Star Wars 9 can do something unexpected and make George Lucas' Special Edition changes to the original Star Wars trilogy actually work. Lucas tinkered with the Original Trilogy for years, making a number of adjustments across various re-releases, very few of which were well-received by fans. At best they've mostly been considered pointless, but Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will be able to explain them and give one of the changes a much greater purpose.
Star Wars 9 isn't just the end of Disney's Sequel Trilogy, but the conclusion to the entire 42-year-long Skywalker Saga, which means it's encompassing the Original and Prequel Trilogies too. We know that Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian and, biggest of all, Emperor Palpatine are all returning one way or another, but it's unlikely J.J. Abrams will stop there with the cameos and callbacks.
Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi have been frequently rumored to be appearing, but bigger than both of those in terms of the Skywalker Saga is the potential return of Anakin, as played by Hayden Christensen. It makes a great deal of sense for him to appear in Star Wars 9, and thanks to Lucas' Special Edition changes, the door is wide open for him to do so.
Original Trilogy Changes Have Been (Mostly) Hated By Hardcore Fans
George Lucas first started making significant changes to the Star Wars Original Trilogy back in the 1990s, when a Special Edition of the saga was released to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Some of these were more minor and cosmetic, with Lucas attempting to modernize the franchise ahead of the forthcoming Prequel Trilogy, as well as taking advantage of advancements in technology. He didn't stop there though, making further changes with another DVD release in 2004, and then again when the Original Trilogy hit Blu-ray in 2001.
Not all of the changes were loathed, it should be pointed out. Lucas did a lot of work cleaning up and remastering the Star Wars Original Trilogy, in his effort to make sure it didn't start to look dated. Other changes were almost hilariously small to the point you can't believe Lucas even bothered, like removing the eyebrows from Sebastian Shaw's Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi. But others were far more important, and these were the ones to garner a lot of controversy and outrage.
The most infamous of these is the meddling with the showdown between Han Solo and Greedo in the Cantina on Mos Eisley. Lucas changed this so that Greedo shot first but missed, and then again so that they shot simultaneously, but as any Star Wars fan will tell you, Han shot first. Jabba the Hutt (with some awful CGI) and Boba Fett were added into A New Hope; Boba's voice was changed for The Empire Strikes Back; in Return of the Jedi the song "Lapti Nek" is replaced by a much-longer, CGI-heavy number called "Jedi Rocks"; and Anakin's "NO" from Revenge of the Sith was added to the moment he throws Palpatine down the chasm. It's these that were resoundingly hated by the vast majority of fans, and still cause outrage to this day since the theatrical cuts aren't readily available. There's one change, though, that was met with anger, but could tie into Star Wars 9.
Hayden Christensen's Force Ghost Was Hated, But Could Be The Most Important Change
In the original cut of Return of the Jedi, the Force Ghosts of Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan appear at the end of the movie, looking much as you'd expect them too based on what had been seen across the previous Star Wars movies and, crucially, with Sebastian Shaw in the role of Anakin. It worked as an emotional touch at the end of the trilogy, and everyone was happy with it. Of course, George Lucas being, well, George Lucas, he went and changed the sequence, replacing Shaw with Hayden Christensen.
There were a couple of major problems with that. The first was that, since Anakin was much older when he died, it didn't make much sense for him to appear so young as a Force Ghost. Worse, though, was that Christensen's performance as Anakin Skywalker was considered one of the worst parts of Attack of the Clones (this was made just before Revenge of the Sith was released, although that then didn't help matters). In terms of drawing ire from the fans, it was probably second only to 'Han shot first', but Star Wars 9 can use it.
Time heals all wounds. Perceptions of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy have started to shift as the generation for whom it was their introduction to the franchise get older, and newer, younger audiences are brought to it as well. With that is a shift in how Christensen himself is viewed: his performance isn't as widely dismissed, but just on a more personal level he appears to be generally well-liked among the Star Wars fandom, and the backlash to Disney's own movies, The Last Jedi in particular, hasn't hurt in that regard. That's where the Force Ghost change becomes important, because Christensen's Force Ghost of Anakin is already established, making it very easy to put him in Star Wars 9 as it isn't changing anything this time. Most of the Special Edition changes to Star Wars are either bad or pointless, but while Christensen's was terrible at the time (and it'd still be nice to have Shaw in there), it's the only adjustment that could now have a major bearing on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and actually seem surprisingly useful.
The Rise Of Skywalker Teaser Teased Multiple Force Ghosts
Since Mark Hamill is reprising his role as Luke Skywalker for Star Wars 9, and that, as far as we know, he isn't making a shocking return from the dead, then that means he's almost certainly going to appear as a Force Ghost. The teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker suggested as much, as we heard Luke ostensibly speaking to Rey. In that moment, we didn't just get a big hint that Luke's Force Ghost would appear, but that multiple Force Ghosts would be in Star Wars 9.
It's only a brief part of the Star Wars 9 teaser, but Luke tells Rey that "we've passed on all we know." Most of that sentence isn't up for debate, since it's clearly tied to her training in the ways of the Force and likely the Jedi too, but the "we" part leaves a massive question mark. Who does "we" refer to? At the very least, it means one other Force Ghost has been teaching Rey alongside Luke, if not more. It could be Yoda, Obi-Wan, or even Qui-Gon Jinn, but it's Anakin who makes the most sense.
If Episode IX Is The End Of The Skywalker Story, It Needs Anakin
Star Wars 9 is set to end the Skywalker Saga, and if it is indeed going to follow through on that, then Anakin does need to appear in some capacity. Fans may be divided on Hayden Christensen, but a cameo shouldn't be too difficult to pull off, and it'd make the broader story and sense of closure much stronger to include Anakin, because he is the one who, chronologically speaking, started it all.
It was Anakin's apparent immaculate conception that kicked off this whole journey. Star Wars started in cinemas with Luke, but Anakin is his father, he's the Chosen One, and someone who has been on both sides of the Jedi/Sith dichotomy, which Star Wars 9 is set to end. The Skywalker Saga is in many ways the story of Anakin, from his rise and fall to his ultimate redemption, so it'd be a shame if he didn't appear here to help see it out.
Since Palpatine is back too, we're likely to learn much more about his grand nine-movie scheme, of which Anakin is heavily involved. Luke's returning as a Force Ghost, so it'd be a nice touch for him to communicate with his father through the Force, and for them to both help teach the new generation. And with the Skywalker Saga ending, it'd be fitting for the Skywalkers to appear together one final time. Thanks to Lucas' Special Edition changes introducing Christensen's Force Ghost, then it's very easy for Star Wars 9 to do just that.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019