There are certain movie moments which inspire collective euphoria, ushering you and countless others in a darkened room into a beautiful shared experience. I felt it when Joss Whedon’s camera zoomed over The Avengers as they stood together as a team for the first time. Ditto for J.J. Abrams’ clever first reveal of The Millenium Falcon in Force Awakens. Heck, I even felt it during La La Land’s fantasy finale.
However, nothing in recent memory compares to the ending of Rogue One, specifically when Darth Vader appears at the end of a corridor. It’s not even so much the rain of fury he ends up unleashing, but the moment of him standing there staring down the Rebel soldiers. You instantly know something amazing is about to happen and that feeling of anticipation, of knowing what’s going to happen next but not specifically how it’s going to happen, is the type of moment you go to the movies to experience together.
It was something I didn’t anticipate, having already gone on record as kind of being over Darth Vader as a dramatically interesting character. But I underestimated the power of his iconography, the “holy shit, that’s Darth Vader, and he’s like an unstoppable force of nature” of it all.
What does any of this have to do with Hayden Christensen?
I’m glad you asked, other me. I have been on a self-imposed partial Star Wars blackout for quite a while now. I haven’t been following any of the Last Jedi rumors. I’ve only watched that new trailer two times. I’ve yet to re-watch Rogue One, even though I loved it the first time. I’m way behind on Star Wars Rebels, although I did watch the trailer for the upcoming (and apparently final) season. I wasn’t breathlessly following news notifications from the Star Wars Celebration Orlando last week, and I didn’t get sucked into the outrage over the Han Solo movie possibly revealing his real name.
Me and Star Wars, we’re just keeping things super casual right now. No hurt feelings. No commitments. No emotionally fraught late night calls or text messages. Nope. It’s free to be obsessed over by its other admirers, and I’m free to not think about it at all until it inevitably comes back into my life looking for money (y’know, because I’ll have to buy a ticket to see Last Jedi).
But I was reminded recently that I do run a pop culture site, and if the internet is obsessing over The Last Jedi and you’re the guy trying to stay above it all that means fewer and fewer daily visitors. Heck, even Superman would rather talk about The Last Jedi than just about anything else right now, including the Justice League movie he may or may not be in:
That video lays it all out pretty perfectly, the endless puzzling over what exactly The Last Jedi title even means or how to interpret Luke’s cryptic lines in the trailer or, circling back to the Force Awakens debate, whether Last Jedi will just be a glorified rehash of Empire Strikes Back. Moreover, could Rey’s father actually be Ben Kenobi? Shouldn’t we be more interested in who her mother is? Will we see the return of any of the classic characters, even Hayden Christensen’s Anakin?
Yeah, apparently a Hayden Christensen cameo has been rumored for at least a year and a half now, dating back to a late 2015 report from MakingStarWars.net. The running theory is that he will appear as a Force ghost, either to Luke and Rey on that island or perhaps to Kylo Ren as part of some “don’t make the same mistakes I did” appeal, offering the former Ben Solo his first glimpse at the man behind the Darth Vader mask he practically prays to. Perhaps he’ll provide vital exposition filling us in on Snoke’s background/idetity.
But won’t it be jarring to see Christensen, a man whose face now instantly conjure unpleasant memories of epically bad line readings in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? He can’t appear to Luke, can he? That wouldn’t make any sense because that’s not the version of Anakin Luke knew, unless they’ve just been hanging out together on that island like some kind of Jedi and Jedi Ghost Odd Couple (Anakin’s clearly the Felix). Also, Force Awakens was already dinged for stealing too much from New Hope. Last Jedi needs to do its own thing and continue building up its new characters. Plus, it’s in the live action franchise’s best interest to continue pretending as if the prequels never happened. Leave that to animation, where Clone Wars and Rebels have been addressing the Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith fallout for years now.
Yeah….but a perfectly written and filmed scene with Ghost Anakin trying to appeal to Kylo Ren could be dramatically compelling. Plus, isn’t about time we forgave Christensen? It’s not his fault that George Lucas completely lost his touch as a writer and director by the time the prequels came around, not that he ever had a super strong grasp on those two poles of filmmaking. Plus, he didn’t ask to be placed into the ending of Return of the Jedi in the 2006 special edition DVDs.
I ultimately land on the side of not wanting Christensen to return, partially due to lingering Clones/Sith hostility but also because I’d prefer Last Jedi chart a new path forward without dipping too much into the franchise’s past. However, remember that elation I said I felt in the theater when Darth promised to lay the smack down on those rebels’ candy asses in Rogue One? Now imagine seeing Last Jedi, and suddenly having Hayden Christensen walk on the screen. There’d be a similar level of anticipation, but more in the cautious, where-are-they-going-with-this as opposed to “This is going to be amazing!” kind of way. I’m willing to see where they go with it, but I remain skeptical it will actually happen.
What about you? Let me know in the comments.