In light of recent leaks allegedly revealing JJ Abrams’ original plans for The Rise of Skywalker, there has been much discussion on the internet exploring how his director’s would have improved the movie. Most critically, the much longer runtime would have resulted in a less rushed final product, many of the plot points being given room to breathe, allowing the movie to fully develop the return of the Skywalker Saga’s most infamous character and his relationship to a certain new character.
Before the release of Star Wars: Episode IX, many fans were hoping for a return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker (myself included) – after all, how can you end a series without the character that started it all? While Darth Vader, Skywalker’s Sith alter-ego, was a looming and ominous presence throughout the Sequel Trilogy, no attention whatsoever was given to his pre-turn Jedi self. This is especially strange as Kylo Ren, who was presented to be a worshipper of Vader in The Force Awakens, would have been aware that Vader turned back to Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi, killing Emperor Palpatine and “bringing balance to the Force” for good.
Though I was disappointed that Christensen didn’t make an appearance in the flesh, I understand that in such a cluttered final cut, there would have been little time to delve into Anakin’s character. Prequel Trilogy fans were given some respite, however (though all of the film’s fanservice was directed, once more, to the Original Trilogy), as Christensen’s voice appeared amongst those of multiple other Jedi in the movie’s final showdown, as voices of Jedi past provided Rey with some final guidance, apparently helping her to bring down the Emperor.
The physical manifestation of the Jedi here may have been distracting, though Anakin’s line almost took me out of the movie all the same. Apparently Christensen was doomed with the delivery of some of the worst lines in the Saga, and the Sequel Trilogy seemingly wanted to continue down that path.
Amongst all the noise, Skywalker’s voice is heard to tell Rey, “Bring balance to the Force, like I did.” Ending the Skywalker Saga supposedly for good, The Rise of Skywalker certainly wanted to ensure no loose strings were hanging over the franchise, and the question of Anakin’s status as a Chosen One has been one of the biggest points of contention throughout this most recent trilogy. In The Phantom Menace, it is revealed that Anakin was predestined to bring balance to the Force (whatever that means), and, after a brief two-and-a-half-decade-detour, he eventually seemingly does so, killing his former Master and reclaiming his identity as Anakin.
Then the Sequel Trilogy happened, and fans started wondering – did Anakin really bring balance to the Force, if another threat (Snoke, the First Order) arose in the ashes of the Empire only a few years after Palpatine’s death? According to The Rise of Skywalker, he did, if only for a limited time.
While in an ideal world a well-integrated fully-fledged Anakin Skywalker would have appeared in the movie, a simple fix could have been made to this jarring line which would have made much more sense as well as carrying more of a meaningful thematic thread.
In The Force Awakens, Kylo promises to the melted helmet of his grandfather Vader that “I will finish what you started.” Ben Solo’s redemption was foreshadowed from the start of the trilogy, as he was shown to struggle with the Light Side of the Force since Episode VII. This struggle was so potent and thematically resonant that, until the release of Episode VIII, some fans wondered if Ren was in fact a double-agent, promising to finish his grandfather’s task of bringing balance to the Force.
Instead of “Bring balance to the Force, like I did”, Anakin should have told Rey to “finish what I started, and bring balance to the Force”, which would have maintained the meaningfulness of Anakin’s legacy (so that his great fulfilment of the prophecy didn’t crumble after a few years) while resonating with Kylo’s line in the promising movie that opened this ultimately underwhelming trilogy.