Star Wars: Is it time for an Anakin Skywalker renaissance?

With rumours that Hayden Christensen could be returning to the franchise, we wonder whether now’s the time for the future Darth Vader to get his due.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Unit Stills

“I don’t like sand. It’s all coarse, and rough, and irritating. And it gets everywhere.”

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With this line from 2002’s Attack of the Clones, Star Wars’ greatest villain descended into the wrong sort of infamy. But is it time for Anakin Skywalker to see the light once again?

That’s what many fans are wondering after new rumours have emerged that the future Darth Vader – aka Hayden Christensen’s Anakin – could play a part in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor, with LRM Online (Latino Review Media) suggesting that Christensen will be playing a fairly large role in the Disney+ drama.

Once upon a time, news like this would have caused dismay. How could LucasFilm resurrect the spectre of the hated prequels, near-universally reviled at the time of their release, and bring back one of the actors whose performances had been the most mocked?

But today we’re living in a different world. Through a combination of nostalgia, distance and the mixed reaction to the “sequel” movies released by Disney, the prequels have undergone something of a reappraisal, with many fans now believing they’re more entertaining and true to George Lucas’ vision than any Star Wars we’ve had in years.

There are “prequel memes” shared around the internet, fans highjacking polls so that Revenge of the Sith is named the best blockbuster of all time – and today, rumours that the “I don’t like sand” guy (other hits including “You underestimate my power” and “my heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar”) will be back have fans in ecstasies online.

And perhaps they’re right. Christensen’s well-received return to the Star Wars fold for a panel at 2017’s Star Wars Celebration (followed by a voice cameo in 2019’s Rise of Skywalker) demonstrated the depth of feeling that fans have for the actor, suggesting there’s an appetite for his comeback – and from a storytelling perspective, appearing in the Kenobi series could be just the chance for Anakin’s character arc to be redeemed.

Because yes, Anakin’s downfall in the prequels is rushed, hammy and unconvincing – but it doesn’t have to be. In the well-received Clone Wars animation, Anakin (as voiced by Matt Lanter) receives a longer, more considered trip to the Dark Side, with Lanter’s version of the character often name-checked as one of fans’ favourite things about the series.

In Clone Wars we see Anakin as a respected leader and adventurer who doesn’t always do things by the book– something of a hero archetype – but as the series goes on, his willingness to bend the rules becomes less heroic and more troubling.

A young Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars
A young Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This is a great template for how a more interesting, believable Anakin could exist – so why not explore that in retrospect for the Obi-Wan series? Throw Anakin in for some flashbacks for Ewan McGregor, or as some sort of Force vision showing their relationship deteriorating beyond what we saw onscreen before.

Obviously Revenge of the Sith has already happened by the time of the Kenobi series, and Darth Vader already exists – but in the world of Star Wars, anything is possible. And after being lumbered with a bit of an awkward script for two movies, it seems like high time for Hayden Christensen to get another crack at the whip playing the character that will undoubtedly define him for the rest of his life.

Overall, only time will tell whether Christensen’s involvement in the Obi-Wan series goes beyond a rumour, and it could be that like rumours of his involvement in other Star Wars projects this all comes to nothing.

But today, fans around the world want a second chance for Anakin Skywalker – and that’s their line in the sand.

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