by Griffin Callaghan, Staff Writer, April 2021
Will this article lean heavily on nostalgia and use some smoke and mirrors to convince you of the brilliance of Hayden Christensen’s work in the Star Wars prequels? Yes, but I ask that you forgive me, because I come from a good place.
Firstly, I would like to make it as clear as possible that it is in the interest of Star Wars fans everywhere to appreciate every small glance we are given into the awe-inspiring universe that Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker calls home. I consider myself a lifelong fan of the series, and having watched every second of canonical Star Wars content I can find, I can safely say that each moment is precious and must be loved. There is truly a limited amount of screentime that exists to enjoy Star Wars, so I have come to the conclusion that all true fans must eventually realize: what we see is what we get. And what we see is an actor who loves the series, loves the fans, and is perfectly cast as Anakin Skywalker.
I will concede an early point to the anti-Christensen side of this argument: there are times in which Hayden seems a little awkward in the role in his first appearance in Attack of the Clones. Now-infamous lines such as, “Don’t say that master […] You’re the closest thing I have to a father” or “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere,” were not made better by Christensen’s delivery. However, I think here to the times in which we have all turned towards the silver screen and for a brief moment seen ourselves on camera. I ask, is there any actor alive or dead, in the history of film, who could have possibly made those lines sound good? Probably not.
So yes, there are moments of uncertainty in his debut as a character actor, however, no comment can be made against Christensen’s physical command of the set. Despite being a newcomer to the big budget, CGI-filled universe, Christensen holds his own against the more experienced Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi). It is not McGregor who is tasked with carrying the action throughout the film, as Obi-Wan, by design of the writers, finds himself sidelined throughout. The evident power in Christensen’s physical performance is no light task.
And we have yet to reach his peak. Revenge of the Sith. If Christensen was a stumbling toddler in Attack of the Clones, in this film, he becomes an NFL halfback breaking away down the sideline. From perfecting Anakin’s physical change into the powerful being he becomes throughout the Clone Wars to the continuation of the subtle hints of a true darkness underneath the teenage angst from his debut, Christensen demonstrates a mastery of the role. His confidence and tone are all greatly improved. Not to mention Revenge brings us the greatest lightsaber duel in Star Wars history, and Christensen’s style goes further than the films.
A true team player, Christensen also worked as the motion capture actor for Anakin in the film’s corresponding videogame. This not only earns him bonus points from me, but for far too long, motion capture work has not been considered a skill in Hollywood; however, Andy Serkis is on his own journey to change that one as well. Different opinion, different day.
All the same, Christensen, at this point, is Anakin. The two cannot be separated, cannot exist without the other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Neither the pains of Jar Jar Binks’ existence nor Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums can be disregarded or discarded from Star Wars. Whether we care to admit it or not, the prequels, the sequels, and the often painful mid-season episodes of Rebels are all a part of the universe we long to be a part of. And similarly, without Christensen’s sometimes-mediocre acting, that universe is not the same.
Luckily for us, Christensen will make his return to the role in the Disney Plus Obi-Wan Kenobi show. I’d bring up one final date. December 12th, 2020. The day after the official announcement that the Obi-Wan show was coming, the Hayden Christensen hashtag trended five times higher than that of his apparent “co-star” Ewan McGregor.
Christensen’s Anakin once wisely said, “Sometimes we must let go of our pride,” and Mr. Polebaum, I ask that you do the same.
Read Mr. Polebaum’s conflicting opinion HERE.