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Why Disney Won't Give Darth Maul His Own Movie

Darth Maul — or Maul, as he would later be known — is a Star Wars character that captured a lot of imaginations when he first appeared in The Phantom Menace. He has a very distinctive appearance, including a red and black face and a dual-ended lightsaber, and he was a fearsome foe for Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. While it appeared that he died in the prequel trilogy, fans later discovered that there was much more to his story, as he showed up in Star Wars properties as varied as Solo and The Clone Wars. Maul not only had a complex history before he ever entered the scene in the prequels, he also has a complex story beyond that, from his beginnings on his homeworld of Dathomir to his death on Tatooine. 

But despite all that, it seems very unlikely that Disney will ever give Maul his own feature film. Why would the studio purposely avoid honoring one of its most popular characters with a standalone big-screen adventure? There's more than one reason, as it turns out. Here's why Disney won't give Darth Maul his own movie.

Maul pre-dates Disney's influence on the franchise

Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and quickly moved to reinvigorate the franchise. While fan reaction to the work that has come after that purchase has been mixed, it's true that the support of Disney's deep pockets has led to a resurgence of Star Wars movies and TV shows, from the newest trilogy that The Force Awakens began to shows like The Mandalorian on Disney+

The prequel trilogy lives in a complicated place, as it arrived after the initial popularity of Star Wars when it began in 1977 and before the purchase of Lucasfilm. While Disney has continued to feature popular original trilogy characters like Luke, Leia, and Han, many of the characters currently featured by Disney on the Star Wars front tend to be newer ones that were not involved in the prequels at all. Disney clearly wants to run the Star Wars franchise in their own way, and while the work of George Lucas is both important and necessary to the franchise, it's also pretty simple for Disney to ignore the parts that they don't care about as much, regardless of what fans want. Disney has a vision for the future of Star Wars, and they may not be as invested in Maul as others might hope.

Maul's backstory outside of the feature films is complex...

If you're not a hardcore Star Wars fan, you may have been surprised by the notion that Maul didn't die in the prequel trilogy. There are a lot of places you can go to read the details of Maul's story if you're interested (here's one), but suffice it to say that it's complicated. 

Maul not only at one point builds himself a bunch of legs out of trash, he later gets cybernetic legs that his mom builds him. And he creates a bunch of different crime syndicates over the years that serve various purposes. His backstory is rich — which is awesome if you want to retell that. But the story is already told and so it may not make sense for it to be retold in a feature film format. 

In order to tell a new story featuring Maul, how would Disney approach what he has been through over the course of his life? Not all Star Wars fans have watched all the animated series or read all the comics, and that could impact both how understandable a Maul film would be and interest in the film itself. But if Disney decides they must do a Maul film, that complex history does have an impact.

Maul's story would need to be completely re-told for a feature film, wasting time that could be used to establish a new story

The best way to do a Maul feature film would likely be to tell the most important parts of his life story up to the point that a new story would take place. Depending on when in Star Wars history that film was set, it could take quite a while to tell the relevant bits of Maul's history. That leaves less time for the new events that would theoretically be the point of the film, and that can be really complicated from a storytelling standpoint. Do fans want to sit through 30 minutes of history that's accessible in other formats to see an hour or so of new content? And, on the flip side, would that be accessible enough for new viewers? There's a fine line to walk there that would likely have diminishing returns for Disney. It's easier for them to focus on characters whose backstories are more well-known or create brand new characters that they can establish on their terms. Certainly a compelling story could be told by rehashing all of Maul's story that has already been told in other formats, but is it worth Disney's time and money (and fans' time and money) to do so?

The extended universe of Star Wars (and thus most of Maul's story) is of interest to a limited number of fans

Star Wars fans come in all shapes and sizes, and have varying levels of devotion to the franchise. There's nothing wrong with being a casual fan of the Star Wars universe, any more than there's anything wrong with being a fan that tries to know that universe inside and out. The truth is, though, that many Star Wars fans don't know everything about the saga beyond the movies. For those fans, while Maul is a visually arresting character who seems pretty tough, he's also given a fairly limited amount of screen time across a couple movies and never seen again. His story is there for any who want to discover it, but it would be a gamble for Disney to invest money in a feature film focusing solely on the character based on how little he's been seen in the main movies (and, again, given that he wasn't created on the studio's watch). A lot of fans don't care to dig deeper into the extended universe for a variety of reasons and are still able to enjoy the films that come out. A Maul film would be a harder sell for those fans because, again, they don't know about his backstory and may not be as interested in seeing it onscreen.

Maul is a dark character with no real redemption arc.

Sure, antiheroes can be really entertaining to watch. There's no rule that says that every movie/TV show/comic/whatever has to have a protagonist who is at least a little bit good. But this is Disney we're talking about, and they do like their leads to not be completely on the side of darkness. 

Maul's story, while it's complex and it certainly adds depth to the character, doesn't ever show him regretting the things he's done, and he continues to harbor a lot of hate for a wide variety of people across the Star Wars universe throughout his life, especially the Jedi. It's possible to tell a compelling story with this character, absolutely, but it may not have the message that Disney wishes to send. Murder and mayhem in fiction can be fun to watch, they just don't always endear characters to fans. Perhaps if Maul had some redeeming qualities, it might be possible. But that's just not how the character has been established up to this point, and forcing that into a movie seems antithetical to who he is.

Maul may be appearing in already-announced Disney+ series, including Kenobi

In good news for Maul fans, it's been rumored in a few places that he may already have planned appearances in Disney+ series like Kenobi or The Bad Batch. The character appearing as a guest on shows like that would give Disney the opportunity to use Maul without needing to delve too much into his backstory to the degree they'd need to for a feature film focused on him. Plus, the way shows work compared to a feature film means that even if they did tell bits and pieces of his backstory, it wouldn't take away from the overall new content the way it would in a movie. If these rumors are true, Disney could be trying to test out fan interest in the character currently, but they wouldn't necessarily want to oversaturate their content with Maul. After all, if he appears on multiple TV shows, would a feature film feel as special? Fans might just shrug and ignore it — or, if they don't like his appearance on a show, not bother seeing the film for that reason.

Maul may even be getting his own Disney+ TV series

It's been rumored that Maul may be getting his very own Disney+ series. Disney is likely determining the most effective use of the character at this point, and if they go in the direction of a TV show, it's less likely they'll invest in a feature film about him. There would be no point in double-dipping that way. A TV series does seem like a better fit for the character, given his complex backstory and the challenges of bringing that to a feature film. Doing a show would allow Disney to explore that backstory at their leisure while also telling a brand new story. The balance would still be very important, but is much more manageable in longer form storytelling. Plus, the Maleficent movies notwithstanding, Disney seems more willing to feature villains as main characters in TV shows than they do in movies.

So far the upcoming Star Wars slate of films and shows is male-dominated already

It's been made clear that Disney is aware that there are a significant number of female fans of Star Wars and is interested in cultivating that viewership. However, since the last trilogy ended, most of what has been announced in the way of TV and movie offerings in that universe has had male leads. It's likely that Disney will want to balance that out with at least a few stories with female (or non-binary or other marginalized gender) protagonists. With what's currently on the slate for Disney in regards to Star Wars, why add another story with a male lead? It would make more sense to diversify and capture a broader audience. Disney is excellent at analyzing their audiences — and potential audiences — and has always been acutely aware of how to create product that appeals to a variety of people. Continuing to focus on male characters predominantly could hurt their fanbase, and it's likely that they're aware of that.

Lucasfilm has never made villain-focused films

In the history of the Star Wars franchise, there's never been a villain-focused film. Certainly villains are extremely important to the Star Wars universe and many of them have captured imaginations. But while Star Wars villains have definitely had their own comics series (like this one featuring Darth Vader), they have never been placed at the center of a film. (Boba Fett came close, but that didn't pan out.) 

Given the good vs. evil nature of the main Star Wars stories, it's clear that they want you to root for the "good" guys, even if that's not always how fans align. So of course as stewards of the franchise, Disney seems unlikely to put money into featuring villains in their own films. Of course, while the prequel trilogy focuses on Anakin and he becomes Darth Vader, really he ceases being the focus of the story at the moment he becomes Vader and then the original trilogy does not use him as a protagonist. If Vader, of all characters, hasn't been given his own film, why would Maul?

Maul is more of a supporting character than a lead

In the prequel trilogy, Maul reports to a bigger villain who is pulling the strings and leading the plan. While a great deal of his story after that — which is to say, the parts not shown in any movies — does show him being a leader, based on what fans see in most of the films, he's just a supporting villain, those few moments toward the end of Solo notwithstanding. That doesn't mean he's not cool and visually interesting and badass, it just means that even when he has been shown in films, he's not given a central role, making a feature film about him less likely. Darth Vader has the benefit of huge ties to the rest of the story and Maul doesn't in the same way — so even though he is like Vader in that way, he has less to recommend him for a feature film than Vader does. The Star Wars universe has a broad array of characters and very, very few have their own feature films, even ones who are integral to the main story. So while there's a lot you could do with a Maul film because he's less established, it doesn't have the same payoff as one featuring another character.

Why risk the budget of a movie when you can just show the character in animation and comics?

Movies are expensive. And Maul is an expensive character to film, with a load of makeup and martial arts moves, in any live-action scenario. And that was before he had cybernetic legs! However, animation and comics are much less expensive to produce than blockbuster live-action movies or TV shows, so why not continue using Maul there? He's appeared on The Clone Wars and Rebels as well as in comics, so it seems this has already occurred to those in charge of Star Wars. There are a lot of ways Disney could utilize the character that doesn't require the investment that live-action does. After all, if an animated series or a comic featuring Maul as the main character was a dramatic success, Disney could always reassess if they want to invest in a film about him. But until then, having the character appear in less financially risky media makes a lot of sense.