After confirming Darth Vader would be in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the question for filmmakers like director Gareth Edwards and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy instantly became, well, how much will he be in the movie? From very early on, they repeatedly cautioned that use of the Sith Lord would be judicious - he'd appear, but it would be much more about the threat of Darth Vader than him being physically on the scene.
That played out well, by all accounts, with a menacing scene and a shocker of a scene for the character in the film, landing on just about every fan's top spot for best moment of the movie. But while Darth Vader was fearsome while he was on the screen, his most terrifying moments were when his threat was felt but his presence wasn't.
SPOILERS Ahoy as we explain those scenes...
Bodhi Rook meets Saw Gerrera
When Bodhi Rook, the former Imperial pilot who has defected thanks to the influence of Galen Erso, heads to Jedha to deliver Galen's message, he looks for Saw Gerrera. The extremist Rebel leader and his people live up to their reputations, with his thugs dragging Rook in as a prisoner, instead of a defector and informant.
But Rook takes that all in stride - they're just being cautious, they're nervous, and he's still wearing an Imperial uniform, after all. When he actually meets Saw Gerrera, his demeanor changes, however. He thought Saw would be the reasonable one, and that Galen Erso's name would carry weight.
Instead, Saw stared at him blankly, drawing an oxygen mask to his face and inhaling. The sound of his deep, labored breaths clearly mimicked that of Darth Vader, and Bodhi's face sunk and turned pale. His fear of just the sound of Darth Vader's breathing was palpable. He may have only heard stories, or heard Vader's breathing once, but the fear was real, and impactful.
No Jedi Left, Only Dreamers Like This Fool
This one is a little more obtuse, but when Baze Malbus confirms that Chirrut Îmwe isn't a Jedi, he goes one step further, saying there are "no Jedi left." The line is common knowledge to Star Wars fans, of course, but it's also probably the most desolate line of the entire film. We'd seen the crumbled Jedi statues on Jedha, but here we have a couple of Rebel soldiers looking for that precious Hope, and Baze tears it away.
How is Vader's threat felt here? Well, he's the one who tore the Jedi apart, and he and his Inquisitors hunted them down. It sure feels like this line is poignant to fans of Star Wars Rebels, where there are two Jedi left and in the Rebel Alliance just a few years before Rogue One takes place, as well.
Lord Vader Will Handle The Fleet
One of our favorite lines in the entire movie comes from Grand Moff Tarkin. When asked if the Death Star should begin targeting the Rebel fleet, he waves it off. In a stunningly casual manner, he says simply, "Lord Vader will handle the fleet."
Take a step back from that statement and think about what it really implies. As far as the Empire knows, the bulk of the Rebel Alliance fleet has arrived over Scarif. Their superweapon is on site and fully operational - but no, we can ignore all those ships attacking our ships and the shield gate because one single individual is on the case.
That is a terrifying notion, and one that Vader has proven time and again is the case. In both the novel Lords of the Sith and in Star Wars Rebels, he's taken on entire squadrons of star fighters single-handedly; though neither of those was a fleet. Tarkin's complete confidence in him getting the job done shows just how much Darth Vader should be feared, even more than any Force choke could.