There were a lot of atrocities committed in the name of the Star Wars prequels — like good taste, and coherent storytelling. But among its most heinous crimes is squandering a perfectly good creation. Darth Maul, a character so savage in design but elegant in execution that his role in the prequels feels like punishment. His design is unmistakably ‘90s but he belongs in greater canon. Like in a video game, which we’ll never have.
Like Boba Fett from the original trilogy, his death in Phantom Menace just created more demand for the character which resulted in loads of comic books, a novel or two, and a significant role in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. And even a professionally-made fan film where Darth Maul fights Spider-Man. (Yes, someone actually made this.)
But he almost had a video game, to make up for an all-too-brief eight minutes or so of screen time.
Almost, because even after attempts to resurrect the project, it’s going nowhere. Dan Borth, the founder of Red Fly who was tasked with the project before its cancellation in 2011, recently tried to salvage it in light of The Force Awakens and Disney’s overall vested interest in Star Wars media. Disney and Electronic Arts haven’t really responded.
When asked why they’ve continued working on the game long after support had ceased, Borth replied:
“The best analogy I can make is that we dated this girl, we really loved her, we broke up, we’re heartbroken, and we have this little candle on for her forever, and we know it’s probably not going to work out, but we’d like to ask her out one last time. And we’d like her to say, ‘No. Dan, stop. This is never going to happen.’ At least for our sanity’s sake, we can move on. What happened with the whole [cancellation], nobody told us anything. They didn’t tell us anything. So if you are like me and I hope you aren’t – that would drive you nuts.”
Weird metaphors aside, the proposed (and untitled) Darth Maul looked great. Borth says to Game Informer that it has improved since, but this early build shows an idea how it was shaping up to be.
It is questionable why neither Disney nor Electronic Arts appear interested in a Darth Maul game. Is he too violent? (The game was purported to lean towards an M-rating, as Maul would decapitate and slice up tons of dudes.) Borth also laments this, believing Maul is so much more deserving than what he’s been portrayed as on film.
“Look at what Disney is doing with Marvel, and look at what they’re doing with the [Star Wars] stories in the comics. They would know what the best story is for Darth Maul. Whether they agree with me or not, I don’t know, but in my opinion the most powerful story is his origin story. I really like the stuff they did in Clone Wars. You have these characters in the films who really aren’t explained or written too well, and then the Clone Wars writers made them interesting … Obviously it’s not up to me or Red Fly, but if this project ever gets turned on again, I think their instincts for story and character would make the best product.”
Darth Maul sucks in The Phantom Menace. Not because actor Ray Park performed him horribly — Ray Park was great — or because he looked goofy, though looking like a Juggalo at a New Jersey Devils game is hilariously nineties. He sucks because he was too good for Episode I. He is such a promising character, so full of potential, that in a movie that is so broken in its plotting, writing, and filmmaking, Maul deserves more. A video game would have been that right amount of more, to succeed the legacy his impression left on a generation of Star Wars fans who were actually introduced because of the prequels (an admission many millennials will never make).
But we can’t have nice things. Except maybe a good Star Wars movie again.