Hayden Christensen is back as Darth Vader in Disney+’s new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, but why is it better than a cameo in the most recent sequel trilogy?
Hayden Christensen is returning as Darth Vader in the upcoming Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and it’s a far better role than a cameo in the sequels. The announcement of the planned Disney+-focused expansion of the Star Wars universe, with fan-favorites like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano returning with their own series was arguably crowned by Hayden Christensen’s casting and though surprising, it’s not unwelcome in story terms not least because it allows Vader to achieve more than a sequels cameo could have offered.
Christensen’s return alongside Ewan McGregor in Obi-Wan Kenobi will be their first collaboration since playing Padawan and Jedi in George Lucas’ prequels. Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker formed the heart of the narrative in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Though his performance was ill-received at first, fans have subsequently warmed up to Christensen’s Anakin in recent years. Christensen wasn’t all to blame for his less-than-stellar performance as the man who would become Darth Vader as poor direction and a convoluted script contributed to Anakin’s oftentimes one-dimensional character. Christensen was also rumored to return as a Force ghost in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but ultimately, he only had a small speaking role at the very end when Rey hears the voices of past Jedi.
It’s actually to Christensen’s benefit that he did not return in a Force ghost cameo to close out the Skywalker Saga and has a co-starring role in Obi-Wan Kenobi instead. Set ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the new Disney+ series has the potential to explore what Darth Vader and Obi-Wan did after their separation on Mustafar. There’s an interesting opportunity to flesh out Darth Vader’s character the same way The Clone Wars animated series did for Anakin. And there’s even the chance that this live-action series will also feature new flashbacks to Anakin and Obi-Wan’s interactions before Anakin is lost to the dark side of the Force. Whatever they decide to do, the role ensures Darth Vader will have plenty of screentime for viewers to enjoy. With a compelling enough script and better direction from the showrunners, Hayden Christensen reprising his role as Darth Vader will likely win over fans still reeling from the prequels.
Put frankly, a Force ghost cameo by Anakin wouldn’t have improved the overall quality of the sequel trilogy. The sequels focus primarily on the idea of Darth Vader’s absent influence over Kylo Ren, which is odd considering his redemption at the end of his life, and odder still because Luke and Leia never make an effort to mention this important piece of information. Ultimately, with that narrative in mind, the only time a Force ghost cameo from Anakin may have worked would have been during The Rise of Skywalker as Anakin could have acted as a guide back to the light for Kylo Ren, who mistakenly thought Vader was inspiring his insidious actions. That would have meant leaving Han Solo’s cameo on the cutting room floor. It may have made sense in that moment, but it would derail the rest of the story to have him suddenly appear at that point only. And having Christensen cameo in such a busy film would have been a disservice to him and a poor send-off for the character.
With the success of The Mandalorian, Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series sounds very promising. Now that Disney has learned from the mistakes of the Star Wars sequels, its original shows will hopefully receive the proper care, writing, and guidance of directors who respect the source material. Hayden Christensen’s reprisal of Darth Vader is sure now one of the biggest prospects to look forward to, as it will provide even more character development and a logical expansion of the dynamic between the former master and apprentice. Ultimately, while Ren’s most important relationship was with Vader, it was not reciprocated, and Anakin’s existing emotional ties with Obi-Wan will make for a far more satisfying expansion.