The year was 1999, I was 15 going on 16 finishing up my Sophomore year at the now closed Rich East high school in Park Forest, IL. Once home to the Rockets. Fun Facts, former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges and actor Tom Berenger are among our alumni. Growing up, my father always let his disdain for Star Wars be known whenever I asked about it. He said it was boring and silly. My dad liked Arnold Schwarzeneggar. He raised me on films like Terminator, Predator, Aliens, and Robocop. Violent films that were action packed were a staple of my childhood. Simply put, Star Wars was nowhere to be found in my in my household growing up. I did know of it. I knew of the Jedi and Darth Vader. I actually had a 12in Darth Vader figure that had a red light saber which I loved.
Let me paint a picture of what my world was like in 1999. Pop culture was all about edginess and shock value. Denis Rodman had just finished his run with the Chicago Bulls and brought the “weirdness” of things like cross dressing and face piercings right into our living room. WWE was battling WCW for pro wrestling supremacy. Degeneration X was running rampant all over WWE telling people to “suck it” with their infamous crossed hand thigh chop thrusting antics. Hard hitting alternative rock was at the forefront of cd sales and MTV. Limp Bizkit were at the height of their popularity with songs like “Nookie” and “Rearranged.” Korn came in and dropped their album titled “Follow The Leader.” Everything screamed, I WANT TO BE THE BAD GUY! Even Brett “The Hitman” Hart said in his documentary regarding his rivalry with Stone Cold Steve Austin, America just wanted to play the villain. For those of you who might not know or remember, Stone Cold was not your typical “good” guy in professional wrestling. He drank beer, cursed, gave the middle finger, and routinely had problems with authority - mainly with WWE owner Vince McMahon. After years of Mario, Zelda, and saving the princess; nerds became tired of the trope. We wanted to be the villain or at the very least, villains were now the new cool. I know I felt it. Even today some of my all-time favorite characters include Eric Killmonger, Agent Smith, and Deadpool (not a villain but definitely fits the edgy criteria).
It wasn’t until 1999 when the new Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace was to be released that I became infatuated with the franchise. I remember seeing the first photo of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Padme on the cover of Vanity Fair and thought to myself, my dad was right, this looks lame. Then the trailer came out and Darth Maul was revealed with only maybe 2-3 seconds worth of footage but I immediately was intrigued. The trailer revealed the dual sided lightsaber, his black and red face paint, and his horns. He looked like a bad dude and fit exactly what I was into at that moment.
The movie itself didn’t do much for me. In actuality, some might be surprised that Phantom Menace was the movie that lured me into the Star Wars world. I had big issues with midichlorians, just seemed weird even for an outsider. This did become a major issue with many fans and was pretty much shut down in the later movies. Another issue was with the portrayal of slavery in general by George Lucas. The planet wasn’t under Republic rule yet Qui-Gon couldn’t take Anakin’s mother because why? Is stealing a slave inherently worse than slavery itself?? JUST TAKE HER WITH! Ah, the foundation of my many ,many Star Wars arguments and discussions around the Jedi were probably founded in that very moment.
Why did I like Darth Maul? He just looked like a bad ass villain for one. With his deep, brooding voice and fiery eyes. His black hooded robe also fed into the insinuated bad assery that is Darth Maul. Two, his fighting style. How could you NOT love the acrobatic martial art style of Ray Park. The way Maul handled the dual edged lightsaber with such fluidity during his fight against the two Jedi put me on the edge of my seat. Even to this day I feel like he’s the better combatant whenever I watch it. Some argue that it was his overconfidence that doomed him. At the time of the movie's release, nothing came remotely close to the choreography of the fight between Maul, Obi Wan, and Qui-Gon. I would argue even today, that it’s at least the number two lightsaber fight scene right next to Episodes III’s Anakin vs Obi Wan (minus the silly behind the back unnecessary swinging of the lightsabers). I haven’t seen Ahsoka vs Darth Maul at the time of this writing but I’m willing to bet that it will be debated for many years. I also think that the Opress/Maul vs Sidious in Clone Wars would be in my top five.
The last item I will add is the song Dual of Fates. That song just resonates every time I hear it. Everytime I hear that song, I can see Darth Maul holding his lightsaber horizontally while each red blade extends itself.
Sidenote: I always found it interesting that Obi Wan had the low ground and defeated Maul yet when he battles Anakin he exclaims that he has the high ground and warns him not to attack.
Darth Maul had a surprisingly small role in Episode 1. According to IMDB, his total screen time is only six minutes. SIX MINUTES. Darth Maul only speaks two lines in the entire movie for a total of 31 words. I believe this is what led my allure of Darth Maul. We wound up seeing so little of him yet what we did get was the most epic lightsaber battle we had ever seen.
After the end of Episode I. I felt short changed. I wanted more of Maul. Where was he from? How did he become a Sith apprentice? This was 1999 mind you. We didn’t get any canon specific on screen Darth Maul until Clone Wars Season 4 in 2012. Almost 13 years later. 13 years. 13 YEARS people! That being said I’m very happy with the Darth Maul content we’ve been given in Clone Wars and Rebels. I also really enjoyed the non-canon items like Star Wars: Resurrection where Darth Maul battles Darth Vader or Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir where he battles Count Dooku and the Separatists. I’m incredibly excited for this final season of Clone Wars.