Last year, LEGO brought back the Holiday Special for the Star Wars franchise after 42 years since the original, now cult classic, Holiday special in 1978. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special also brought in the first (and only) post-Sequel Trilogy content. Even though LEGO stories are not necessarily canon, the story revolved around Rey trying to train Finn as a Jedi, which hinted at canonization.
There is no viewership data on the Holiday Special available to the public, although it must have done well enough to continue the Holiday Special tradition. LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales, which also centers around Sequel Trilogy characters is this year’s entry. And this time, Poe Dameron takes the pilot seat. When Dameron has to emergency land on Mustafar, he stumbles across Vader’s Castle. The once terrifying palace has new management and is being turned into a luxury Sith resort courtesy of Graballa the Hutt, a real estate tycoon and cousin to Jabba the Hutt (also from the Freemaker Adventures). The halls are decorated with various trooper statues, there is a gift shop, and a Vader animatronic that greets guests. It is probably what Disney would do if they owned Vader’s Castle, and charge the same exorbitant prices as their actual Star Wars hotel, the Galactic Starcruiser. Graballa gives Dameron the tour but an old resident has more sinister plans for the now legendary pilot as he tells of three terrifying tales that may or may not foreshadow what’s to come.
Vaneé Steps Into the Spotlight
Compared to other Star Wars content like the IDW series Tales from Vader’s Castle, which also takes place on Mustafar and involves spooky stories with classic Star Wars characters, Terrifying Tales is lighter in tone. The story starts out with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine being introduced to Vaneé. Who, you might ask? Even for canon junkies, that is a name that might slip the mind. Vaneé made his first appearance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as an attendant to Darth Vader on Mustafar. From there, Vaneé was given a whole backstory that involved being a former Imperial Inspector driven mad by the lava fumes on Mustafar. Palpatine and Vader are disturbed by Vaneé, and we as viewers will come to share that sentiment. When Graballa gives Poe the tour, the Hutt explains that Vanee simply “came with the place.” But Vaneé has a reason why he is still there, hinted at in the three stories he tells: “The Lost Boy,” “The Dueling Monstrosities,” and “The Wookiee’s Paw.” Turns out, the former aid to Vader wants to uncover various Sith artifacts to become an unstoppable force in the galaxy. To get to these items, hidden within the castle, he needs a “fearless pilot” from a prophecy, and he thinks Poe Dameron is that pilot (spoiler, he’s not). To distract everyone from his true motives, he tells three tales involving a mentor figure luring their mentee with the promise of power to their detriment. Vaneé tells a story about Kylo Ren, Darth Maul/Grievous, and Luke Skywalker, but he is also talking about himself. All the tales are alternate versions of events in Star Wars history and none are particularly terrifying; however, I am not sure if it was the creative team’s goal.
The Abusive Power of the Dark Side
“The Lost Boy” finds Kylo Ren, frustrated with Luke Skywalker’s slow-paced teaching, gets lured to the dark side by Ren and his knights. “The Dueling Monstrosities” gives us the battle we didn’t know we needed between Darth Maul and General Grievous battling for Palpatine’s favor. And “The Monkey’s Paw” shows us a very different path that Luke Skywalker takes during the events of A New Hope. All protagonists are exploited through a particular weakness, whether that is fear of seizing power, seeking validation from others, or instant gratification. And Vaneé exploits the real subject of the prophecy, a force-sensitive kid named Dean, to gain the Sith artifacts to make a mecha suit. Dean’s sole purpose in the film is to be a catalyst for Vaneé to get what he wants (and perhaps be a relatable character for younger viewers).
The star is Tony Hale’s Vaneé, who is almost too comically crazy to be considered a threat…until he reveals his intentions. Suddenly, Vader’s Castle becomes a house of horrors as everyone has to outrun numerous B1 droids reprogrammed to mimic zombies and repeat lines from The Shining. Just like Kylo, Maul, Grievous, and Luke, Vaneé has learned some things from the dark side, but that doesn’t save him from getting tricked into jumping into a lava river. He also proves that Sith artifacts should probably be destroyed. Poe agrees and promptly tells Graballa to leave the castle and not to take anything with him. The film ends with Poe leaving Mustafar with Dean to introduce him to Rey, although they probably should have stayed to make sure Vaneé was dead since this is a horror film and villains don’t die that easily. Mustafar has become a popular location recently, specifically when it comes to Star Wars/Halloween content. As much as Mustafar has become a part of many Star Wars stories, there is still much to tell. It is a planet that has been abused, exploited, and deeply changed because of the dark side. But that is too much for an hour-long LEGO special to address.
The tales within the story are forgettable, but the self-destructiveness of the dark side is presented in a kid-friendly way through Vanee. Especially if you know Vanee’s canon backstory. Overall, LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales serves its purpose, telling a Star Wars tale of good versus evil with meta-humor, plenty of horror references, and a reminder that the Sequel Trilogy characters still exist.