You can’t escape the recent rumors swirling around the internet this week that Hayden Christensen has allegedly been whisked away to the set of Episode VIII to begin some sort of training. Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader in the second and third installments of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, was met with mixed reactions fans.
Is Hayden Christensen coming back to play Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader in the second installment of this new trilogy? Damned if I know. I’ve just been reading rumors online like everyone else. So far, the mood from fanboys seems somewhat mixed. Some people believe that this new series of movies is the perfect opportunity to leave the much-derided prequels in the past. Others think that certain characters and elements from those films are worth exploring further.
While director J.J. Abrams has made it clear that we won’t be hearing anything about Midi-chlorians or seeing any Gungans (although a quick clip of Jar Jar Binks stepping on a landmine would be somewhat gratifying), we obviously have no clue if something from the prequels was slipped in without our knowledge. One should always be mindful of J.J.’s “mystery box.” You never know what’s going to reach out and surprise you.
If the original Star Wars trilogy has aged like a fine wine, then the prequel trilogy has aged like milk. Yes, they did undoubtedly bring in young fans when they came out, but when you line them up side by side with the first three film, it’s not much of a contest. When averaged together, the Rotten Tomatoes score of the first three comes out to about 90%. The prequels average out to 68%. That may not sound a lot, but the difference in quality is apparent to anyone who watches them.
Writing and character development took a nosedive in these films, but they were far from the only things that irked fans. George Lucas took away some of the mysticism and fantasy by introducing Midi-chlorians. He insulted the intelligence of teenage and adult fans who grew up with the originals by steering the movies towards children, and bored everyone with pedantic senate hearings.
They took one of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema and turned him into a whiny creep. Luke may have been impatient in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but he pales in comparison to Anakin. Interesting characters were either killed off or sidelined in favor or every boring, stereotypical, and underdeveloped moron you could think of.
Real sets and models, which helped largely to give the original Star Wars trilogy its character and realism, were ditched for a number of CGI settings (Remember Palpatine’s office?) and ships. The dirty look that showed us a world we could believe in was replaced by a bland, sterile environment.
Before I inadvertently rally you to head on down to Skywalker Ranch with baseball bats and torches, let me shift gears here. Believe it or not, after everything I said above, I can still watch the prequels and get some enjoyment out of them. These are still Star Wars flicks, and they still gave us a bunch of things to enjoy. (Epic Lightsaber fights, anyone?)
One thing the prequels did a good job of was giving us history and mythological background on the Jedi and Sith. The word Sith may have first been used in the original novelization of Star Wars, but it wasn’t used in a film until 1999. We got to see a fully functional Jedi order, as well as its archives, students, and high council.
Alongside that were some characters that deserved better. Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Darth Maul were badass. They just appeared under the wrong director. One character I would continue to bring back is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Who is to say that he wouldn’t still be communing with Luke? Hell, if Obi-Wan was to be trained on Tatooine by the force ghost of Qui-Gon, then Ewan McGregor can damn well show up and chat with Luke again. Okay, I’m demanding it. Bring in Ewan, even if it’s only for five minutes!
The other characters I mentioned above could also return, either in holographic recordings and records, or as force ghosts.
Another character worth another look? Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker. That’s right, I said it. Someone has to go to say it, and if I can stand up against the internet and defend the Abramsverse movies, then damn it, I can do it here!
I’m not saying that Christensen will ever win an Academy Award. He was a victim of bad direction. Samuel L. Jackson and Liam Neeson have delivered Oscar-worthy performances on multiple occasions, yet in these movies, they deliver boring, morose dialogue in monotone voices. Capable actors can be dragged down by terrible direction. If you don’t believe me, go watch Lady in the Water.
When paired up with a good director and better scripts, Christensen has delivered solid performances. And let’s not forget that he knows how to put up an intimidating presence. In Revenge of The Sith, when he didn’t have to deliver cheesy lines, he was able to pull off the imposing bad guy thing quite well.
If Christensen comes back it would most likely be as a force ghost, or in some kind of meditative dream sequence. I’d be fine with that as long as restraining order keeps George Lucas at least 500 feet away from filming.
I’d be fine with a future director picking and choosing from the prequel trilogy, as long as it was done sparingly and to the benefit of the story. Remember, these films are taking place at least 30 years after Return of the Jedi, which puts them more than 50 years after the events in Revenge of the Sith. Borrowing more from the original trilogy characters makes more sense, but it’s not like there isn’t anything worth salvaging from episodes I, II, and III.
Either way, we’re still getting a new trilogy that will undoubtedly focus the majority of its time on new characters like Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. With the original trilogy characters in their 60’s and 70’s, and all of the characters from the prequels either dead of existing only in ghost form, there is only so much they can all be used before it becomes a logistic impossibility.
What do you think? Should we ignore everything from the prequels, or should we take a few of the good things for the occasional cameo or Easter egg? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go look at the calendar. It doesn’t help December 18th get here any sooner, but I keep doing it anyways…