Disney's investor day presentation brought with it a whole lot of news. Particularly as it pertains to the Star Wars universe. But perhaps the biggest bombshell was the reveal that Hayden Christensen will be making his return to the franchise in the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series as Darth Vader. This will be the first time that Christensen has appeared in the flesh as the character since the end of Revenge of the Sith. And, for various reasons, the time seems right to give Christensen some on-screen redemption.
Let us rewind the clock just a bit. The year is 2005. Revenge of the Sith is bringing the prequel trilogy to a close. It has been a mixed bag. We have reached the climactic moment. Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker have dueled to a heartbreaking end. Obi-Wan had the high ground. Anakin is left for dead on the shores of Mustafar. He is revived by Palpatine, rather painfully, completing his transformation as Darth Vader. One of the last things we hear is Vader shouting, "Nooooooo!" in what might be one of the cringiest Star Wars moments in history.
We could argue all day about the finer points of the prequel trilogy. What it got right. What it got wrong. But there is almost no question that one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema deserved better than that moment. More to the point, say what you will about Hayden Christensen's performance but this was the moment the prequels had been building to. Three movies dedicated to how Anakin Skywalker, the supposed Chosen One, fell to the Dark Side and became a Sith Lord. The man got a few mere moments as a fully formed Darth Vader. It's hard to imagine any hardcore fans would argue those moments were wholly satisfying. Christensen deserved, and still deserves, his moment.
Obi-Wan Kenobi will pick up ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. It will center on the Jedi, who will once again be played by Ewan McGregor. While plot details largely remain under wraps, with McGregor coming back, it wouldn't quite feel right to cast another actor in the role. Hayden Christensen was McGregor's Anakin Skywalker. This was his padawan. This was the person who betrayed him, and the entire Jedi Order. It would feel like a major sleight to simply recast the role.
Now, let's look at what has happened in the years since those closing moments of Revenge of the Sith. For many of us, we assumed that would be the last bit of Star Wars we would ever see. How wrong that proved to be. George Lucas quickly began work on The Clone Wars animated series, which heavily focused on Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi's relationship. The character of Anakin was given a great deal of depth. The master/apprentice relationship was more fully developed. An entire generation of kids grew up adoring that show as a pillar of their Star Wars fandom. Quite a few adults have come to cherish the series as well.
There has also been a re-evaluation of the prequels by quite a few fans. With some distance, and with additional context provided by The Clone Wars, many have come to defend and adore The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Perhaps not wholesale. But there is meat on those bones, in terms of story, character and themes. Main point being, the prequels are not roundly as loathed as they once may have been.
Lastly, Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012. In the years since, we have gotten an entire new trilogy of movies, starting with The Force Awakens in 2015, as well as a couple of spin-offs, including Rogue One and Solo. We now have The Mandalorian on Disney+, as well as an avalanche of other live-action and animated shows on the way. Not to mention a proper conclusion to The Clone Wars. There will soon be more Star Wars than there has ever been at any one time. This is all important when it comes to Hayden Christensen getting his moment to shine.
To put it nicely, Hayden Christensen's performance in the prequels is not often viewed as a highlight in discussion. But, in fairness, much of George Lucas' dialogue wasn't doing him any favors. "I don't like sand" and all of that jazz. But it's not as though the man has no talent. Not that awards are the be-all, end-all, but Christensen was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Life as a House. There is a great performance in there somewhere.
Deborah Chow, who has done outstanding work behind the camera on The Mandalorian, is directing the entire Star Wars event series. One director. One vision. A very good director at that. Chow could easily help get the best performance out of Hayden Christensen. The performance fans always deserved to see. The performance this man deserves the chance to give. Redemption is a big theme in Star Wars. Especially as it pertains to Darth Vader. It's time for that redemption.
We got the smallest of small tastes of the actor's return in The Rise of Skywalker with a brief voice cameo. But that was merely a disembodied voice. Anakin's voice. With all of these various Star Wars projects in the works, isn't there room for this man's take on Vader?
Plus, there is reason to think fans are ready. Hayden Christensen appeared at Star Wars Celebration in 2017. Photo ops and signings sold out in minutes. And when he stepped out on stage, the place erupted. He was more than embraced. There was love in that room. Granted, we're talking about the most hardcore of hardcore fans. But who is a show like this for if not for those very fans? This franchise has always been driven by its exceptionally passionate fanbase.
There is much to be determined. Lucasfilm has stated that Hayden Christensen will specifically be playing Darth Vader. Does that mean he'll be in the suit the whole time? How much of the show will be focused on Vader? Will he provide the voice? Or will we get James Earl Jones again? Are we going to see flashbacks to The Clone Wars? All of these and more factors will affect the performance Christensen must deliver.
Even so, when Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy made the announcement she promised, "This will be the rematch of the century." That would only, truly be the case if the same two characters, as portrayed by those same actors, are back. And that's exactly what we're getting. Christensen, for his part, said, "it feels good to be back." I imagine I'm not alone in thinking it's good to have you back, Lord Vader. Obi-Wan Kenobi does not yet have a release date set.