Everyone seems to bash Hayden Christensen's performance as Anakin Skywalker in Episodes II and III of Star Wars. I admit, for a while, I used to do it, too. However, I may have to rethink my position on the atrociousness of his acting.
In honor of Star Wars Day today, I watched the original Star Wars, now ridiculously known as Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope. After seeing Mark Hamill's performance as Luke Skywalker and listening to James Earl Jones' voice over work for Darth Vader, I'm now inclined to think that Hayden Christensen is brilliant. Just ... stick with me on this.
One of the complaints about Christensen's performance is that it was "too over the top." Vader would never have been such a petulant prick. Actually, in Episode IV, he was. He's not the calm, almost Zen, Sith Lord that people remember from Empire and Jedi. He chokes that rebel dude and then throws him across the room. He yells - yells - at his subordinates. "Commander tear this ship apart until you've found those plans! And bring me the passengers, I want them alive!" And he barks at Leia. "You are part of the rebel alliance and a traitor. TAKE HER AWAY!" Very much like Hayden's performance in Episode VI.
In the beginning of A New Hope, Luke is a whiny little bitch. He's kind of whiny throughout the movie, but its especially bad in the beginning. "But I was going to Toshi station to pick up some power converters!" "But it's a whole 'nother year!" "Aw, Biggs is right. I'm never gonna get out of here!" Similarly, Hayden Christensen's interpretation of Anakin Skywalker as also rather whiny. Which leads me to think ... Christensen must have seen Episode IV and thought, "Okay, why is Luke so whiny? Maybe its a hereditary personality trait. So I'll make Anakin whiny. That way, it will show that Luke is Anakin's son." And then he must have thought, "Why is Vader so angry? I know. He's angry because things still haven't worked out for him and his whine has turned to rage. So I'll play that."
Brilliant. It's an amazing bridge between the characters to show how Anakin became Vader and how Luke is clearly his offspring. Hayden Christensen's acting choices are sheer genius. Until you look at his performances in his other movies and you realize, "No. He really does suck."