Darth Vader always looked like he was wearing a virtual reality headset in the Star Wars movies, so one supposes it was only a matter of time until he became a VR icon.
That time is now, or at least sometime soon, depending on production schedules. “When we looked at all the characters, places, and worlds in the Star Wars universe available to us, we asked ourselves, ‘What haven’t we seen before? Who are we curious about?’” Dark Knight trilogy writer David Goyer said at last weekend’s Star Wars Celebration. “Darth Vader is the perfect ambassador to usher us into the Star Wars VR universe.”
we all already live in the Star Wars VR universe
To an extent, we all already live in the Star Wars VR universe. It is so large we don’t have to put it on or take it off. It is simply all around us, a never-ending range of product placements and synergies and brand expansions that we will never escape from. Look, a theme park! And another! And George Lucas’s museum—provided someone gives him planning permission. Having to put on a headset would only formalize this state of affairs.
But, for the sake of balance, a positive interpretation: There are many different ways to expand a franchise. You can tell more of a story (the current Star Wars strategy); you can tell the same origin story over and over again (Batman, now and forever); or you can tell the same story from a different point of view. In generous terms, that could be what Darth Vader’s VR entry into the teeming Star Wars universe offers.
Audiences know the basic contours of the story well enough at this point, but early films offer a specific point of view. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) sought to redress this (gender and racial) imbalance by introducing a raft of new characters. This could just as easily be achieved by telling the same stories through different eyes. At some level, everyone believes they are the hero of their own story. This, in all likelihood, is not the plan for the Darth Vader VR project, but wouldn’t it be interesting if it were.