Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983): Darth Vader’s skeleton is briefly visible from several different angles when struck by the Emperor’s lightning. Many artificial components are visible, including his mechanical right arm, a respirator, and at least 3 replacement vertebrae.


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Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983): Darth Vader's skeleton is briefly visible from several different angles when struck by the Emperor's lightning. Many artificial components are visible, including his mechanical right arm, a respirator, and at least 3 replacement vertebrae.



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  1. See the linked article for near-pedantic levels of analysis of the scene, including testimony from medical professionals as to the extent of Vader’s injuries and what it tells us about the function of his suit.

    What’s interesting about this is that the injuries shown here are consistent with later films in the saga, with one notable addition. Return of the Jedi (1983) shows that Vader’s missing limbs are replaced with mechanical components, and are consistent with the injuries later shown in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Return, however, also shows significant evidence of a severe upper spinal injury which is never shown onscreen. This injury is remarkably severe, and would confine a normal person to a wheelchair. Per the link:

    >At C-3 spinal nerve (the last level intact after a complete lesion of C-3 vertebrae) the maximum functional capacity the patient would have would be talking, chewing, sipping, and blowing. Respirator is required, with a full-time attendant for the patient. The patient may obtain locomotion with an electric wheelchair that has chin controls or other modifications. This is the level I estimate Vader’s injury occurred.

    This scene tells us a lot about the function of Vader’s suit and of the medical knowledge available within the Star Wars universe in general. The suit serves the functions of respirator, locomotive wheelchair, and prosthetic all on its own, reflecting the severity of Vader’s injuries which would only be shown onscreen 22 years later in Revenge of the Sith.

    Personally, I thought this was a remarkable detail that showed how much thought went into Vader’s character. Having seen Return literally dozens of times, I was aware of the skeletal effect from the force lightning, but unaware of the modifications made to a normal skeleton to reflect the extent of Vader’s injuries. It’s also a neat thing to see how consistent these known injuries are with what wouldn’t be shown onscreen for another 20 years – one might say this detail in Return actually elevates Revenge somewhat when it comes to consistency.

  2. When you add twenty or so years of accumulated injuries to what befell him on Mustafar, it really hammers home just how much he relied on all that tech.

    "He’s more machine now than man…"

  3. This scene was fucking amazing.

    Vader is defeated. Luke will not turn. The Emperor decides, he must be destroyed.

    Vader looks at Luke being electrocuted. He starts off feeling nothing. This must be done. One Master. One Apprentice.

    Luke pleads. Still nothing. Luke writhes in pain.

    Vader looks at the Emperor. He then looks at Luke. Then the Emperor.

    Then he looks at Luke one final time. Look at Vader’s head. It’s tilted. Each time before he looked at Luke with a straight head, the same way you would look at a bug on the ground.

    When he finally decides to save Luke, his head is tilted, the way you would look at a child in a crib, his child.

    Despite being a mask, despite having no emotion to speak of, no facial cues to follow, you can see the crushing moment when he decides to no longer be a monster, and sacrifice himself for his child.

    It’s that tiny head tilt that speaks volumes.

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