Why Hayden Christensen Should be in ROTJ


The following is piece by Jason Hunt of the Wampa’s Lair Podcast.

Hayden Christensen should be the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Now before anyone jumps on me for suggesting such a blasphemous idea let me give you some context about me and my thought process leading up to my conclusion.


I am a 25 year old Star Wars fan who missed seeing the OT in unaltered form.  The only OT film I have seen in its original version is ROTJ on a VHS at a friend’s house.  But before you write me off as a young, prequel loving whippersnapper (although that may be true) my first exposure to the films was the Special Edition where I was able to see Sebastian Shaw in all his ghostly glory.  When the DVDs came out with the Hayden change I was surprised but not angry.  I got used to the change and decided I liked it because of how it tied the Prequel Trilogy in with the Original Trilogy, they are the same story after all.

Since then I’ve defended my enjoyment of the change as a stylistic preference while conceding to story based arguments in favor of Sebastian Shaw.  Over the years this lead to a gradual waning of my positive opinion of the Hayden change until I reached a neutral “non-opinion.”  Two weeks ago that all changed.

I was doing my podcast prep for Episode 91 of The Wampa’s Lair Podcast.  Karl and I were discussing various changes in the Star Wars films; changes we liked, changes we didn’t like, and changes we would make.  The Hayden Christensen change came to mind and I was trying to figure out which, if any, category it would go into.  Then that was when my brainstorm hit me and I will never look on this change with apathy or disdain ever again!

Having the Hayden Christensen Anakin as a Force ghost shows us the depth and completeness of Anakin’s redemption.  In my mind it also helps to reinforce the fact that Anakin Skywalker, not Luke, is the Chosen One.  Here is how I see it.

Having the old Anakin as the Force ghost gives me the impression of “Hey you were a good person who turned horribly evil but decided to become good on your deathbed for all the right reasons and here is your reward.”  Maybe that’s a slightly cynical look at it but it really feels like old Anakin is a ghost only because he turned to the light side and Luke forgave him right there.  Not that I’m saying that was a bad thing but it seems a bit limited.

With the Hayden Christensen Force ghost we see Anakin as he was BEFORE his fall to the dark side.  This is key because that shows me the full extent of his redemption.  Not only did Luke forgive Anakin but it appears the Force did as well.  Anakin fell to the dark side, abandoned his calling of being the Chosen One, and committed horrible acts in the name of his master.  But at the very end of it all when Anakin rises up in Vader, saves his son, and kills the emperor he returned to the light side and fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One. With the young Anakin ghost we see that his redemption wasn’t just for his last moments of life.  Anakin’s redemption was full and complete, covering everything that he ever did.

So maybe that wasn’t George Lucas’ intention when he made that change and maybe my view is colored by my religious beliefs.  But that’s the beauty of Star Wars.  We get to read our own experiences in mythology, philosophy, and theology in the characters and stories on the screen.  All I know is after coming to this realization about Anakin’s Force ghost I get chills when I see Hayden Christensen in Return of the Jedi.  This is now my favorite change made in Return of the Jedi.  I don’t expect everyone to have the same reaction I did but maybe at least this will give people less cause to hate the change.

Jason Hunt

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  • Gareth Telfer

    THANK YOU!! Thank you for this well written article

    • Riley Blanton

      Thanks for reading! So who’s your favorite Gungan?

      • Gareth Telfer

        I love the whole race, but I tip my hat to Captain Tarpals. Jar Jar is second cause of how he actually convinced a whole room full of greedy Politicians to work together an vote the powers that Palpatine needed

        • Riley Blanton

          Jar Jar is remarkably Charismatic. But yes, Tarpals is awesome!

  • daftPirate

    Nice job, Jason. I completely agree :)

  • http://www.worldofblackout.co.uk Ian Paterson

    Nicely put, Jason. I also prefer the Hayden-spirit, for a more narrative-based (as opposed to thematic) reason.
    Sorry to link-drop on you, but it’s a bit too long to cut and paste 😉


  • Zippy

    Even as a little kid, the original version bothered me. A ghost should be physically representative of the person they once were, or who would recognize them? An unburned 4-limbed older Anakin never existed. If Skywalker had the choice how he appeared or the Force did, why did Yoda and Obi-Wan not also appear younger/healthier? I’m pretty sure Luke would still know who they were.

    Now if they could just explain how Anakin learned how to become a ghost… I got the impression in ROTS it took more than a quick pre-party primer in Jedi Limbo…

    • Gareth Telfer

      it was said that the Emperor trained him to become a Force Ghost.

    • Smegtasticus

      Yes, but older Anakin is the version of his father that Luke would recognize.

  • Barbara

    Well reasoned and my thoughts too. I believe the complete redemption idea of it. I think some fans object to a young Anakin Force Ghost because some don’t accept the casting which is irrelevant to what a young Force ghost means in the context of the story. It is what it is. Like it or not. I happen to like it. :-)

  • Smegtasticus

    As a child of the 80s who loved ROTJ in its unaltered form, I’m bothered by the addition of Hayden Christensen into the ghost scene at the end of Jedi. The effect is not very well done and its actually kind of jarring.

    Then again, I tend to watch the OT bonus discs (a.k.a. the laserdisc transfers of the original theatrical cuts) that came with the Limited Edition DVDs. The SEs are basically pretty lame, and at worst actually crap all over the films they are trying to improve.

    If I must watch a version of the Special Editions, I’ll take Adywan’s fanmade Star Wars Revisited (https://swrevisited.wordpress.com/tag/adywan/ ), which cuts out almost all of the SE stuff and makes improvements to the movies that actually enhance the watching experience (e.g. adding a new scene with the Imperial March to ANH, and improving the Death Star run scene in ways that George Lucas should have, but was too busy adding pointless crap like that Jabba scene and Greedo shooting first).

  • Kacper Goc

    It’s a trap!!

  • magicdarkshadow

    I don’t think its the adding of Christensen that bothers most people. Its the fact that his ghost looks exactly the same as he did more than 20 years earlier. Surely Anakin’s ghost would look like an older man? I think Lucas should redo the adding of Christensen, but with make up to make him look older.


      How about his cut limbs though? Anakin became ”COMPLETE” in younger form. It makes no sense for the old Anakin to have limbs.

  • Anaobi

    Good article! I agree and I wanted to hear such positive ideas. When I saw the old man, I wondered who this person was in a moment. But now we can recognize that he is Anakin because we saw in Ep 2 and Ep 3.

  • Zarm

    Wholeheartedly disagree. What is the point of Anakin’s redemption NOW if his truly redeemed self is his pre-Vader self? Aside from being poor filmmaking, visual continuity, and emotional connection within th self-contained ROTJ entity, this seems to minimize what Anakin JUST DID (and how we just saw him, incidentally) by saying ‘it doesn’t matter that he just came back to the light, sacrificed himself, and redeemed himself. That guy who just did that doesn’t matter. The one who DOES matter is the whiny, petulant, selfish tusken-murderer who had all the seeds of darkness and arrogance in him and hadn’t yet done anything redemptive. that’s Anakin at his finest!’

    Take a look at the prequels. Hayden-Anakin is only one step better than Vader Anakin; he has all the seeds that are just about to come to fruition as a Sith. He is consumed with every flaw, getting darker by the day, a self-confessed murderer of civilians… to hold him up as an idealized version of Anakin that he is returning to is to be completely ignorant of every aspect of his character in Episodes II and III. In essence, Shaw-Anakin is the only stage of his life where he is truly repentant; that is why he is the Force-ghost (as well as being familiar to Luke, and having emotional continuity with the guy we just saw as Anakin five minutes earlier). This Anakin is still the unrepentant ‘It’s not far! this is outrageous!’ guy, consumed with his own self-importance and simmering in all the anger and bitterness and arrogance that are just about to boil over into Darth Vader.

    Old Anakin with all his limbs intact may not exist… but neither does Hayden-Anakin-as-a-redeemed-guy. Both are idealizations… but one is contrite and redeemed, while the other never was.

    So, no- Hayden-Anakin does not belong in ROTJ. He does not represent Anakin restored to when he was good, and he lacks emotional resonance with the Anakin death scene earlier in ROTJ. (Not to mention comprehensibility for anyone just watching the film or OT on its own). Plus… Shaw originated the part, while Hayden is just a Johnny-come-lately. Maintaining the original shows him the respect I think he deserves.

  • Brian47

    Great article Jason, I’m in the same camp! I’m an old-school Star Wars fan who loves the prequels and I never had an issue with Hayden’s visage as Anakin being displayed in “Jedi”. It ties those two trilogies together in a unique fashion and your personal insight into it is very valid. I think Lucas says as much in the DVD commentary track as well.