Rethinking Anakin Skywalker: How Star Wars has failed to properly explore its most significant character

There is a scene in Attack of the Clones that shows early how conflicted the prophesied one is. During a scene where Anakin is alone with Padme, as they prepare to leave for Naboo, the padawan is considering his master Obi-Wan: “[he’s] as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu,” he says, while Force levitating a stone. But very quickly he veers off and rants about his mentor, about how he’s holding him back. It’s this combination of tenderness and pridefulness that is just so Anakin.

Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin was derided at the time: considered somewhat wooden and unskilled, and watching it today it can seem his face never quite matches with his eyes. Indeed, our own Star Wars movies, ranked guide has the three prequels down at the bottom. Yet, with the long years that have passed, retrospect has changed things and transmuted opinion. Because, my goodness, does Anakin Skywalker have feelings. He has so many emotions. An actor less wooden could’ve chewed the scenery trying to emote that much.

It was great to see Christensen back in the role in the Disney Plus series Obi-Wan Kenobi. While some fans found it too slow and plodding to begin with, I enjoyed the texture, the time to be alone with McGregor’s door face, and the gloomy atmosphere. I too felt the self-imposed loneliness, the stoicism barely covering the guilt and the grief. But it was the ending that was truly spectacular. Most of all, one image from the series has stayed with me, haunting my mind like a Sith mind trick. It occurs in the final.

(Image credit: Disney)

After Obi-Wan has started to dwell less on the past and live more in the present, thanks to the sprightly young Leia, and begun to cast aside his guilt, his powers return; nay, he even appears to grow stronger. At the showdown with his former padawan in the Obi-Wan Kenobi finale, he is able to defeat the powerful Skywalker, not only with his greater canniness, but with his force strengths. Darth Vader’s mask is broken and we can see inside, peering at a face and hearing a voice that is still undeniably Anakin yet corrupted into Vader.

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