Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Since this week we’re talking about Anakin Skywalker, this is your spoiler warning for the 1999 movie, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the 2002 movie, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and the 2005 movie, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Okay, I know. The Star Wars Prequels. Dead horse, right? Everyone has already talked about how Star Wars was ruined forever and ever and ever, Amen. Everyone has already talked about how all of their childhoods were destroyed in unison the first time that Jar Jar Binks stumbled onto the screen back in ’99. We know. George Lucas is the worst. He redefined disappointment and destroyed one of the greatest villains in cinematic history. Or whatever. So this might seem like I’m punching down here, throwing Anakin Skywalker into the annals of Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks history. But we all need an easy day sometimes, kids. I’m saving Ellis from Die Hard for Christmas, so it had to be this.
Anakin Skywalker sucks. Let’s just make that one clear right from the get-go. He suuuuuuucks. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the monotone-voiced jerk-child Anakin in Phantom Menace, or the sand-hatin’ lovebird Anakin in Clones, or the fanny-fit throwing emo knob in Sith. None of them are any good. There’s no good Anakin. He’s just a ringpiece of the highest order in each of the prequel movies, and that’s a shame because knowing that the future Darth Vader started life as such an unmitigated toss-pot really does take the shine off of his villainy in future episodes somewhat. I mean, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here – I’m not one of those people who thinks the prequels ruined everything forever. They’re just a bit rubbish. Anakin Skywalker though, both as a character and as performed by two cringe-worthy actors, sucks the big one.
The Phantom Menace introduces us to the future Darth Vader as a little slave child working for a sleazy flying alien thing that says, “Annnnniiiiiii” a lot. I think he’s supposed to be a comedy character but I’m not really sure. I mean, nothing says “hilarity” quite like a slave trader, but who knows? Anyway, Liam Neeson reckons young Anakin has potential to train as a Jedi thanks to him having loads of magic Jedi bugs in his blood or whate- you know what, you don’t need the horse-shit backstory. Long story short, he’s a little dickhead. All he does for the entire film is talk in a super annoying monotone voice, and somehow, implausibly, save the day at the end. Oh yeah, also he takes part in these super dangerous pod races that last for like a billion hours and consist of nothing but CGI and Anakin saying, “Woooo” in a robotic voice, like Ric Flair after a stroke. It’s rubbish. Honestly, it really is.
Anyway, fast-forward to the next movie, and child actor Anakin has been sent to bed with no supper, only to be replaced by the equally appalling Hayden Christensen playing the now grown up Skywalker. For as bad as Anakin was in Phantom Menace, you can at least give poor little Jake Lloyd a smidgen of leeway because he was a child actor. Hayden Christensen was a fully functional real life grown up when he disgraced our screens as a teenage Anakin Skywalker, and that’s a little tougher to swallow. Sporting a hair-cut that made him look like a rejected character model from the worst Final Fantasy game ever, and delivering insipid lines of dialogue like, “I’m haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me,” without a hint of self-awareness or irony, most of Anakin’s scenes in Clones wouldn’t seem out of place in a straight-to-DVD parody.
Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequel movies, but that’s a little bit like saying that Hodgkin Lymphoma is the best cancer to get. You’d probably still not choose to endure it, would you? It’s chock-full of appalling acting and dialogue, and an overuse of CGI makes it all feel totally weightless. Plot-wise, Anakin has started having dreams about his wife Padme dying, so he does what anyone else would do in this situation, and murders a bunch of children to try and save her life because a guy that might as well have had a neon sign floating above his head saying —–>I’M A BADDIE!<—– told him it might help. It’s so stupid. Eventually, Padme – the usually reliable Natalie Portman in her worst ever performance – realises that her husband is a complete ballbag, and then just dies of grief (!?), and Anakin gets his arms and legs chopped off by Obi-Wan. Actually, the ending is pretty radical. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Darth Vader was born.
Anakin: You are so… beautiful.
Padme: It’s only because I’m so in love.
Anakin: No. No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.
Padme: Then love has blinded you?
Anakin: Well… that’s not exactly what I meant.
Padme: But it’s probably true.
Comeuppance: Obi-Wan calls Anakin out on his bullshit but he ain’t listening, so they have a massive rumble and Obi-Wan cuts his arms and legs off and then he gets set on fire and then his skin burns off and then he gets turned into a robot. It’s probably a bit overkill, but then it actually makes for quite cathartic viewing after watching him twitter on about sand and shit for six hours of movie time. Anyway, after all those bad things happen to Anakin, the now officially evil Emperor tricks Anny into believing that Padme died at his hands, and Anakin, grief-stricken from murdering the woman he loved and a bunch of innocent kids and nearly murdering his best friend, shouts “Noooooooooo!” like a comical space Frankenstein.
Jerk-off Rating: If his jerkiness were a spaceship it could do the Kessel Run in eleven parsecs.
Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks. And if you’ve not quite had your fill of cinematic jerk-offs, check out #3 Cypher (The Matrix), #7 Carter Burke (Aliens), or #10 Peter Parker (Spider-Man 3).