Set immediately before the events of A New Hope, Rogue One is a beautifully-crafted Star Wars adventure. Among other things, it added a new layer of intrigue to the character of Darth Vader. For the first time in Star Wars history, we saw his home - the Sith Lord's castle on Mustafar!
Welcome to Mustafar
This is concept art published in The Art of Rogue One, and in an interview with StarWars.com Doug Chiang - Lucasfilm’s VP and executive creative director - spilled the beans on the design. Put together all the details, and you get one of the most fascinating additions to the #StarWars canon, with some beautiful twists on the overarching mythology.
Visually, notice that the building looks something like a tuning fork. Even as the concept artists toyed with this idea, director Gareth Edwards began to explain it:
“Well, maybe the structure is built this way because it is like a tuning fork. It’s tuning the dark side in terms of the energy.”
This became one of the most important visual elements of Rogue One. Cast your eyes to Jedah, for example, and you'll see the tuning-fork design again; but this time it's in white, representing that Jedah was tied to the Light Side of the Force. The idea that buildings can be designed to shape, enhance, and manipulate the Force is nothing new; you can see it in the design of the Jedi Temple in the Prequel Trilogy, for example. But the idea that a building can somehow be tuned into the Light or Dark Side is an extension of that. I strongly suspect that this is something the franchise will go on to explore in the future, especially with Jedi Temples possibly figuring in Episode VIII.
Why Would Vader Live Here?
Fundamentally, Darth Vader's home was based around the Bacta tank. As we know from The Empire Strikes Back, immersing yourself in Bacta promotes healing and regeneration. It makes perfect sense that Darth Vader, whose body was ravaged on Mustafar, would bathe in Bacta in an attempt to heal. The experience of soaking in Bacta is an uncomfortable one; the experience of drugs and Bacta result in people experiencing reality in strange, almost hallucinatory ways.
Now imagine Darth Vader's experience; no doubt he would combine bathing in Bacta with Force meditation. With his fortress enhancing his connection to the Dark Side, no doubt Vader would emerge from the Bacta more powerful in the Force than ever.
It would make sense for Darth Vader to base himself on Mustafar. This world has so much meaning for him - it's the planet where he was reborn, courtesy of his old master Obi-Wan Kenobi. But there's another reason for Vader choosing to base himself on Mustafar.
The Sith Cave
The Original Trilogy was heavily shaped by Ralph McQuarrie, and one of his classic designs showed Luke approaching the Emperor - with Palpatine seated on a throne in a vast lava lake. Although we don't see this location in Rogue One, it was incorporated into the overall design of Vader's home!
The idea is that Vader's home is an older structure, one that he's heavily adapted to his own purposes. The ancient structure was designed partly as a dam, and draws power from the lava lake beneath it. Going even deeper, though, is a cave - one steeped in the power of the Dark Side.
Of course, we know from The Empire Strikes Back that a location can become powerful in the Dark Side - on Dagobah, Luke entered a cave and experienced visions of the Dark Side.
"That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go."
"What's in there?"
"Only what you take with you."
In the old Expanded Universe, we learned that a location becomes tainted by the Dark Side by the actions - and deaths - of Dark Siders. We have no way of knowing if that particular element of the Expanded Universe has carried over into the new canon - not yet - but so far, people, places and principles have been carried over into the new canon pretty seamlessly. So it seems to be a pretty certain bet.
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The depth of detail in Rogue One is tremendously impressive. Although we only see it briefly, Darth Vader's home is perhaps the most fascinating new addition to the Star Wars canon - and, personally, I think it's one with so much potential. We're sure to see this location explored in more detail in the future of the Star Wars franchise!
Do you want to see more of Darth Vader's home?
(Source: StarWars.com, Poll Image Credit: Lucasfilm)