Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Obi-Wan Kenobi Series: Hayden Christensen’s Return Can Solve a Major Darth Vader Mystery

Note: this article originally ran in March 2021 and has now been updated to reflect the news that Christensen is also appearing in Star Wars: Ahsoka.

The ensemble cast for Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a healthy mix of familiar faces and returning favorites, but one name stands out above all others. Hayden Christensen is making an unexpected return to the franchise, reprising the role of Darth Vader 15 years after Revenge of the Sith and serving as a major antagonist in the Disney+ series. Not only that, but Christensen is also reportedly appearing in the Mandalorian spinoff series Star Wars: Ahsoka.

Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker has always been divisive at best. However, this should only be seen as great news for anyone eager to learn about this lost period in Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lives. Not only is this a second chance for Christensen to make Darth Vader his own, it may very well solve a decades-old Star Wars mystery. How can the series tie up a major loose end from Return of the Jedi? Read on to find out.

Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi Series Cast and Characters

Despite having redeemed himself by destroying the Emperor, Anakin may feel he has unfinished business to attend to before truly becoming one with the Force. That may well include communing with Ahsoka and trying to end their relationship on better terms. Don’t forget that the two last encountered each other in the Season 2 finale of Star Wars Rebels, where Ahsoka saw firsthand just how far her former master had fallen.

Force ghosts tend to appear when living Jedi most need their help. Anakin may take it upon himself to guide Ahsoka just as the spectral Obi-Wan did for Luke in the original trilogy. Anakin may help guide Ahsoka in her hunt for Grand Admiral Thrawn. He may be aware that the threat of Emperor Palpatine is far from over. He could even be the key to steering Ahsoka toward his son Luke. If it turns out that Ahsoka played a role in helping Luke build his Jedi academy, we may well have the late Anakin Skywalker to thank.

As with the Kenobi series, it’s entirely possible the Ahsoka series could also feature Christensen’s Anakin via Clone Wars-era flashbacks. After years of seeing the Anakin/Ahsoka dynamic play out in animated and comic book form, it would be a nice change to see their adventures in live-action for once.

A Chance at Star Wars Redemption

There’s been a massive cultural shift when it comes to the Star Wars prequels in recent years, with many fans reevaluating these critically divisive films and their place in the larger Star Wars canon. There are all sorts of reasons behind that trend. For some, they’ve simply improved with age and the nostalgia factor. For others less than thrilled with Disney’s execution of the sequel trilogy, the prequels might seem less offensive by comparison. And for those younger fans who were children when the prequels were coming out (in other words, George Lucas’ actual target audience), they may not understand what all the outrage was about in the first place.

Though perhaps more than anything else, it’s thanks to projects like Star Wars: The Clone Wars that fans are now able to see the prequels in the best possible light. As we’ve argued before, The Clone Wars has effectively redeemed the prequels, adding in all the depth and nuance that was absent in the films themselves. They may be fundamentally flawed in a number of ways, but these movies have their place in the larger Star Wars saga.

The same holds true for Christensen’s performance as Anakin. While every bit as flawed as the movies themselves, there are moments in Episodes II and III where Christensen does perfectly embody the torment and temptation of a promising young Jedi courted by darkness. And in Christensen’s defense, there were any number of external factors working against him during production. We doubt anyone could have made the wooden romantic dialogue between Anakin and Padmé seem truly genuine. And it’s hard to bring your A-game to a project where the “sets” are often little more than empty blue backgrounds waiting to be filled in with CG environments and characters. Is it any wonder Christensen’s Anakin and Natalie Portman’s Padmé often seem so stiff and awkward around each other?

Putting side the simple pleasure of seeing McGregor back in Obi-Wan’s dusty boots, this series is a chance for Christensen to hit the reset button and try again at bringing this iconic, tragic character to life. This time, his performance won’t be constrained by impossible fan expectations or Lucas’ idiosyncratic storytelling choices. With the pressure gone and a new director behind the camera, Christensen may just surprise us all.

For more on the Star Wars franchise, see what to expect from the long-awaited Knights of the Old Republic remake and check out our picks for the best Star Wars movie moments.

Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.


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