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Why Darth Vader Can't Use Force Lightning In Star Wars

The Force surrounds us all. It binds us and flows through all things both corporeal and intangible. The Force can be either a path to tranquility and acceptance or one that leads to powers that most would consider unnatural if one were to consider the words of Senator (and later, Emperor) Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Known in some circles as Darth Sidious, Palpatine organizes the events of the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy in order to gain an iron grip on the galaxy at large and restore the power of the Sith, who are practitioners of the Force that derive their power from strong and volatile emotions.

The Jedi, the polar opposite of the Sith, are noble warriors who use the Force to protect, serve, and bring peace to the disparate people of the galaxy. These two factions of Force wielders have been fighting for thousands of years, ever since the First Great Schism occurred during the early founding of the Jedi.

Darth Vader, formerly known as Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen in the prequels, voiced by the legendary James Earl Jones and played by Sebastian Shaw in the original trilogy), is first thought to be a messianic figure who would ultimately bring balance to the Force, but his actions in the prequels leave the Jedi Order in tatters and scattered to the wind while delivering the Republic into the hands of the brutal despot and manipulator Palpatine. Considering his natural aptitude for the Force, why did fans never see Vader utilize the trademark Sith attack of Force lightning?

Force lightning would kill Darth Vader

Force lightning itself is perhaps the ultimate embodiment of the dark side of the Force. By channeling into great reservoirs of emotion, the Sith are able to create devastating bolts of lightning that rack the victims with pain and can even scar and warp those exposed to a great deal of the power, as illustrated by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) reflecting the potent skill back toward Palpatine at the end of "Revenge of the Sith." However, at no point in the movies does Darth Vader ever utilize Force lightning, though he does manage to use it while projecting his consciousness in Marvel Comics' "Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith" #25.

The real reason we never see him use this power in person is due to his condition and general health. For all intents and purposes, Darth Vader is barely alive, kept on this side of the mortal coil through a combination of the Force and his trademark life-support system suit. At the end of "Return of the Jedi," Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) takes several blasts from the irate Palpatine, but even after indirect exposure, Darth Vader's suit begins to fail. This is due to the nature of Force lightning and its root in electricity. That kind of output simply overwhelms and short-circuits the means by which Vader is kept living. If Darth Vader had ever tapped into this maligned power in person, he would have signed his own death certificate.