I’ll say it: I love the Star Wars prequels.
Certainly my opinion is surely skewed by my closeness of age to the CGI-filled adventures of George Lucas and yes, the original films guided by Lucas, Kershner and Marquand are objectively superior feats of cinema. But that doesn’t make the franchise’s entrances around the turn of the millennium any less enjoyable.
Revenge of the Sith is, of course, the best of the three, although Attack of the Clones has some really good settings – Geonosis! Kamino! – which keep one step ahead of the phantom menace when it comes to my best memories of the iconic franchise.
But the last two films stick in the mind for another reason – a curling, braid-wearing, sand-hating reason by the name of Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christensen.
In light of his upcoming role in the now-fully-filmed Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney Plus, we ask the question: Was Hayden Christensen really as bad as Anakin?
The elected official
For starters, it’s worth drawing attention to Christensen’s career ahead of his appearance in Attack of the Clones.
The Vancouver-born actor made his debut at just 12 years old in a Canadian television series, Family Passions, which led to minor roles in films in the late ’90s, most notable being Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. .
Christensen’s landmark role came in 2000, when he starred on Fox Higher Ground as a teenager who turned to drugs after being sexually assaulted by his stepmother. The following year, he would appear again as a misunderstood teenager (see the diagram?) In Irvin Winkler’s Life as a House, earning him Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations.
Hayden Christensen won a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Life as a House (Image credit: New Line Cinema)
Ahead of the latter’s release, it was announced that Christensen would play the role of adult Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes 2 and 3, following an audition process which saw casting director Robin Gurland screen over 1,500 applicants.
According to a 2002 profile on Gurland, she said of the young actor at the time: “When Hayden came over for his first meeting, I opened the door, and I suddenly turned red, because I knew. I sat him down and looked at him through the camera, and all of a sudden, I got goose bumps.
“For Anakin, the role is so innate that the actor has to connect with it,” said Gurland, “but at the end of [the interview], I just knew Anakin had walked through the door.
Everything in the eyes
In all fairness, Christensen’s selection from 1,499 other potential Anakin’s has little bearing on whether he turned out to be a talented performer on that casting call.
The role of the hapless Jedi – whether Lucas liked it or not – was inherently physical. The director himself reportedly approved the casting of Christensen because he “needed an actor who [had] this presence of the dark side. In all likelihood, the young Canadian probably had the right sullen eyes for the job.
Hayden Christensen behind the scenes of Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones (Image credit: Lucasfilm)
But regardless of his now much-maligned stilted-line delivery and the character’s general complaint in Episodes 2 and 3 (albeit in the first, in particular), there’s still something to be said about Christensen’s physicality, which contributes to the revenge of the Sith. highlights.
For example, when Anakin first sees Padmé after crashing into Coruscant, the manners on Christensen’s face betray his character’s excitement, anxiety, and fear upon hearing the news of his being pregnant. woman in a truly convincing way – before being entirely undermined by the film. a horrible dialogue, that is to say.
The same goes for Padmé’s arrival on Mustafar with Obi-Wan, when Christensen’s body language paints a much more punchy picture of Anakin’s confusion, anger, and loss of control than anyone else. what a cheesy line he is then forced to utter.
Anakin is a lost boy, a naive prodigy harnessed by a power he doesn’t fully understand, and Mustafar’s entire streak – until Obi-Wan takes the lead – is the best showcase of Christensen’s ability. to represent it as such. Of course, his brooding eyes help a lot in that regard, but Christensen doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a truly impressive emotional performer.
Hayden Christensen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Image credit: Lucasfilm)
It’s only when Anakin opens his mouth that things take a meme-worthy turn – and that’s not really Christensen’s fault.
Ah, Georges …
Let’s not beat around the bush: the direction of George Lucas’ prequels isn’t great. There were far too many long shots, downright terrible post-production editing decisions, and an obvious over-reliance on CGI.
The Hollywood legend is undoubtedly a great man of ideas, responsible for creating the most successful fictional universe in film history and a phenomenal film in A New Hope, but much of what we love in Star Wars comes from his collaborators. The Empire Strikes Back – the highlight of the original trilogy – was made by someone else.
The biggest crimes against the previous films, however, were their scripts. No actor involved in any of the three episodes escaped being tarnished by Lucas-worthy dialogue, but Hayden Christensen was the biggest victim of all, subjected to now infamous lines like “I don’t care. the sand ”,“ Don ‘don’t make me kill you ”and“ No… no, it’s because I’m so in love with you. ”
I told you, how was Christensen supposed to deliver these lines with any conviction?
In the heat of the moment, in the throes of extreme rage, would someone really say, “Well, from my point of view, the Jedi are evil!” What is a debate? Daniel-Day Lewis doesn’t improve that sound, I can tell you that. Honestly, Christensen would have been better served by shouting “AAAAAR” at Obi-Wan – it would have saved him years of internet heat.
Ewan McGregor’s lines weren’t much better, but being the most established actor at the time meant less criticism. Think about it: rather than condemning his performance deep in Hollywood hell, McGregor’s quotes instead became part of the pop culture lexicon – “I have heights,” “Hello there! “Etc. Why?
Christensen was the downfall guy for all that was wrong in the prequels. After Revenge of the Sith, he went on to star in a handful of perfectly acceptable films, but never landed another big-budget lead role like Anakin.
It’s a fate that also befell his predecessor, the young Anakin played by Jake Lloyd, and to a lesser extent many other Star Wars stars. As Harrison Ford has become an icon, how many other films can you name with Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill in a lead role? Or Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher?
Like Christensen, Jake Lloyd rarely played again after playing Anakin. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)
Personally, I would love to see Hayden Christensen enjoy a career rebirth, emerging from the ashes of a very disparaged franchise by climbing the independent ranks and reminding the industry why he chose the profession in the first place. Hell, Matthew McConaughey defied the end of a withered romantic comedy career by popping up and winning an Oscar.
I think Christensen has the courage to stick with the naysayers. Because maybe – just maybe – he’s not as bad an actor as everyone claims.