Will Hayden Christensen Return in Rise of Skywalker?

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So I watched the new Star Wars trailer this week, as many of you did. But I think my main takeaway was probably different from most. The most shocking thing to me in that trailer was not the presence of "Dark Rey," which I'd figured might happen since the release of episode VII. No, what was surprising to me was the use of so many scenes from the prequels.

Why did that shock me? Well let's think back to episode VII and VIII for a moment. What kinds of references did we get to the prequels? Ewan McGregor's disembodied voice? A line of dialogue about Palpatine's rise to power? Meanwhile, those who grew up with the original trilogy were inundated with references and callbacks to episodes IV, V, and VI.

So why the sudden change now? Why are we seeing scenes plucked from episodes I, II, and III in a trailer for episode IX, when the previous two movies did nothing to establish any sort of continuity with the prequels? Part of it probably has to do with what episode IX represents, an apparent "end" to the Skywalker saga. You can't do that without hearkening back to the movies that literally went over Anakin's rise and fall.

But I also think it was to do with a change in viewer demographics, and Disney responding to that shift. Their resurrection of Palpatine is proof alone of this. While Palpatine was a notable character in episode VI, he didn't really become a cult classic until the prequels came out (shoutout to r/prequelmemes). Thus, the use of prequel footage in the episode IX trailer is further proof that Disney is attempting to pander to a new audience: one that grew up with the prequels rather than the original trilogy.

And that would be smart. Whereas the baby boomers mostly lambasted the prequels, people in my generation were, generally speaking, fans of them. Since Revenge of the Sith came out in 2005, I'd say that appreciation for the prequels has grown on a yearly basis. More and more adults these days have fond memories of Qui-Gon Jinn's battle with Darth Maul, or Dooku's bout with Yoda, or the epic duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin set to "Battle of the Heroes."

The real question then is whether Disney is going to incorporate aspects of the prequels into episode IX, or if their use of the prequels in the trailer is simply a means of hyping up younger moviegoers.

If, however, Disney is serious about incorporating the prequels into episode IX, what would that mean? Well, I think we sort of know the answer based on how they previously worked to integrate the original trilogy into episode VII. In that episode they brought back all of the old protagonists, made the main villain related to all of those protagonists, and incorporated multiple story beats from episode IV.

If they are serious about incorporating the prequels, then we should see an equal level of fan service in episode IX. What does that mean? For starters, I'd place a small bet on us seeing Hayden Christensen again in some form or fashion. Either he will be a force ghost, a clone, or some other creation of Palpatine's. There is no way you can end the Skywalker story without one of its most central characters.

Depending on how funky they want to get with the Skywalker story and Palpatine's involvement in it, they could potentially come up with some insane storylines. For instance, what if Palpatine really did create Anakin through the Force, as is suggested in episode III? What if he can do that again, or otherwise manipulate Anakin's force ghost to reanimate a clone he made of Anakin in case of emergency? This would also explain how he was able to resurrect himself after episode VI.

While that seems like almost too fantastical of a plot, it would really solidify the idea that Palpatine is the evil driving force behind everything, and it would give Rey and Kylo a reason to work together. It would especially give Kylo a reason to cast off the dark side. How could he not after seeing that the grandfather he adores so much as a symbol of the dark side was actually just a young man manipulated by a far greater evil, much like himself?

Anyways, this of course is all speculation. It's also possible that episode IX will refer back to the prequels in other ways. Perhaps Ewan McGregor will make an appearance as Obi-Wan, since it's now confirmed that he will be resuming that role. Or maybe Qui-Gon will show up. Whatever it is, it'll probably make fans of the prequels very happy. No story centered on Palpatine can pretend the prequels didn't exist. After all, those are the movies that built Palpatine's character, established his motivations, and demonstrated how he turned Anakin to the dark side.

If he's going to be Rey and Kylo's primary antagonist, they can't just ignore the three movies that made Palpatine more than the bogeyman he was in episode VI. Either way, we will probably find out more in the upcoming months. I don't know if they are planning on having Hayden Christensen return, but if they do, then I know my hype for the movie will surge tremendously.