Disney's Sequel Trilogy has tarnished Darth Vader's redemption, but there's still time for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to put things right. Directed by J.J. Abrams, who has also co-written the script alongside Chris Terrio, Star Wars 9 will end the Skywalker Saga, but it needs to fix Anakin in order to do that.
Darth Vader was introduced to viewers as the villain of Star Wars, before undergoing a major transformation by the end of the Original Trilogy, and then his journey continued in the Prequels, with Hayden Christensen stepping into the role. In the Sequel Trilogy so far, though, his part - and ultimate fate - has been rather downplayed, to say the least. The specter of Darth Vader has loomed, but Anakin less so.
However, with Abrams looking to tie all-nine movies together, please fans, and end on a high note, then it's quite possible Anakin's story is something he'll be looking to revisit in Star Wars 9, and ideally something he can get back on track as well.
The Star Wars Saga Was Originally About Anakin Skywalker's Redemption
Although Star Wars started out as being the hero's journey of Luke Skywalker, and indeed the Original Trilogy can be seen as that, over time it also morphed into the journey of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. Throughout those first three movies we learned the shocking truth about his identity, watched him battle his son, and then finally, at the very end, return to the light side, fully redeemed. It made the ending of Return of the Jedi about both Luke AND Anakin, with his Force Ghost appearing in one of the final shots of the Original Trilogy.
The Prequel Trilogy took this further. Mostly set before Luke was even born, this charted the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, culminating with the birth of Darth Vader. It wasn't just that these three movies were Anakin's story, but that taken together, the six movies that made up the Star Wars Saga ultimately represented his tale, even more than it was Luke's. He was the ever-present across the series; the hero and the villain; he was the Chosen One!
One of George Lucas' controversial special edition changes was replacing Sebastian Shaw's Force Ghost Anakin with that of Christensen, but that only served to drive home how completely this story was his. This is the Skywalker Saga, and he's the main Skywalker in it. Or at least, he was.
Force Awakens & Last Jedi Ruined Anakin Skywalker's Legacy
Disney's Star Wars movies have proved divisive, which is mostly attributed to the character and story choices made by Rian Johnson in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, while the controversy has largely focused on the likes of Luke, Rey, and Snoke, arguably the biggest change across both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi has been to Darth Vader, even though he hasn't fully appeared.
There's been no mention of Anakin Skywalker, with instead the only focus being quite specifically on Darth Vader, who is idolized as a dark side hero by his grandson, Kylo Ren. We've seen how Kylo worships him, even talking to the charred remains of his mask, and that's the main role he has had: simply, Vader's the inspiration for Kylo Ren. That's understandable from Kylo's point-of-view, but what's stranger is how other characters react.
In The Force Awakens, we hear Han say of Ben Solo that "there's too much Vader in him." By the time of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Leia and Luke have largely given up hope of his redemption too. It's almost as if Anakin's own redemption never happened, and that there was only ever Darth Vader. Luke's reaction at the darkness in his nephew was understandable, but again, it neglected to pay much attention to Anakin's return from the dark side. They don't find any sort of solace in the fact that Anakin was able to come back from being Darth Vader, which theoretically should suggest there's at least a chance for Ben Solo to come back from being Kylo Ren. Yes, Kylo did kill Han Solo, but Darth Vader has been shown to commit worse atrocities, and even more of them, across his time helping Palpatine rule the galaxy, and he still returned. Throughout both movies, there's been a focus on Darth Vader as a legendary Sith, and nothing on Anakin Skywalker, the great Jedi and Chosen One.
The Rise Of Skywalker Needs To Fix Anakin
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have so far ruined Anakin's legacy by only centering on Darth Vader, there's still a chance for Star Wars 9 to, well, redeem things. It was in the third movie of the Original Trilogy that Darth Vader became Anakin; it was in the third movie of the Prequel Trilogy that Anakin became Darth Vader. There's precedent, then, for the final movie in a trilogy to represent a major shift with regards to Anakin Skywalker, and that means the timing is perfect for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Considering what we know about Star Wars 9, it also makes sense from a storytelling perspective anyway, rather than something born out of necessity. Rey is likely being trained, or will be shown having been trained, by multiple Force Ghosts. There's the matter of Kylo Ren's own redemptive arc. And, again, it's the end of the Skywalker Saga. In all three cases, there's a clear reason to have Anakin Skywalker involved in Star Wars 9 in some capacity. He can help guide Rey on her journey through the Force; he can appear and speak to Kylo Ren, who will be once again seeking guidance from his grandfather, but might not get quite what he expects; and we need to see the Force Ghost of Anakin to successfully round out all nine-movies. He can't not be involved, and if he is to be involved, it only really works on story, character, and thematic levels if it's as the redeemed Anakin, not the villainous Darth Vader.
It's even more pertinent with Emperor Palpatine returning in Star Wars 9, for who better to help the heroes take down the Big Bad of the Skywalker Saga than the man who defeated him the first time around? Anakin is more closely linked to Palpatine than anyone else, giving further cause for him to appear. Whether he's bringing Kylo back to the light, or playing some other part in defeating Palpatine - which would bring his story arc as the Chosen One to an even more satisfying close - then there's a way of not only having Anakin (and Christensen) appear in Star Wars 9, but having him play a direct, important, and heroic role in it, reminding everyone of his redemption and cementing his legacy above Vader's. It is called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker after all.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019