The Star Wars original trilogy witnessed a lot of changes subsequent to the releases of each film, including digital restoration, revamping old scenes or editing them out of the movie entirely. Several of these changes met a lot of fan resentment. However, nothing was as criticized as the 2005 change to Return of the Jedi which showed Anakin’s Force ghost being modified from its original form.
The scene showed Luke Skywalker on the forest moon of planet Endor, relishing the festivities in the wake of Rebel Alliance’s victory against the Galactic Empire. That’s when he saw three ghosts standing at a distance and looking at him. They were Yoda, Obi-Wan and a newly revived Anakin Skywalker. The original version of the movie had shown Anakin portrayed by Sebastian Shaw who was the same guy that we saw when his mask was ripped off in Return of the Jedi.
George Lucas decided in 2005 to further alter the film to suit his vision, and he felt that Anakin’s appearance as an older ghost was not logical. Therefore, he digitally replaced Shaw’s portrayal with Hayden Christensen who had played the young Jedi Knight in the last two prequel episodes. A lot of fans panned this decision, and it is considered to be the most criticized change to the original trilogy even now.
Was it right on Lucas part to alter Anakin’s ghost? There are reasons which make us believe it was and let’s counter some of the claims which call this change nonsensical.
Sith Are Incapable of Being Force Ghosts
A conversation between Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn from the novel Revenge of the Sith clarifies that Dark Side Force Ghosts don’t exist because Sith don’t have the capability of being one with the Force which is necessary to continue in the afterlife:
“The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only through the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.”
This conversation is supported on Twitter by Pablo Hidalgo, who is a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group:
The idea of the Force afterlife is that it’s unknowable to the dark side, for it requires selflessness.
Then why did Anakin appear as a Force ghost at a time when he was still a Sith? He never was that old as he was shown as a Jedi in the original version, which makes it a lot sensible that he would revert to the time of his last appearance as a Jedi Knight. Age wise, during the filming of the original movie, Shaw was nearly 80 and older than Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan), who was probably 69.
In case you are thinking of Darth Bane from The Clone Wars series episode “Sacrifice,,” let’s clarify that Bane wasn’t a Force ghost, but Yoda had called him a specter or an illusion.
Lucas and the animation director of The Clone Wars, Dave Filoni had earlier trashed a story which would have depicted Sith ghosts in particular, because they were afraid about the repercussions of the mechanism related to Force ghosts in the universe. Yoda’s conversation debunks the theory about Bane being a Force ghost.
He Went Back To The Time When He Was Not Corrupted
Anakin suffered a lot before joining the Dark Side; he lost all that he loved in life, and subsequently, he lost all that was good inside him. At the time when Luke made him realize that there was the light within and Anakin redeemed himself by selflessly saving his son, he managed to go back to the time when he was not evil.
We must remember that Anakin lost Padme and Obi-Wan, he abandoned the Jedi, he lost Ahsoka and he destroyed all that the Republic had created and he had to endure living inside a suit for over 20 years due to facial disfigurement. Therefore, why won’t he wish to go back to looking the way he did before all those things happened?
How Did Luke Discover Who Anakin Was?
When Luke saw Anakin’s ghost, he knew who it was and smiled back at him. A lot of fans said that the young Anakin wasn’t familiar to Luke and he should have been confused on seeing him.
However, isn’t the same true about Shaw’s ghost? Luke didn’t know who he was because of the age that he appeared in, but, because they were connected through the Force and he could sense his presence just like he did earlier.
Then Why Do We See Older Obi-Wan and Yoda?
Obi-Wan and Yoda were never a part of the dark side and never had to return to the light to unite with the Force. Thus, it is not logical for them to look any younger than what they were.
Anakin had abandoned the Jedi who were the only people capable of being one with the Force to appear after dying physically; Sith are selfish, and thus, they can’t do that. Anakin had been a Sith for 20 years, and when he rejoined the light side as a Jedi, he was able to do the things which united him with the Force.
Obi-Wan and Yoda were always the Jedi and lived on the light side; they never had to seek redemption. Therefore, they appeared in the same form that they had when they passed on.
Therefore, Anakin went back to the light side before going to the other side of the Force. He appeared the way he was at ease to himself as well as to the people who loved Anakin from the prequels and The Clone Wars.
Fans may like it or not, but, Christensen was the exact portrayal of Anakin, and this change made the Star Wars universe more interesting and consistent with its continuity.