Our publisher, Fritz Foy, has a six-year-old son who’s just discovered Star Wars. Oh, man, I thought when Fritz told me this. Awesome. Wonder if he’s a Han or a Luke (clearly neither; see right). But Fritz went on to mention something I’ve never thought about.
Kids who are just discovering Star Wars watch the movies in internal chronological order.
My mind was blown. My little brother came of Star-Wars age before any of the prequels came out, so I’ve never witnessed someone go through the emotional arc of watching 1, 2, and 3 before knowing what happens in 4, 5, and 6. To these kids, “Anakin is the good guy,” Fritz told me. “They play Anakin.” Kids want to be the hotshot podracer and the young butt-kicker of the Clone Wars cartoons, and then they have to watch someone they like and identify with turn evil. That’s their Anakin killing children their age, their Anakin in the big scary suit, choking people and throwing them against walls.
But what really stopped me short was thinking about the end of Return of the Jedi; you can watch the fight, and Anakin’s death, here. If you don’t have ten minutes, just watch from 7:07 to the end, and think about Anakin’s decision to save his son as not only a surprise, but the unexpected return1 of a loved one. Fritz says that at 7:15, his son Nate says, “Anakin is back.” I don’t have the same attachment to Anakin as Nate—I can’t—but just try picturing Luke in that suit and see if, like me, you get chills.
As opposed as I was to most of the extended edition DVD changes, thinking about the new emotional journey through Star Wars available to younger watchers, I actually like the addition of Hayden Christensen’s familiar face to the trio of ghosts at the end2; the clock turns back, redemption is possible, our3 Anakin returns.
1 I was always in the “title refers to Luke’s coming of age and the revival of the Order” camp, and have had some bitter discussions with the “title refers to Anakin” ers, but woah it is totally both. Time is cyclical.
Steve Hamilton points out that this is inconsistent4: why young Anakin and old Obi-Wan? I don’t know, but I’m willing to allow that the Force and its Force-ghosts are operating on a Matrix-like system of residual self-image.5 (And if George Lucas had replaced Alec Guinness with Ewan McGregor6, he would have been visited by a real Force-ghost. To the face.)
Yes, fine, that hurt me to write. But I’m really trying, here.
4 Speaking of inconsistent, I’m so glad Lucas didn’t end up putting Qui-Gon into that scene; I love me some Liam Neeson, but he would have also had to Photoshop mild confusion onto Mark Hamill’s reaction shot: “Who’s the dude with the ponytail?”7
Playing Sith Lord’s advocate, if you truly become one with the Force, why do you have a residual self-image at all? Because Force-ghosts are awesome, that’s why.
Even though I think McGregor turned in some great performances and totally deserves props for carrying the last two prequels singlehandedly.
Although, on that note, did Luke just…figure out…who the young guy was? Because Hayden Christenson != lava-scarred Sebastian Shaw.
Megan Messinger enjoyed the Jedi Academy Trilogy more than the Thrawn Trilogy; you may now throw rocks at her with your mind. Also, down here in the bio squib is the only time the words “Darth Vader” appear in this post. Think about it.