How ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Made Darth Vader Scary Again

We’ve been watching the new Star Wars series called and based on Obi-Wan Kenobi. The premise is straight forward, following an adventure of the titular character during his time between the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. You have to really pick and choose your Star Wars properties these days, as the quality can fluctuate widely. The fanbase hasn’t been on their best behaviour lately, with some vocal pricks harassing creators and cast members with racist, sexist or racist and sexist horribleness.

Off track, back to the point. Deborah Chow’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is pretty good, no less because Ewan McGregor is returning to the role and he is always watchable. Add in the unexpected focus on a mean little Leia as an escort mission, some colourful villains to work through and some great cameos performances and you’ve got a fun show. One of the most talked about aspects of the film is also the return of Hayden Christensen in the role of Darth Vader, at least physically, along with James Earl Jones on vocals.

Hayden Christensen attracted some negative responses, along with quite a bit of the Prequel films, in part due to his unguided performance and in part due to the wonky script. The more damaging part of the Prequel characterisation of Anakin Skywalker is the demystifying of Darth Vader. He was once imposing, brutal and mysterious. We were left to fill in the gaps between Vader being a champion of the Jedi Order and the monster that we’re left with. Seeing the whinging, angsty teenage Darth pretty much took the wind out of his sails.

Darth Vader didn’t feel the same after the Prequels. There were attempts at more menacing depictions of the character, such as Rogue One, but they’d always be stymied by the desire to make his cool. The third episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi opens with Darth Vader being stripped back down and recreated as the menacing, inhuman figure that this arch-villain should be.

Starting with intact eyes amid a ruined face, we see exactly how little humanity is left in Anakin Skywalker following his final encounter with Obi-Wan. Beyond that is a face and torso left unrecognisable through the burns. His features are obscured by breathing apparatus, and he’s suspended in a bacta tank to ease the physical pain. As we zoom out we see the full horror of his existence…his arms and his legs are gone, stumps fitted with joins for his mechanical prosthetics. The installation of these follow suit, being screwed into place and forming a bio-mechanical nightmare living in pain and driven by rage.

The last time we chronologically saw this character, his burning rebirth is severely undercut by his bellowing ‘Nooooooooo!’ as the movie ends. This is a very much a redemption for the character, as the full damage inflicted upon him by his mentor and our hero. We want nothing more than to see these two clash once more. We are ready for a renewed, dangerous and powerful Darth Vader.

Then he goes and sits in a big throne in his Doom Castle atop a volcano. Damnit.