Initially hated by Star Wars fans, the prequel trilogy to George Lucas’ original Star Wars films has aged rather well, and for good reason. Although concepts like midichlorians and characters like Jar Jar Binks didn’t necessarily resonate well with the Star Wars faithful back in 1999 when the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace debuted, the introduction to the Clones, the Jedi Council, and intergalactic politics would lay the foundation for some of the best Star Wars content to date in Clone Wars. Although Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith gave us an in-depth look at fan-favorite characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, the most compelling storyline in the sequels is, without a doubt, that of Anakin Skywalker.
Darth Vader is arguably the most iconic villain in the history of film. For 20 years, following his iconic debut in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), fans of the space opera pined for a glimpse at the Sith Lord’s origins. With the sequel releases, they got more than they bargained for. Not only did Lucas humanize Darth Vader, but he also gave fans a Shakespear-esque look into the tragedy of who he came to be. The story of Anakin Skywalker, father of Luke and Leia, is a heartbreaking drama, detailing the manipulative power of the dark side of the force, as well as the sheer blind ignorance of the Jedi who could do little to protect Anakin from the seduction of power. Of all the storylines in Star Wars, none resonate or have created as much debate as Anakin’s arch and eventual turn to the dark side serving under Emperor Palpatine.
The Jedi Council Failed Anakin Skywalker
Although initially declined training with the Jedi, the Coruscant council was ultimately still responsible for the rise and fall of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s young padawan. Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) allowed his arrogance and pride to prioritize his emotional connection to Anakin over the Jedi Council’s consideration that “the boy should not be trained.” Sadly, this set a course of events that eventually led to the destruction of the Jedi and the Republic, with Anakin inadvertently playing a heavy-handed role in the outcome. Much of what we see in existence in the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as in newer projects like Rogue One, The Mandalorian, and Ahsoka, came to pass simply because one Jedi Master failed Anakin by ignoring the council’s suggestion that the young child should not be trained.
Despite his master’s early death in the sequel trilogy, Anakin would go on to still be trained by the famed Obi-Wan Kenobi. Although Obi-Wan seemed to be a structured sucker for rules on the outside, getting to know the character deeper through Star Wars: Clone Wars showed that despite his best appearance, Obi-Wan allowed Anakin many priveledges which led to his strong emotional bonds with Padme. The mistake of “turning a blind eye” to the affair with Senator Amidala, despite knowing that Yoda could sense great fear and anger in the young padawan, was a catalyst for what Anaking would eventually become. Ignoring the warnings about the boy set forth by the Jedi Council would only ensure that the prophecy would not be fulfilled, and Anakin would turn to the dark side. It only took the failure of the Jedi to protect Anakin from the influence of the Chancellor (Palpatine), ensure the safety of his mother, who would later die on Tattooine, as well as a false accusation of murder against Padawan Ahsoka Tano of murder to set Anakin on a path to find his power, in a fearful need to protect himself and those he loved. The Jedi Order failed Anakin, and for those who disagree, I only need to point to Obi-Wan’s guilt when he faces Darth Vader again years after the events on Mustafar.
The Sequels Aren’t the First Time We See Anakin Skywalker
Of course, we get a glimpse of Anakin, who returns to his normal self while dying in the arms of his son Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Although this film was released years before eventual actor Hayden Christensen was born, it still gave us a look at who Anakin was compared to Darth Vader. As Luke and Padme would point out, there was still good in him. Despite the tragedy that was the life of Anakin Skywalker, he found a way to return to the light side thanks to his own son. The Jedi finally returned!
Ramping up to the release of the first sequel trilogy, many Star Wars fans will recall that Lucasfilm re-released the original movies in a remastered format, including new CGI additions. Personally, as a young kid, this was the time when I fell in love with Star Wars, so those digitally remastered versions hold a special place in my heart, even if they did include strange choices like the band in Jabba’s Palace. Despite some questionable decisions, little did fans know they would get their first look at Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker when the remastered Return of the Jedi was released to theatres. In a celebratory scene at the end of the film, Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and others celebrate the Rebel victory on Endor. Although the scene is festive, there is also an emotional element, as Luke sees the force ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and his father, Anakin Skywalker. Originally, Anakin was played by actor Sebastian Shaw; however, in a promotional move for the upcoming sequels, the force ghost was digitally replaced with Hayden Christensen, who would go on to be the face of Anakin.
Anakin Finally is a Jedi Master
Anakin was obsessed with power. Although not always selfishly, Anakin’s lust for power created strong mistrust within the Jedi Council. His superiors, specifically Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), did not share confidence in Anakin’s ability to wield the force as a responsible Jedi Master. Ultimately, they were correct, as Anakin’s obsession with saving Padme drove him to the dark side, but the question has always remained: if made a Jedi Master, would Anakin have turned? Although the Council did not grant Anakin the rank of Master, they still entrusted him with many responsibilities, like spying on the Chancellor and taking on a Padawan in Ahsoka. He easily could’ve felt used and manipulated by the Jedi themselves while being preyed upon by Palpatine. Typically, there are two schools of thought on this topic. Anakin should’ve been trusted to be a Jedi Master, or he shouldn’t have. There’s very little in between. However, despite where you stand in the argument, it would seem that Anakin, the best story arch in Star Wars, finally became a Jedi Master after all.
According to Screen Rant and an excerpt from “Brotherhood” by Mike Chen, as featured in From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi,- points out the inclusion of Hayden Christensen includes lighter Jedi robes. This, of course, is in the remastered version of Return of the Jedi. This may seem not important at first, but when we consider the robes worn by Anakin during his time alongside Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars, the lighter robes worn as a force ghost signify his complete arc, making his way back to the light and finally accepting his fate, releasing the fear that wouldn’t allow him to become a Jedi Master. As Anakin typically wore dark robes, black and brown, referencing his tendency to go against the light side and his eventual turn to evil, seeing his force ghost stand next to his Obi-Wan, whom he blamed for many of his shortcomings, signifies and points to the growth and reunion of the character once he fully has submitted to the ways of the force. Anakin had finally made his way back to the light, where he started so many years before as a young pod-racer on Tattooine.