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Why George Lucas Replaced Anakin Skywalker’s Force Ghost

George Lucas controversially changed Return of the Jedi’s ending so that Hayden Christensen was Anakin’s Force ghost, and here’s why he did that.

Here’s why George Lucas changed Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost from Sebastian Shaw to Hayden Christensen in Return of the Jedi. Lucas has made many changes to the original Star Wars trilogy over the years, with mixed results. Hayden Christensen’s cameo as Anakin’s Force ghost during the Rebels’ celebration on Endor though is one of the more controversial Star Wars special edition alterations.

In Return of the Jedi’s 1983 theatrical cut and 1997 special edition, Sebastian Shaw’s version was seen accompanying Obi-Wan and Yoda, watching over Luke as he reflected on his journey. The implication is that Luke is seeing his father and mentors as he remembered them. When Luke finally met Anakin, Anakin was an older man.

Related: ROTJ’s Vader vs Luke Duel Perfectly Flipped Anakin Killing Dooku

For the 2004 DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy, Lucas changed Return of the Jedi‘s ending so that Hayden Christensen replaced Sebastian Shaw as Anakin’s Force ghost. The move drew the ire of viewers, particularly since the DVD set came out during the height of prequel backlash and Christensen’s performance in Attack of the Clones had been widely panned. For many, this was an unnecessary change to Return of the Jedi, but Lucas had his personal reasons for why it made sense.

Why George Lucas Replaced Anakin’s Force Ghost

Force Ghosts of Young Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars Return of the Jedi

In an interview event, Lucas did with none other than Hayden Christensen, he explained changing Anakin’s Force ghost appearance in Return of the Jedi. For Lucas, it stemmed from the idea that Anakin died (metaphorically speaking) after he turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. When Anakin was redeemed upon saving Luke in Return of the Jedi, his “inner person would go back to where we left it off.” Additionally, Lucas thought this change would be a good way to connect the prequels and originals, bringing it full circle.

An argument could be made that since Vader turned back to the light and defeated the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, Sebastian Shaw’s Anakin Force ghost should remain intact. In Lucas’ eyes, however, at that point, Anakin had already been consumed by the dark side and committed numerous atrocities in the name of the Empire. Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Force ghost is clearly modeled on a pre-turn Skywalker when he was still a heroic Jedi Knight fighting in the Clone Wars. Even though Anakin tapped into the dark side on certain occasions to get an upper hand, he wasn’t fully corrupted until Revenge of the Sith. So, by that logic, his Force ghost in Return of the Jedi would resemble the person he was before Palpatine twisted him.

Lucas’ reasoning clarifies why Anakin’s Force ghost in Return of the Jedi is of himself as a young man, while Obi-Wan and Yoda are old. The latter two were lifelong Jedi and never turned to the dark side, so they don’t have a point to “go back to where we left it off” a la Anakin. Regardless if that’s convincing enough for an individual viewer or not, those are the Force ghost rules as established in Star Wars canon. Hayden Christensen returned for a voiceover cameo as one of the Jedi Rey heard in The Rise of Skywalker, further cementing Lucas’ polarizing change to Return of the Jedi as definitive. Sebastian Shaw’s version will always have a special place in the hearts of those who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, but Hayden Christensen is now synonymous with Anakin.

Related: Return of the Jedi: Why Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber Had Its Color Changed

Other Controversial Changes In The Star Wars Remasters

Star Wars Greedo Han shoot out

Replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen in Return of the Jedi isn’t the only change to the original Star Wars trilogy that divided fans. Perhaps the most infamous and egregious is Han shooting Greedo first in A New Hope (something that Lucasfilm has largely backtracked on in subsequent re-edits over the years). Other misguided changes include an embarrassing musical number, “Jedi Rocks,” in Jabba’s palace, an unconvincing CGI Jabba talking with Han in A New Hope, and Vadar screening “Nooo!” when dispatching the Emperor. These inclusions are at best a distraction and at worst change character traits and details that harm the original story. Still, not all the changes Lucas made to the original Star Wars trilogy were harmful. Some of the subtler updated effects (such as the compositing in the Rancor scene or adding windows to Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back) work and John Williams’ rewritten score for Return of the Jedi’s victory celebration is a vast improvement from “Yub Nub.”

Next: REVENGE Of The Jedi’s Title Revealed Anakin’s Biggest Flaw (Before The Prequels)

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