Star Wars fans aren’t easy to please, and sometimes the weight of the fandom’s expectations can be suffocating for actors. Hayden Christensen suffered relentless criticism from fans and critics alike for his performance as Anakin Skywalker in Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. While the films were a box office success, the critique of Hayden’s performance as Anakin went on for years. Hayden continued acting for a few years and eventually took a break. In the meantime, George Lucas and Dave Filoni launched The Clone Wars animated series, and Hayden expressed his interest in voicing Anakin for the series.
But it never happened, and The Clone Wars continued without Hayden’s involvement. Even though Anakin came to be more understood and appreciated as a character, many fans noticed that his animated version seemed to be an attempt to make him less and less like Hayden’s version of Anakin. Hayden’s Anakin was intense and fierce but also very vulnerable and weighed down by grief and anxiety. In other words, his Anakin is a moody one, and in The Clone Wars, Anakin has more bravado and leadership skills than his live-action version. Some fans went as far as to argue that Hayden was at fault for not portraying Anakin that way because he doesn’t possess the talent.
Thanks to his return in Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka, Hayden’s Star Wars redemption, which began in last year’s Kenobi, is now complete. He’s shown how well he can act, starting with the heartbreaking confrontation with his former Master, where he manages to express more emotion with half his face than many actors can with their entire body. It’s a moment I revisit many times as a fan, and it never fails to bring me to tears. But Ahsoka takes everything a step further and gives Hayden more room to showcase his talent. He’s able to show a more relaxed and charming side of Anakin, as well as the dark side that hides somewhere inside him. He still moves with ease and proves that aside from Ewan McGregor, he’s the best duelist in Star Wars.
Hayden is the Chosen One in how he walks with authority, talks with confidence, and guides a young Padawan with the same ease we saw in someone like Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan. While Anakin may have never attained the rank of Master, on screen, Hayden Christensen certainly acts like a “Master Skywalker” as opposed to an emotionally vulnerable Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker. It’s growth that happened off-screen because Anakin never got to live to that point. He enacted the part of the Padawan many times, but this time he switched sides. This Anakin is a teacher, the one fans grew up watching in The Clone Wars, one that many could only dream would make it to live action, but thanks to Hayden’s wonderful performance, it’s now a reality.
Thanks to his outstanding performance, we can now picture Hayden as both the live-action Anakin of the prequels and The Clone Wars Anakin. The questions surrounding Hayden’s ability to act should be put to rest now. He deserves all the love and accolades because, for years, he took the criticism with a smile and humbly accepted an opportunity to return, despite everything that he went through in the past. Hayden Christensen was always Anakin Skywalker, but now he’s shown that he was the right man to play him in every phase of Anakin’s life. The rebellious Anakin, the troubled Anakin, General Skywalker, and Master Anakin Skywalker are all one character, and as a Prequel Trilogy fan, it’s a pleasure to see Hayden being given a chance to do a little bit with each version of him, and it’s safe to say that his Star Wars redemption is now complete.
Ahoska is streaming on Disney+.