Dammit Christensen, you ruined Star Wars!

You know how these days Google predicts search terms as you type based on searches others have made? The reason I mention this is the other night Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was on TV. I found myself watching despite the fact that disappointment lurked around the corner.

I am, of course, talking about Hayden Christensen. Now this film was released in 2002 and I cannot believe that, despite the amount of time passing, Christensen’s performance still bothers me. Enough to motivate me to write this piece at least.

Straight after the film I fired up my laptop and began to type ‘Hayden Christensen c…’ and you know what Google predicts? (Get your minds out the gutter for a second.) As soon as you hit the last ‘c’ it gives you, ‘can’t act’, ‘career over’ and ‘criticism’. Seems I’m not alone in my assessment of his performance.


Star Wars – the original trilogy – was massive, huge, so influential it became ingrained in modern culture and it’s stood the test of time and remained popular from the first film in the late ’70s to the present day. The world George Lucas created was captivating… the Force, the Jedi, the Sith – all of it so richly drawn out but – and this is a big but – above all, it was human.

The characters he created were human ones, they were flawed, they struggled and fought and loved and lost. For example: Luke to understand where he came from and what his power was; Leia, in part, the same; Han to get his rocks off with Leia and prove to himself he wasn’t as selfish as he first came across. And so on.

That is why if you’re going to do a bunch of new films it’s essential you cast Anakin Skywalker as well as you possibly can. All the background about separatists, the republic, the senate, political power plays – that’s all it is, background. These films have always been about the Jedi and the Force and the whole story arc (in this case) revolves around Anakin and his journey from light to dark. It’s what we all want to see and have paid our bucks for – everything else is window dressing, to a degree.


So why couldn’t he deliver?

Now I know it’s easy to condemn and hard to create but honestly, how did Hayden Christensen get the part? He had been in precious little before Star Wars and his career after has been sparse to say the least. I know some say these films are career killers; for example in the Family Guy version Peter Griffin (playing Han Solo) introduces himself by saying ‘I’m Captain of the Millennium Falcon and the only actor whose career isn’t killed by this movie’.

I suppose this was more true of the original trilogy than these modern prequels, established actors like Ewan Mcgregor and Liam Neeson all fared well post-Star Wars, but then they didn’t have the heavy burden of being the lead. They propped him up as best they could, but it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.

Just to put things in perspective: I didn’t buy the way Christensen attempted to portray inner conflict as he wrestled between the two sides of the Force; I felt his delivery of dialogue was stilted and forced; I felt he lacked chemistry with Natalie Portman’s character; I didn’t like his stupid haircut; I didn’t like the fact that a number of his scenes had a homoerotic undercurrent, he had more chemistry with Ewan Mcgregor’s Obi-Wan for Christ’s sake.

To be serious for a second, one of the few scenes in which he actually convinced was his final battle with Kinobe on the river of lava. Much closer tonally to the original films… dark, brooding, dramatic and intense. In that respect maybe their bromance helped, ‘I loved you Anakin!’ (Ahem, like a brother.)

Who else?

It would be fascinating (or infuriating) to know which up-and-coming actors auditioned for the role at the time and were rejected. Given Attack of the Clones came out in 2002 guys breaking out then included: Jack Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, 2001), James Franco (Spider-man, 2002), Christian Bale (American Psycho, 2000) and Ryan Phillippe (Way of the Gun, 2000).

Christian Bale wasn’t right as he was probably too old and just doesn’t seem the right fit, however there’s a few scenes in American Psycho that make you think maybe he could have done something pretty interesting with the role. Ryan Phillippe is similar in appearance to Christensen and showed great inner conflict in Way of the Gun with a surprising level of emotional depth. (Incidentally, it’s a great film and worth a watch if you get the chance.)

Then there’s Jake Gyllenhaal. He would have been a brave albeit unconventional fit – his creepy and tormented downward spiral in Donnie Darko showed he could have handled the character’s journey from light to dark. And James Franco may have been an interesting choice too, as he’s since showed in his career he likes to take on alternative types of roles, such as 127 Hours and Spring Breakers.


In a galaxy far, far away

Anyway, none of this matters. We’re stuck with Christensen as Anakin – so as a rule of thumb, if you’re bored one day and fancy a Star Wars fix, one that has classic scenes, tension, dread, adventure, joy and wonder – stick with the originals. If you want glossy CGI action aimed at kids, Jar Jar sodding Binks refusing to shut up and Samuel L. Jackson flashing his purple light sabre around the place, go with the modern prequels.

But then, if you’re reading this blog you’re most likely film fans (you clever lot) and know this already. In fact, maybe I’m just taking this all too seriously and had better go watch the Family Guy version to lighten up. May the farce be with you.

PS Read my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here.

14 thoughts on “Dammit Christensen, you ruined Star Wars!

  1. Your totally delusional. Hayden Christensen was the BEST actor on the show. In fact the show ruined itself soon as they wrote him off it.

    1. I know, right! Hayden was the best actor I might expect. Mark and Carrie had bad moments too. I keep wishing Hayden would be on Star Wars VII.

  2. I love how so many people are so critical of Hayden, Natalie, and little Jake Lloyd for “terrible acting”. In the originals Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher put on some of the worst acting performances I have ever seen. Also, I think expectations were so high that fans wouldn’t have been happy with whatever came out. Remember you watched the originals as kids not adults. Is it possible we are looking for that same excitement star wars gave us all those years ago?? As adults its just not as appealing. The only thing I didn’t like about the prequels was the dialogue. Lets not forget Lucas instructed these actors on how HE wanted them portrayed. I think sometimes people forget that. In conclusion I thought his acting was pretty good and is wrongly criticized far to often.

    1. I couldn’t agree more! I forever see so much hate speech on these actors and I actually really enjoyed them and will easily forgive them for the cringeworthy moments. These are big shoes to fill and all I can say is well done I loved watching you.
      I guess I was blessed in watching the prequels first – funnily enough if you reverse the order of the films, like I did, you might end up enjoying the prequels more than the originals.
      Overall I think they all did well SINCE I AM STILL REWATCHING ALL THE FILMS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!!! So instead of criticizing I just want to say thank you Star Wars for exciting my imagination 🙂

  3. HC was absolutely terrible in both of the last two prequels, but a bit better in the second. In Clones, he gave one of the worst performances of all time, so he had nowhere to go but up. And yes, Lucas is at least partly to blame. He did direct and provide some horrible dialogue. All good reasons to still be bothered if you ask me.

  4. At some point i really agree that the casr would have been done differently yeah hayden was really annoying to certain extent in aotc but when he has to be angry and within a rage he probably portrayed enough of vader the transforming from one side to another was a long way to give as a performance he wasnt that experienced to portray but come on he did the best he could yes he will never be a great actor but he is not that bad and annoying. In rots i was with a little worry though expecting such a masterpiece and afraid of his ruining the character i must admit i wasnt disappointed nevetheless i loved it i loved the way he became Vader. let him take his dialogues and just look at him in the eye then you will see that the new trilogy is not to be that disappointing but praising at some points as well.

  5. on my own opinion, I think Hayden acts cot really bad because he didn’t love his own character. Anakin is not a lovable character, but let’s compare it to Lena Headey’s Cersei; Cersei is not a lovable character, yet Lena love it so much it brings the character alive.

    1. Well that’s just commitment from the actor. Their job is to show passion for the character, whether the character is likeable or not. I think he was just out of his depth.

  6. I think all the actors did the best with what they were given. Lucia himself even said he didn’t like doing scripts and was better at all the action. The movies almost ruined Natalie Portmans career because she was perceived as a terrible actor when in fact I think her script just wasn’t well – written so to blame the actors I think is unfair

  7. I love Hayden’s performance as Anakin Skywalker. He have some beautiful eyes, and if you se in his eyes is it so much going on there and I understand he’s love for Padmé. And that he wanted to do everything he could do to save her from die. And the anger and the suffering he have in him was Hayden very god to make and show.

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