Shaw was the British actor who played the unmasked Darth Vader. His appearance is brief but unforgettable. After three movies’ worth of masked menace and James Earl Jones’ booming baritone, it’s bracing to see the dying Vader remove his breathing mask and appear as this fragile old man with a wispy voice, looking like a cracked egg that can’t be put back together again.
And there’s a kindness in his eyes that Luke had gambled upon, the light side of the Force that had transformed Vader back into Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker. In the movie’s final scene, Shaw-as-Anakin appears to Luke as a smiling ghost, alongside the spirits of his Jedi mentors, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.
Or at least that’s how fans who saw the movie 30 years ago remember it. Thanks to Lucas’ endless digital tinkering, the recent theatrical and home video re-releases of Jedi have replaced Shaw’s frail visage with that of Hayden Christensen, who played the vigorous, young-adult pre-Vader Anakin in 2002’s Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
This doesn’t even make sense. Why wouldn’t the ghost look like Anakin at the time of his death, like the ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda? How would Luke even recognize Christensen-as-Anakin, whom he’d never seen before and who looks nothing like the wizened, broken man he’d just seen die? This was the worst of several after-the-fact changes Lucas made to Jedi, including giving the Sarlacc (the pit monster on Tatooine) a beak, and stuffing more Muppet musicians into the band at Jabba’s palace. Why couldn’t he leave well enough alone?