Admiral Ozzel is the first major Imperial officer to appear in Episode V, and as such he plays an important role: kind of a bridge. He carries on some signature traits of Imperials from A New Hope to remind us how arrogant and cocky they are, and at the same time starts a new and iconic tradition: that of Imperial admirals being choked to death. Yes, he is the first one. Admiral Motti in A New Hope experienced only a sharp rebuke and was saved in time by his superior’s intervention, but nobody is present in Empire Strikes Back to prevent Darth Vader from disposing of Ozzel altogether.
If we think about it, Admiral Ozzel is not really a very deep character in the film. Not really important by himself, only as a predecessor to admiral Piett and as something for Vader to vent his anger on. “He is as clumsy as he is stupid,” Vader evaluates after the Imperial fleet makes a bad maneuver, giving the Rebels a chance to escape the ice planet Hoth – imagine if that hadn’t happen. That is about all there is to Ozzel. Next to him, both of his fellow officers – captain Piett and even general Veers – seem much more interesting. But it is Ozzel’s presence that allows their characters to get some extra dimension because of their attitude towards him.
The arrogant Imperial admiral seems to fall in well with some other roles his actor, Michael Sheard, had portrayed elsewhere. The Scottish-born actor has the knack for portraying Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler, as whom he appeared five times in a film. One of these occasions was in another George Lucas’s film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That’s not to say all his roles were like that. From the the perspective of science fiction, it might be interesting to note that Michael Sheard appeared in Doctor Who in various minor roles, alongside five different Doctors in total (First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh, specifically).
But all in all, his admiral Ozzel will remain an absolutely archetypal basis for an average Imperial officer. I am pretty certain we are going to see bad guys in The Force Awakens drawing from the same well of vices as those Ozzel possesses. He thinks he knows everything the best, he scorns the Rebels, and judging by his benevolent smile when talking to the Sith Lord, he does not think very much about Darth Vader either – for which he ultimately gets duly “rewarded”. I am almost tempted to make myself an “Ozzel bingo” list and tick off these bad qualities when we finally see the portrayal of the evil guys in The Force Awakens. Who’s going to be more like Ozzel, General Hux or Captain Phasma? And more importantly, are we going to get any iconic officer Force-choked? It doesn’t have to happen to one of the major characters, but – even though it isn’t very nice to wish such fate to anyone – it would be a very classic move to have a few First Order officers Force-choked, a tradition which Ozzel honorably started.
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