3. Anakin’s Turn to the Darkside
Listen, I’m not going to defend Hayden Christensen’s performance, nor am I going to find the good in George Lucas’ abhorrent dialogue writing. Because to be frank, Lucas’ attempts at romance are probably what inspired Stephenie Meyer and I to find Hayden so appalling I couldn’t even bear to have him be the picture for this section.
What I’m praising is that of all the potential outcomes that George Lucas could have written for Anakin’s descent into darkness, he went with the one that perfectly parallels Luke’s character arc in the original trilogy. The ultimate reason Anakin turns to the Dark side is to protect Padme and his unborn children – the ones he loves. That was perfect. Why? Well, because this is the one thing that comes out of the prequels that makes viewings of the original movies even better. In the final confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader in “Return of the Jedi,” it is only after that Darth Vader says that he’ll focus his efforts on Leia if Luke doesn’t join the emperor that causes Luke to become enraged and strike his father down. His desire to protect those he loves is the one area his Jedi training could not suppress, and he realizes how succumbing to that passionate rage would send him into darkness, just as it did with his father. Since we know how this passionate rage is what tipped Anakin over, the tension of seeing Luke at the same edge is heightened, and the payoff of Luke being able to steer clear of the dark is even more cathartic.
Knowing that Anakin became Darth Vader out of love for his family also places him in the perfect place for redemption. When the emperor is shooting Luke with lightning and Darth is trying to decide which to side with, if you’ve seen the prequels, you have to wonder if one of the thoughts in Vader’s mind in that moment is how horribly ironic it would be to side with the man who’s killing his child – a child whose protection was the main reason he followed that man in the first place! So we see him choose to cast the emperor down into the abyss, a moment made even more powerful after having seen what great lengths Anakin goes to in “Revenge of the Sith.” It’s love that sent Anakin to the dark side of the Force, and in the end, it’s love that brings him back to the light.