A Major ‘Return of the Jedi’ Edit Was Essential After the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels, to Tie It All Together
George Lucas is a perfectionist when it comes to his massive franchise, Star Wars. He was constantly adding edits to major re-releases of the movies after the originals were released in theaters. Anywhere from adding “A New Hope” to the first film’s title, to improving CGI effects like Jabba the Hut. One of the most memorable changes is in Return of the Jedi when a special Skywalker showed up on Endor. While some always wondered why the prequels’ Anakin appeared next to Alec Guinness’ Kenobi, George Lucas said it had to do with tying things together.
After ‘Revenge of the Sith,’ Hayden Christensen’s Anakin was edited into ‘Return of the Jedi’
In the 2004 re-release of the movies, Hayden Christensen’s Anakin was added into the final celebration scene in Return of the Jedi on Endor. This is after the rebels are victorious, the second Death Star is destroyed, and Palpatine is dead (for now). Anakin is standing with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Force ghost form.
Originally, when the film came out in 1983, Sebastian Shaw stood in that space, because he’s the actor that played Anakin under the Darth Vader suit in that film. James Earl Jones is the iconic voice of Vader throughout the saga, and David Prowse is the one in the suit in the original trilogy. Shaw is the actor that Luke unmasks at the end, who’s battered from the scars he received on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith.
Of course, no one knew why Vader looked like that when Return of the Jedi came out, but it’s still a nice call to the prequels, which would come eventually. However, when the prequels did finally get released, that scene was edited, with only Anakin’s actor changed. How come?
George Lucas said it was a way to bring Anakin’s story it full circle
In a Moviefone interview between Lucas and Christensen, Lucas shared that it was a good way to bring everything full circle. After everything Vader had been through, which the audience now knows, it no longer made sense to keep Shaw’s version of Anakin in that final scene.
It was added in because it’s a way of finishing off the entire series. The idea was that your inner person would go back to where we left it off, when it turned to the Dark Side, when you got burned up and everything. But before you got burned up. So when you come back to the good side of the Force, that it’s your former persona that survived. Not the Darth Vader persona.
Even though Anakin Skywalker was redeemed in the final moments on the second Death Star, by choosing Luke over the Dark Side, that’s not the last time Anakin was fully untouched by the Sith. That’s why the Revenge of the Sith Anakin is in his place.
This all stemmed from a question from a fan that asked Christensen how he felt about the edit. He, of course, liked it a lot.
“Well, I got a real kick out of it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to see myself standing next to Alec Guinness and that was neat for me. It allowed me to be in the original trilogy as well. I feel just more embedded in his saga.”
Palpatine was changed in ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ too
Another major edit made in this 2004 re-release was inserting Ian McDiarmid in Empire Strikes Back. Instead of the 1980s version, McDiarmid’s portrayal of the Emperor from Revenge of the Sith is edited in. This makes for a heavier meaning and feel within the scene because the graphics are better but also because it, again, connects the full story together.
Even up until 2011, the original trilogy and prequels were edited upon re-release.