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.