think Vader should have killed Darth Maul in Revenge of the Sith. You can go read all about that (click HERE) but for now let’s chat about that surprising Solo cameo…

Soooooo, yeah, Darth Maul makes an appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. How about that? I dunno about you, but I DID NOT see that coming. As I watched the film, and it started to become clear that the film’s antagonist, Dryden Vos, was working on behalf of some shadowy figure, I was thinking it would end up being Snoke. Even up to the moment of Maul’s reveal, when he is contacted by Han Solo’s childhood friend Qi’ra, I believed we would be met by the face of the one-day First Order Supreme Leader. Never-the-less, seeing Darth Maul – and actor Ray Park reprising the character he brought to life in The Phantom Menace – definitely caught me off-guard.

As a die-hard Star Wars fan who has kept up with Star Wars stories across all mediums, it made complete sense that Darth Maul was the shadowy figure who instilled fear in the criminal Dryden Vos. After all, The Clone Wars animated show resurrected Maul from his bifurcated death and elevated him to the status of underworld crime lord. In The Clone Wars, as many of you may know (but some may not), Darth Maul unified a coalition of terrorists and criminal organizations under his authority, in turn using his nefarious organization to take control of the planet Mandalore. Maul’s actions – with the assistance of his brother Savage Oppress – launched him into galactic relevance, making it necessary for the Jedi, and his former Sith Master (Darth Sidious), to take him seriously as a threat. Following The Clone Wars, the four-part Son of Dathomir comic continued his Clone Wars era story-arc, while E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel showed that Maul’s grip on the planet Mandalore was strong even at the wars end. As well, Maul once again re-emerged in Star Wars Rebels, a menace to the Lothal rebels with his life finally coming to end on Tatooine when he confronts, and is killed by, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

maul
A very broken Darth Maul in The Clone Wars. I discuss how he survived his death in my post Cheating Death: The Dark.

Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 21, “Brothers”

While I was surprised to actually see Maul onscreen, I was otherwise unsurprised he was the “phantom menace” directing the actions of Dryden Vos. Having kept up-to-date with Maul’s story-arc, and knowing his criminal dealings, it really made complete sense. That being said, following my first viewing of Solo, I could not help but ask myself: for someone who is more of a casual Star Wars fan, who is only interested in the movies, were they surprised, or perhaps even confused, to see Maul? After all, for those individuals, their experience of Darth Maul would have begun and ended with his introduction and death in The Phantom Menace.

Luckily, I was able to ask two of those “movie-only” Star Wars fans, my neighbors, when I got home from my first viewing of Solo. As I stood outside chatting with them, I asked for their thoughts and they acknowledged that they left the movie theater feeling confused by Maul’s appearance. As I explained that the Sith Lord was resurrected in The Clone Wars, and noted that his story has continued beyond that, one of my neighbors (Sara) said something which caught me off-guard: that she is less likely to watch Star Wars movies in the future if the story is just going to be changed in tv shows, books, and comics. 

While her feelings are specific to her experience, I could certainly, sympathize and understand what she was saying. While I really like Darth Maul’s post-resurrection storyline (…with the exception of his demise in Star Wars Rebels…) I can also admit that I was incredibly annoyed by his resurrection in The Clone Wars. Even though Darth Maul is only in a small amount of The Phantom Menace he was never-the-less an exceedingly important part of the story. We knew, in the film, that Maul was serving Darth Sidious, executing the machinations of his Master. While Sidious had to stay behind the scenes – he is “the phantom menace” – Darth Maul revealed himself to the Jedi as a threat they were clearly unprepared to face. And, when he is sliced-in-half by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – making it pretty damn obvious that Maul was killed – the Jedi are left to wonder: which Sith Lord died, the Master or the Apprentice?

Maul's Death in TPM
The face of a Sith Lord who was just bisected. It’s reasonable to think he just died.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As it turns out, neither died.

While I have since grown to appreciate Darth Maul’s post-resurrection arc, and definitely understand his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story – knowing as I do all the nuances and baggage that goes with it – I can also understand and appreciate why my neighbor felt confused and unhappy. For her, and certainly for many others, the Star Wars films represent the pinnacle of Star Wars. For them, the movies, and only the movies, are what matter. Period. Full stop. They are uninterested in TV shows, comic books, novels, video games, precisely because Star Wars is a series of films. And, as a result, suddenly seeing a character you thought was dead – without any explanation what-so-ever regarding how he survived being cut in half – is undoubtedly annoying and off-putting. Which leads me to this:

I really believe that cameo should have been Snoke, not Darth Maul. The connections that could have been made between Solo and the Sequel Trilogy with a small cameo by Snoke would have been incredibly profound and forward-thinking, while simultaneously ensuring that movie-only fans like my neighbors were not left scratching their heads. But I will hold off on offering my “Snokey” thoughts in any greater detail for now, and you can just wait for my future post on the topic – Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about Darth Maul, his story-arc, and his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. AND, be sure to check out all of my other Darth Maul posts (just put his name into the search bar). 

11 comments

  1. When I first heard Darth Maul was being resurrected on ‘The Clone Wars’ I stopped watching the show for awhile. Honestly, I thought it was dumb. I’ll never forget seeing him split in half as he fell during my first screening on TPM and thinking, “Wow…Lucas REALLY wants us to know he’s not coming back.” I was a little upset at the contrived attempt to bring him back just because he was a “cool” villain they wanted to do more with. If this was the best the show could do, I thought, I’m out. As you know, I’ve since watched all and loved most of the remaining episodes of ‘The Clone Wars’ and I’ve come to appreciate what they’ve done with Maul since then. Still, the shadow of my first frustration at his return remain.

    I can see the problem with putting him in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story.’ When I first started reading the EU as a kid, I did so because I loved Star Wars and I wanted more. I didn’t do it because I needed to understand the films. I know there’s a certain type of Star Wars fan who will claim it’s the individual viewer’s loss, if they don’t read/watch it all and will see nothing wrong with Maul’s appearance. They would fault the viewer and not the filmmaker for frustration, confusion, or disappointment with the cameo ending. But I feel their is a degree of pretension there, of arrogance. You put it perfectly above. The films should stand on their own. Everything else should add to (and not contradict) the films. But if you need to read/watch a bunch of other things just to “get” the movies, then they’re betraying a large segment of their audience.

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  2. The films absolutely should stand on their own, and any cameos to non-film elements should really be little asides and nods. They shouldn’t be fundamental plot points. I mean, it is a pretty big deal that Darth Maul appears when Qi’ra decides to take over the Crimson Dawn and leave Han behind. That ain’t nothing. And here is the thing – I am fine with Maul being there IF, in the film, they address HOW he is still alive so people can get caught up. Don’t presume your audience has knowledge. With him popping up like that – literally out of nowhere – then take a few seconds more to elaborate on his back story. Give the audience a reason to say “I thought he was dead BUT what they just said makes sense and I understand that he is alive.” Even if the audience isn’t given everything (how he survived, what he has been up to, etc.) they will at least be able to accept that they didn’t just magically bring him back just for that moment (which is what it feels like they did).

    Beyond that, there is now an expectation – even I have it – that they will run with Maul and Qi’ra on the big screen. Imagine if Qi’ra heads to Dathomir to see Maul (which is what Maul orders her to do) but they decide to throw THAT story into a novel instead of a movie. How mad are people like my neighbor Sara and her partner Caren going to be? Pretty damn mad I can imagine. It would be insulting to have Darth Maul make that cameo, tell Qi’ra (she is pretty damn important to the plot of Solo) to come to Dathomir, then just leave movie-only fans hanging…while simultaneously telling THAT story in novels. Even I will be annoyed if they do that. Honestly, I think they have boxed themselves in on this and they sorta have to give us Maul on screen again so as to finish the Maul-Qi’ra story. If they don’t, well, I wouldn’t blame Sara and others for walking away…

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  3. Hmmmm interesting thoughts! I definitely had some friends who were “movie only” fans that were a little confused or thought the timeline was super weird (thinking this story would have taken place before TPM). Once they understood what had happened, they appreciated it though. I think Snoke would have been cool; but I appreciated it being Maul because I love the prequels (grew up on them), and we don’t see much of the prequels anymore. I think it also gives the more casual fan a chance to say “Hey! Maybe the animated shows would be worth watching. Obviously some pretty cool stuff happens in them!” (I will add I thought it was super dumb that Maul wasn’t dead though at first because I felt like it was a copout for killing a super popular character, but I got used to the idea after a while).

    If the character HAD been Snoke, I think it would satisfy a lot of fans’ obsession with knowing more about this character. However, I didn’t feel like Snoke was the “crime boss” sort of character. (But I guess you wouldn’t think that about Maul either). But I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this!

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    1. I certainly didn’t mind Maul’s appearance, given that I like him and appreciate his story-arc, but older fans like my neighbors were just plain annoyed by it. I think SW needs to be thoughtful about the characters and situations they reference and bring into films, doing so with fans in mind who really have little clue what is going on. It is easy for me, as a more die-hard fan, to accept cameos like Maul’s, but for a very large majority it is undoubtedly far more confusing than appreciated. That isn’t to say they can never insert such cameos, just that if they are going to do so again they need to add a bit of context (in film) to help the general audience have a better understanding. My neighbor Sara made the point that if she has to go to a book or novel or tv show to understand what just happened in the movie she paid to watch, she would rather just not pay to watch the movie. I can’t blame her.

      As for Snoke, I don’t disagree with you. He isn’t a crime boss. But then again, neither was Maul until the creatives turned him into one. My real thought on Snoke, though, is that they could have created some interesting and easy connections with the Sequel while simultaneously framing Han’s story with Snoke as a backdrop to it. I’ll expand on that in the post I plan to write.

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  4. The only time I ever liked resurrected Maul was when he played with Ezra’s mind in Rebels. I loved the Season 2 finale.

    That said – I think it could have easily been played by someone else, a different character, and didn’t have to be Darth Maul. Which leads me to TCW. Though the TCW storyline was interesting and I ended up riding along with a lot of it, I still think it could have been played by a different character. I am firmly in the camp that Maul never needed to return and as Michael mentioned – Lucas wanted to make it very clear he wasn’t coming back at the end of TPM.

    The largest struggle for me is how big of a hand Lucas had in TCW which means he 100% approved Darth Maul returning. And I always try to defer to the Maker, but I still really struggle with that decision. Yes – I think it was a mistake he was killed off so early in TPM, but it is what it is. Backpedaling annoys me to no end, but that is also probably my very literal, forward-thinking personality as well.

    But onto your subject – I do completely agree with the Snoke cameo being 10x more relevant and cooler. And for fans who only watch the movies, this throws in a total wrench. I remember my friend’s husband saw it and kept telling me, “Oh my God, the ending, it just BLEW MY MIND! You’re going to be shocked!!” So I was expecting something very different. I left the theater thinking, “What was he talking about? What was the shocker?” And then I realized – he was referring to Maul! But he didn’t know that Maul had been resurrected so for him, it blew his mind. I never got to ask, however, if he wondered how he was able to come back life.

    I think you’re right – they shouldn’t throw something like that into a movie unless they are going to take the time to explain. I read online somewhere that they are going to try to explain it for new fans in the new TCW series/saved episodes/whatever. But that still is only a television medium and doesn’t help with the casual moviegoer fans. It’s a bit of a shame because if they continue down this road then less people will want to see Star Wars movies because they’re afraid of not understanding something larger.

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  5. I have not watched any of the animated Star Wars series (except a handful of The Clone Wars- I love Ahsoka) so Darth Maul threw me for a loop. While I didn’t hate the reveal, I was confused and thought it was an obvious set up for a sequel, so people would want to know what happened next with Maul & Qi’ra.

    I look forward to your future thoughts on Snoke!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are right, it does feel like an obvious set up for a sequel. And, if that sequel doesn’t come in movie form, it will sorta feel like they are intentionally leave fans out of the loop. My thought is that the big cameo was supposed to be setting up his return in a sequel film with Qi’ra, but given the way Solo did at the box office, I can’t help but imagine that there is some serious hesitation to do a follow-up Solo film. Suppose we will see what happens.

      On the Snoke note, I am hoping to write that soon. The beginning of volleyball season has completely killed my writing this past week BUT things are finally settling down now that tryouts are over. Onto my Snokey thoughts!

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  6. Hi IT,

    I liked the twists. I see why they did it, but I do see your neighbor’s concern. Disney is trying to broaden the Star Wars universe snd connect them in the Marvel story arc style. I hope they might take a step back and ask are they doing this to make money or make great stories. If it is the latter then I suggest less is more. Make the fans hungry, not so fat and sassy.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    On Sat, Jul 28, 2018 at 7:20 AM The Imperial Talker wrote:

    > Imperial Talker posted: “Before writing my previous post – Talkerverse: > Vader Kills Maul – my intention had been to write this post. Wanting to > discuss (spoiler!) Darth Maul’s incredibly brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars > Story, I sat down to write but my brain had other intentions” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I liked and definitely understood the twist as well. I am just very aware of Star Wars on such a deep level that I cannot help but wonder how lost some people may end up being at times. It bothers me to think that there are other fans who enjoy Star Wars but feel left out because they don’t participate in the ancillary material. I would much rather the movies be self-contained, with minimal details from all the other materials being necessary for their enjoyment.

      Or, to put it differently: I think the movies should direct all of the other materials, but the other materials should sparingly influence the movies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, if Lucas Arts and Disney get that the key is great-storytelling above generating the cash flow it would put the fire back into fandom. That is our prayer.

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