Warning: the article contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi episode five.
The debate rages on amongst Star Wars fans about whether the use of digitally de-aging actors is a good thing or a bad thing, with the latest hot take being that perhaps we don’t need to overly rely on computer-generated imagery constantly to make such an effect come to life.
Back in 2016, the age-accurate likenesses of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia were recreated in Rogue One. In Cushing’s case, it was done years after he passed away. Ever since then, the debate has raged within the Star Wars fandom about when it is appropriate to use digital de-aging and when it isn’t appropriate.
Warning: the following contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi episode five.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi episode five, Hayden Christensen appears — sans Darth Vader helmet — in a flashback scene sparring opposite Ewan McGregor’s titular hero.
The fan service was unsurprisingly a slam dunk with viewers.
However, it struck some viewers that Christensen didn’t look like he got the same digital makeover treatment as Cushing in Rogue One, for example, despite the scene taking place during a period when the actor was roughly 20 years younger than he is now.
One fan, a Reddit user by the name of u/TizAConicidence, even posted a video in which he created a deep fake of Christensen to make him look appropriately younger as a padawan. The result was pretty impressive, for a self-admitted amateur attempt.
Although the use of CGI de-aging — or lack thereof — has not been officially confirmed by Disney one way or another, ScreenRant hypothesized the Mouse House likely did use digital makeover techniques lightly in the scene, just to a lesser extent than what we’ve seen in the past. The article’s reasoning was that the scene focused more on choreography and lightsaber dueling, rather than lingering on close-ups for too long, so there was less of an emphasis on digital de-aging for the purpose of that particular story beat. What’s more, Christensen has aged rather gracefully over the years, so he arguably doesn’t need anything more than a touch-up here and there with the digital makeup brush for extreme close-ups.
Another Reddit user, u/Shakyyy, proclaimed they were “glad” Disney didn’t “overly de-age Anakin the dueling flashback with Obi-Wan.”
“I get the criticism, he doesn’t look 19 and you can tell how much hes aged but its a price I’m willing to pay. I’ve seen some fan edits of him de-aged and they look good but it just doesn’t compare, it just felt right to me that it was actually Hayden Christensen, real and completely natural portraying Anakin Skywalker again. Even all these years later he’s still got that damn smile.”
This likely won’t be the last time a beloved Star Wars character will face the prospect of getting digitally de-aged. But given the fairly positive reception of episode five of Obi-Wan Kenobi, perhaps moderation is the key.