Rumors are flying about which character, or group of characters, will be the antagonist in Star Wars Episode VII. The Sith Lords have always been the classic villains, but would it really be best for them to appear in the next film?
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Too many Sith dilute the mystery and power of the individuals, something that many fans felt afflicted the Fate of the Jedi book series. Sith can become too powerful too quickly, or become one-dimensional villains who only want to take over the galaxy.
The Star Wars movies have always been about the Force-sensitive Skywalker family, though, and through them, the Jedi as a whole. In both “Legends” and canon, Jedi reign supreme.
Maybe this is why there are so many Sith antagonists. Pitted lightsaber against lightsaber, Sith and Jedi are diametrically opposite – but not drastically different in terms of the powers they can use. They’re evenly matched and clearly distinguishable, and who can resist the sights and sounds of lightsabers clashing?
But there are a lot of them. The movies stuck pretty closely to the “Rule of Two,” under which only a Sith Master and Sith apprentice exist, but it gave us many villains, as Darth Sidious rapidly switched between apprentices — Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Darth Vader. Darth Maul was even resurrected in The Clone Wars. Force-sensitive villains appear repeatedly in the Expanded Universe, from the Lost Sith of the Fate of the Jedi series to the dark Force users in the Dawn of the Jedi comics.
Luckily, the trilogies also contain classic villains who can’t feel the Force, and which, some fans believe, make for more compelling stories. Grand Moff Tarkin is a good example of a villain who was at the forefront of the conflict but wasn’t shooting lightning out of his fingertips.
Alas, it seems almost inevitable that JJ Abrams will continue the Star Wars tradition of using a Sith villain or two in Episode VII. But they don’t have to be alone. These villains can be inspired by, but not replicate, the ones already seen in the Expanded Universe.
Here are seven types of villains who terrorized the galaxy and could claim fame in the new trilogy – without hokey religions and ancient weapons.
Sometimes, it seems like there are only so many occupations in the universe. Smuggler, bounty hunter, crime lord, and Jedi are all jobs with very specific lifestyles in Star Wars.
Characters like Boba Fett, Zam Wessel, and Embo have just as much visual flair and attitude as the Sith do, with more varied backstories and motivations. Part of what made Boba Fett so cool was his mysterious armor, and the impression that he had come from a far-away region of space to find reluctant employment with Vader.
Bounty hunters also come custom packed with one purpose – collecting the bounty. They have unique weapons that are every bit as dangerous as a Sith’s lightsaber. If Episode VII is going to dig into the seedy side of the galaxy, one or a group of bounty hunters might come along for the ride.
The Yuuzhan Vong, the driving villains behind the New Jedi Order series, were one of the most unique Star Wars villains fans had ever seen. They came from the outer reaches of the galaxy – space that had never been explored by Star Wars writers before. The Yuuzhan Vong were so far from being Sith that they couldn’t even be sensed through the Force. And they ransacked the galaxy, almost defeating the Jedi for good.
A completely new species allowed the writers of the New Jedi Order to invent a religion, technology, new species of animals, and the mannerisms and traditions of the Yuuzhan Vong. Some of their habits were shown, but never entirely explained. If J. J. Abrams wants to shake up the Star Wars galaxy, he could create a whole new race that interacts with the Force in a unique way, putting a twist on the light side vs. dark side dynamic.
The Mechanical Muscle
General Grievous is one of a few non-Force-sensitive characters to use lightsabers – four of them, which could have looked like clumsy overkill without the creative fight choreography in Revenge of the Sith. Episode VII could introduce new characters who may use lightsabers without feeling the Force.
Grievous is one of the central villains of The Clone Wars, and holds his own against Force users well enough that one might think he’s Force-sensitive. He even has a collection of lightsabers from Jedi he has killed.
A character like this in Episode VII would be brutal and single-minded, whether operating solo or in service to someone else. A creative design like Grievous’ could look even more memorable if created by the kind of practical effects J.J. Abrams is utilizing. Durge from The Clone Wars is another example of a creature who can stand up to Jedi through muscle alone.
General Grievous foreshadowed what Darth Vader would become in Revenge of the Sith. The cyborg’s injuries were so severe – and his reconstruction so complete – that he is left as little more than a brain and a knot of organs. Just like Vader literally lost his humanity, Grievous lost his identity as a vicious but honorable Kaleesh warrior. This theme of bodily reconstruction linking to moral challenges continues into Return of the Jedi, when Luke realizes how alike his mechanical hand is to Vader’s robot limbs. Someone has to lose an arm in Episode VII – maybe it, or a mechanical monster of a villain, will add to that theme.
The Mandalorians aren’t always the villains. The “Legends” universe sometimes portrays them as a loving culture. Knights of the Old Republic showed Mandalorians both good and bad – both merciless and steeped in an armored militant tradition. They were the cowboys, the gunslingers of a galaxy thrown into a civil war. The Star Wars: Son of Dathomir comic showed that an armored Mandalorian army can do a lot of damage. And, they bring lots of toys, too, such as jet packs and grappling hooks – great for action scenes in the new trilogy.
One of the most popular villains of the Expanded University is the subtle, cultured Thrawn. Like General Grievous, he existed within a web of Force users like Mara Jade and Joruus C’Baoth, but he wasn’t their servant. Instead, he commanded his own forces on his own power. With his military discipline and appreciation for high culture, he existed somewhere between the organized cruelty of the Empire and the traditions of the Sith.
Another mastermind like this could be a direct foil to either a Jedi character who rushes into things without thinking, or one who plays the galaxy like a chess game.
The Qreph brothers from the novel Crucible were also cerebral villains, using their plans rather than their fists to fight the Jedi.
Thrawn believed in the Empire, but not in the same way as Vader, or for the same reasons. He recognizably displayed elements familiar to the Star Wars universe without repeating them exactly, and this helped to make the Thrawn trilogy a series which many fans say best replicates the feeling of the Original Trilogy. Episode VII certainly could use a cerebral villain to do that.
Pilots and Pirates
Imagine a pirate fleet that strikes with deadly force and then disappear into hyperspace, highly skilled guerrilla fighters among the stars. Or, imagine a squad of Imperial TIE pilots in their characteristic black helmets, unable to let go of their loyalty to the Empire.
Motivated pilots or pirates could put up a fight against the Skywalkers, and be all the more impressive for holding their own against Jedi.
Sith often lend themselves to one on one combat, but a pilot would have no compunction about shooting someone from the sky instead. Make this pilot an individual with an agenda, and you’ve got a specialized assassin more faceless than Vader and more agile than Grievous – as long as they have their ship.
In a way, crime lords are the most successful villains in the Star Wars universe.
They’re always present in the background of bigger stories, from Davik Kang in Knights of the Old Republic to Viest in Razor’s Edge. And let’s not forget Jabba the Hutt. Empires and Jedi Temples rise and fall, but the crime lords remain.
Many Star Wars stories have portrayed crime lords who replicate the exotic opulence of Jabba’s palace. Viest shakes things up a bit and runs an entire pirate space station.
Crime lords have none of the grandiosity of the Sith and are content to claw on to one part of the galaxy instead of conquering thousands of systems, but they’re undoubtedly villains. They come in all shapes and sizes, but are also a ready-made enemy for fans sick of Sith.
Are there any other villains you’d like to see in Star Wars Episode VII? Tell us in the comments!