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Anakin Skywalker is an essential character in the first Star Wars trilogy, Episodes I-III. In the initial 1977 George Lucas film, Star Wars only brief mention is made of Anakin. We learn he is the father of Luke Skywalker and are told he was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, which is not true since Anakin Skywalker has become Darth Vader. Episode V The Empire Strikes Back reveals this, and sets up the emotional struggle of Luke who seeks redemption for his father.
In The Return of the Jedi, we learn Anakin Skywalker fathered twins, Luke and Leia. Until Episode V, Darth Vader believed his wife Padme had died prior to giving birth. Luke’s struggle in reforming Darth Vader, and not becoming like him is encouraged by his sense that Vader still has good in him. In this task, Luke is successful, bringing balance to the force, as was prophesied.
The second trilogy, which is a prequel to Star Wars, begins with the film The Phantom Menace. Though panned by many critics, what keeps it interesting and dark is that it involves an anti-hero, and his path to the dark side of the force. In this first film, Episode I, we learn the following:
2. Anakin and his mother are both slaves.
3. Qui-Gon is intrigued by Anakin’s skills as a mechanic and by his extraordinary reflexes and tests his midi-chlorian level. It is higher than any Jedi living.
4. Anakin was the product of a virgin birth.
5. The child Anakin, is loving, compassionate and helpful, and strongly wishes to escape his slavery and become a Jedi knight.
6. Anakin’s midi-chlorian count suggests he is the one prophesied to bring balance to the force.
7. Qui-Gon agrees to train Anakin, despite objections from the council.
8. When Qui-Gon dies, Obi Wan Kenobi takes over this training.
Anakin falls in love with Padme, Queen Amidala of Naboo. The young Anakin, played by Jake Lloyd, is not very believable in this as compared to Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Padme. The romance between Anakin and Padme is more believable in the second two films with Hayden Christensen taking on the role of Anakin Skywalker.
In Episode II, Attack of the Clones, Kenobi is cautious about the interest in Anakin displayed by Palpatine, the disguised Sith Lord. Palpatine encourages Anakin to go against Jedi teachings, and Anakin violates one of the Jedi Order’s most sacred precepts by marrying Padme at the end of the film. He further exacts retribution against the sand people for murdering his mother, and begins to show how he is easily mastered by his own anger, which is a sure path to the dark side.
In the third film, Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s fears center on whether Padme will die in childbirth. Palpatine, who offers Anakin a means for keeping Padme alive if he follows Sith ways, exploits this. Though Anakin soon finds out Palpatine is the Emperor and a Sith Lord, he continues to follow him in hopes that he will be able to save his wife.
Ultimately, the downfall of Anakin Skywalker and the creation of Lord Vader comes from Anakin’s inability to master his emotions, his direct disobedience to Jedi precepts, and his hubris, pride at the skill he holds in wielding the force. Kenobi is not a good master for Anakin, and fails to realize how badly his student is failing. Anakin’s murder of the sand people, and then his murder of the children at the Jedi training center, cements his journey to the dark side. Kenobi later explains to Luke that Anakin in a sense died and that Darth Vader is a completely different person. Padme and Luke both insist this is not true, and Luke continues to sense good in Vader, ultimately helping Vader redeem himself and become Anakin Skywalker again in his defense of his son.
The character of Anakin Skywalker is a tragic one, much in contrast to his son. Despite good intentions, his path is marred by bad actions, the seduction of power, and the deliberate interference of Palpatine who encourages Anakin to explore the Sith way. The prequel trilogy ends on a sad note, with Anakin destroyed both spiritually and bodily, and the newly created Darth Vader emerging from this destruction.