Darth Vader is often described as a tool "to be wielded rather than to wield", a brute who only knows how to solve everything with a lightsaber. Anakin Skywalker, meanwhile, is a cunning warrior renowned on both sides of the Clone Wars for his unconventional ways, snatching many a victory against the odds by out-smarting the enemy.

What changed? Did he choose to stop using his smarts by choice? Or did the fires of Mustafar fry his brain?

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    Can you add some references for your claim, both the "to be wielded rather than to wield" and the cunning side of Anakin ? It would greatly improve the question
    – Edelk
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 13:20
  • While it may come across this way in the OT movies, the canon books and comics paint a different picture.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 13:35
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    It's well known that the armour keeping him alive also significantly reduces his mobility. His power level is also a fraction of what it should be. It's probably not that he's any less intelligent, just that he can't successfully put the plans he comes up with into action. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 14:02
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    Fewer (or less?) midichlorians.
    – void_ptr
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 15:41
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    Once you step down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny - consume you, it will!
    – Au101
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 15:52

3 Answers 3


The key trait that distinguishes Darth Vader from Anakin is anger. Darth Vader may have a cool exterior, so he is not actively angry; but Anakin's character is consumed by anger, and therefore forgoes an intellectual approach.

This isn't limited to Star Wars, it is a basic form of human behavior. People who are driven by anger have little patience for diplomacy or subtle behavior. They usually even have issues with lowering their voice or adapting a non-threatening body posture.

We use phrases like "consumed by rage", which inherently describe how someone loses part of their personality, and is driven by much more instinctive (and less intellectual) behavior.

How anger makes you think differently

The researchers had participants vividly recall either an experience that either made them really angry or really sad, and then exposed them to an essay arguing in favor of raising the legal driving age from 16 to 18. The essay that participants read were attributed either to "a group of transportation policy experts at Princeton University" or to "a group of students at Sinclair Community College in New Jersey." In reality, the essays that the participants read were exactly the same, so only the supposed author (the "source") of the message differed. Afterward, all participants were asked how persuaded they had been by the arguments. Now, whereas the sad participants did not differ in how persuaded they were depending on the message source, the angry participants were significantly more persuaded if the (same) message was attributed to the Princeton policy experts.

[..] If participants engaged in heuristic information processing, by contrast, they should rely more on surface-level features of the message-- such as the credibility of the source. The results clearly showed that the angry participants were relying more on the heuristic features of the message, since they found the exact same message more persuasive based on who the message was attributed to.

In other words: angry people draw shorthanded conclusions. Which is exactly why Darth Vader, "angry Anakin", has lost the capability of being clever and cunning.

There are many cases of this, I'll list a few off the top of my head:

  • In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren starts smashing a computer with his lightsaber when he got angry. Intellectually, destroying a machine only leads to more work (fixing it), but he did it anyway, because he was angry.
  • In Attack on Titan, Eren Jaeger, the protagonist, has a clear anger problem. He means well, but his reactions to injustice are filled with so much anger that he is incapable of finding a diplomatic solution (or even just lowering his voice)
  • In Deadwood, Seth Bullock looks like the "good guy" of the show. However, once you dig a little bit deeper, you notice that he has a severe anger management problem. Initially, this is considered a lack of patience when dealing with criminals (which isn't too bad, as he is a sheriff by nature). But as the show progresses, he clearly acts out of line beyond what can be considered morally correct.
  • In A Few Good Men, Col Nathan Jessup ends up publically declaring his responsibility; which he had been keeping a secret up until then. The only reason that he ends up spilling the beans is because Tom Cruise's character gets him angry enough that he forgoes a subtle approach and instead grandstands about why he thinks is right.
  • This actually applies to many court cases where the bad guy ends up yelling that they did it. Almost always, the opposing lawyer makes them angry enough that they can't think clearly anymore and instead make their true feelings clear. Another instance of this would be Charles McGill in S03E05 of Better Call Saul.
  • In Doctor Who, the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) talks about his previous incarnation (David Tennant). He speaks negatively of him, because he was driven by his emotions (anger being one of the major ones). Although he does not think what he did was particularly wrong, he does reveal that he's glad to let go of those emotions as they clouded his judgment. (The same 11th Doctor then later falls into the same trap, militarizing a large part of the characters because Amy is threatened. Again, the Doctor needs to let go of his anger in order to be levelheaded).

I'm sure that this list could go on for ages if I keep thinking of more examples.

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    A very good OOU answer. It could benefit from more examples from Star Wars though. Like when Luke and Vadar are dueling in RotJ, and Vader coaxes Luke into coming out of hiding by saying he'll turn Leia to the Dark Side. Luke becomes very defensive of his sister at this point and is attacking very aggressively. The fight ends with Luke hammering the crap out of Vader and cutting his hand off. True Luke calmed down afterwards, but his momentary anger caused him to rush into fighting a much more powerful foe rather than thinking of a safer, more tactical method. Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 18:35
  • @DCOPTimDowd: Good point. I'm not knowledgeable enough on the series to recall that event, I was already surprised to recall the Kylo Ren incident :)
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 7:41

Becoming Darth Vader, Anakin was broken both physically and mentally.

  • he was manipulated into betraying his former friends
  • he killed the only woman he loved because in his rage, he thought that she betrayed him
  • he committed atrocities to gain power, and although he did not show it, his conscience did burden him.

There is still good in him...

(The last words of Padme, Revenge Of The Sith)

Finally, he was forced to fight to death with Obi-Wan, who was like a father or elder brother to Anakin, and was nearly killed, rescued by Palpatine only to find out that he is forced to wear that suit just to stay alive.

  • But how does this make him so much less sophisticated? Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 15:39
  • @MissMonicaE Because he must answer to his master. He doesn't get to make the rules. Unless, of course, he kills his master and takes his own apprentice. Its the rule of two.
    – user53970
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 18:36

    Actually, it is quite the opposite, Anakin is ruled by passion, Vader is cold and calculated.

  Anakin is younger, without much experience, born as slave, separated from his mother, never had a father. He acts in a moment, without thinking. When in deep emotional state, he is capable to do very un-Jedi things like killing Sand People and force choking Poggle the Lesser. And when he finally snaps and goes to Dark Side, he slaughters younglings and his former Jedi friends. But he doesn't finish his transformation in the Darth Vader until he gets crippled and confined in life supporting suit.

  And then we have Vader with his constant, cold, calculated and deliberate hate. Pain is a constant for Vader. It is his life, as is constant hate - hate for himself, Palpatine, Padme (yes, even her !), other Jedi (dead and living), whole Imperial charade and Rebels. They all remind him what pitiful wretch he is now. But he has no use for quick anger - he is much smarter and in his suit much slower and restricted.

  He now knows that he depends on others - from Palpatine to sergeant loading his meditation chamber into ship (novel "Tarkin"). Yes, he hates them, but he cannot go against them all. So he occasionally chokes, and sometimes kills under-performing Imperial or snotty Rebel. But he has to plan ahead. Every move is pain, and every move is calculated. He plans and schemes, sets ambushes for Rebels, lets them think they have won only to achieve his goal in the end. So, he is not a sword, but finely tuned swordsman very few could outsmart.

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