Force chokes and strangulation as a theme of Star Wars

Dec 10, 2020
vader choking motti

The use of Force chokes and strangulation as a theme of Star Wars

The first we see of Darth Vader in ANH is him bursting through into the Tantive IV, black Nazi inspired suit and all joining in the shock and awe tactics of his Stormtroopers.

Next thing we know, he's lifted up Captain Antilles by his throat and is choking him, demanding to know where the 'intercepted transmissions' are, thus beginning a theme of strangulation in Star Wars.

Now let's be clear, strangulation in Star Wars is definitely a power play and but its use can have different results on the user and individual on the other end.

When Vader uses it, it's to show strength or to intimidate. And when Luke uses it in Jedi, while it's an intended power movie, it's actually a sign of him dancing too close to the dark side of the Force.

Here's what George Lucas actually said in an interview about the theme in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine:

RS: One of Vader's favorite ways of dispatching people is by strangulation. Is that because of his inability to breathe without the iron lung?

"Well, it's a bigger metaphor than that. Strangulation is always a theme. Life is breath. It's a powerful idea in Buddhism: Cutting off life is cutting off breath. The road to the Force is through the breath. Impotency is cutting off hands and legs and arms. That's a theme too."

Let's examine the context of some of the classic choking examples in Star Wars.

Admiral Motti learns the full power of the Force

Even though Captain Antilles of the Tantive IV may have claim to fame as being the first person on screen to have had their oxygen supply cut off by Vader, it's Admiral Motti who gets the real nod as being the first person to be Force choked by Vader.

What an honor...

Motti believes as an Admiral that he is in a position of strength when he says to Tarkin's man "Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fort-...

Vader then gives Motto some gentle retribution in the form of some Force pressure to his throat and gives us the infamous "I find your lack of faith disturbing"

Motti was trying to say "hidden fortress" which is a direct shout out to Akira Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress movie which had a massive influence on the Star Wars plot.

These two moments really set the tone of Vader's character for the rest of the movie.

Rogue One gave us two fabulous choking moments. As Director Krennic visited Vader at his Castle, for his troubles he was choked and Vader quipped:

''Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director", said while he was Force choking the good director.

The second of course when Vader took apart the Rebels as he went for the stolen plans. He Force choked a soldier and flung around like a piece of meat.

Captain Needa has a hard time in Empire when he lost the Millennium Falcon and Jejerrod got a taste of it in a deleted scene in Jedi too:

The deleted scene featured this great exchange between the two:

"Jerjerrod: You may not enter.

Vader begins to choke Jerjerrod

Jerjerrod: it's the Emperor's command!

Vader releases his chock and says: As the Emperor wills.

Jerjerrod: Very good."

Jedi is a good time to think about Luke Skywalker's use of a force choke. 

He does two chokes just as he is entering Jabba the Hutt's palace to Jabba's Gamorrean Guards (the big green pigs). 

Why is a good guy Force choking people? 

It's a pretty aggressive move. Luke is wearing black at this point and it's reasoned he was veering close to the Dark Side and the choking is evidence of that.

Padme and Anakin: Two lovers lost across the stars

There's a clever moment of visual foreshadowing in Attack of the Clones that Anakin will eventually choke his pregnant wife.

anakin choking padme revenge sith

Star Wars Ring Theory expert Mike Klimo spells it out:

'In Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala sit together—in an intimate "fire-lit" alcove—and talk about their growing feelings for each other and the impossibility of sharing a life together.

The pivotal scene is dimly lit and, according to George Lucas on the Clones DVD commentary, "intended to be overly dramatic, almost overly operatic in its emotional intensity." Padme wears a black leather gown, which Star Wars prequel trilogy costume designer Trisha Biggar dubbed the "leather and lace" outfit.

She added: "It was a beautiful gown with a very tight corset and matching gloves." (It’s important to remember that tight-fitting corsets squeeze your ribs and lungs, which makes it difficult to breathe.)

But perhaps most significantly, the outfit, which Lucas himself helped design, also includes a black "choker." So, taken as a whole, the scene’s carefully crafted visuals not only anticipate the choking of Padme, but also what ultimately lies at the end of the road if the star-crossed lovers let their emotions run rampant: the fiery landscape of Mustafar, the loss of life, and a dark leather life-support suit with a device to facilitate breathing.'

So there's that.

As an aside, Attack of the Clones has another moment of foreshadowing when Anakin meets Yoda's class of Younglings.

Speaking of Padme, let's talk about her daughter, Leia in the:

The chocking of Jabba the Hutt by Princess Leia

Princess Leia freeing herself from Jabba's slavery was a strong moment for the character. She famously strangles Jabba with the chains that bound her.

The moment of its plot development is very interesting:

Jabba the Hutt's death scene was inspired by the death of mafia henchman Luca Brasi in The Godfather film. 

Here's an excerpt from "The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," in which George Lucas, scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and director Richard Marquand discuss Jabba's death during a story conference:

"Kasdan: How do you feel about [Leia] being the one that causes Jabba’s death?

Lucas: That I could go for. She could strangle him.
Marquand: With the chain.
Lucas: She jumps around and wraps the chain around him and strangles him. Jabba is kind of a rubber character, so we could have this big, ugly tongue come out, uggghhhh . . . It’s The Godfather.

And as they now say on Tattoine, Jabba the Hutt is sleeping with the fishes!

compare godfather with return jedi choking

It all comes full circle in Revenge of the Sith as Mike Klimo continues to highlight:

"During the duel on Mustafar at the end of Sith, Anakin Skywalker grabs Obi-Wan Kenobi by the throat (with his right hand) and forces him down on a table.

At the start of Star Wars, Sith's corresponding episode in the Star Wars Ring Theory, Darth Vader physically lifts the captain of the Rebel Blockade Runner off the ground by his throat (with his left hand) and chokes him to death."

And this is where it gets weird

Sadly Carrie Fisher is no longer with us, but as a final joke or tipping of the hat to Star Wars, she said this in her memoir, Wishful Drinking:

"Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit — so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra."

Other notable chokes:

Sebula chokes Jar Jar Binks briefly in The Phantom Menace

Vader chokes Admiral Kendal Ozzel in Empire for dropping out of hyperspace in a manner that gave the Rebels the heads up and a chance to flee.

Kylo Ren gets in a force choke or two in the films as well.

Vader going nuts at the end of Rogue One

0 Rogue Ones:

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