If there’s one thing that’s been a constant throughout the Star Wars mythology, it’s been Darth Vader. Stories have branched off and characters have found their own adventures, but in the end, the original and prequel trilogies have always boiled down to “The Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker.” There’s something about the downfall of a hero that’s fascinated audiences since the dawn of storytelling, and there’s no greater example of that in modern cinema than Star Wars.
This strategy worked in favor of the franchise for the original trilogy, with the initial focus honing in on Luke Skywalker and his own personal journey. Throughout those three films, Luke came to terms with his father’s dark past while reconciling that with his own life choices. It was an intriguing father-son dynamic that carried the early years of Star Wars, inspiring George Lucas to double down on the Skywalker origin story in the prequel trilogy decades later. With rumors swirling around regarding Hayden Christensen reprising his role as Vader/Anakin, it’s worth digging into the reasons why it’s time to lay the iconic character to rest once and for all.
The first mistake: The prequels
There are more than enough mistakes that marred the prequels of the early 2000s. Perhaps the biggest one, though, was the handling of Anakin Skywalker and his disjointed descent into pure evil. Lucas chose to have these movies act as the story behind Anakin and the fall of the Jedi Order, but in doing so stumbled along the way. The story beats felt generally forced, the acting was stilted, and each individual film skipped over so much character development that Lucasfilm saw fit to create a 120-plus-episode cartoon series to fill in the gaps.
All the time spent focusing on the Anakin/Vader progression took away from the potential to lend more backstory to a host of other relevant characters, most prominent of which was Obi Wan Kenobi. Reduced to a background presence for a bulk of the prequels, we saw a key character shoved aside in favor of a poorly-told Darth Vader origin story.
Time to move on
This brings us to the most recent Vader-related news, concerning the rumored return of Hayden Christensen to the role George Lucas ruined all those years ago. These arrive alongside rumblings that a fully operational Darth Vader chest piece and helmet have been spotted on set for the new films, leading the rest of us to wildly theorize about what this could mean for the new trilogy. While it does make sense to bridge the gap between the Star Wars of old with The Force Awakens et al., Christensen’s return would represent a much larger role than is necessary.
The last trailer we saw for The Force Awakens showed us a charred and damaged Vader helmet, likely pulled from the bonfire Luke used to burn the remains of his father. Even with this, the general feeling in early rumors has been that the new trilogy will focus on introducing new characters and plotlines beginning the next chapter in the Star Wars saga. To circle all the way back to the Darth Vader story would only serve to set back the leap into a new age for the franchise.
The potential is there
Already we’ve seen the potential for other characters carrying the franchise. Star Wars: Rebels, while briefly featuring Vader, for the most part is about the early days of the Rebel Alliance. Even the new canon novels skirt around this, choosing to focus on filling in the gaps of Darth Vader’s early days alongside the Emperor rather than inserting him into the new trilogy storyline. It makes sense that Vader would never fully leave the Star Wars universe as the most iconic and popular villain the franchise has, but clearing the way for the next generation will be a key element for The Force Awakens.
We definitely understand the temptation to bring things back to Anakin Skywalker, but in the end, having the whole universe rotate around his character limits the potential for Star Wars. There’s a whole new cast of characters taking their place among returners like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, and it’s time to clear the way for new adventures in kind.
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