Here’s what the shadow of Anakin Skywalker is about:
The shadow of Anakin is a visual display that shows up throughout the prequel trilogy and the Clone Wars.
The trick is that Anakin casts a shadow that looks a lot like Darth Vader, the villain he will eventually become.
His shadow is also a metaphor for the darkness he casts on the galaxy around him.
So if you want to learn all about what Anakin Skywalker’s shadow means exactly, then this article is for you.
Let’s get into it!
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Who Is Anakin Skywalker?
If we’re going to talk about Anakin Skywalker and his shadow, then I need to set up some background information.
Before anything else, I want to start with a spoiler warning.
This conversation is going to cover major plot points from the Star Wars universe.
There will be spoilers for the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars, and the sequel trilogy.
If you aren’t up to speed and want to avoid spoilers, now is a good time to stop reading.
If you’re not much of a Star Wars fan, then allow me a moment to explain all of these trilogies.
Star Wars was originally a movie that was released in 1977.
It was a space opera that ended up being massively successful.
In the story, Luke Skywalker fights against Darth Vader and the evil Galactic Empire, and everyone loved it.
On the back of the success of the original film, two sequels were released, turning Star Wars into a trilogy.
Roughly 20 years later, the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, released “Episode I.”
This was the first of a planned trilogy of new Star Wars films, but these were all set in a time before the original movie.
It was a prequel trilogy, and it was intended to tell the story of Luke’s father, Anakin.
These movies were also massively successful, and paired with their release was a cartoon series that explored additional events that didn’t make it to the movie theaters.
This cartoon was called the Clone Wars.
It was still largely about Anakin.
Even later, more movie sequels were made.
This time, a new trilogy was produced, and all three of these movies were sequels to the original trilogy; they take place after the third movie in the original trilogy.
So, this became the sequel trilogy.
The sequel trilogy was largely about Anakin’s grandson, Ben, and other characters of his generation.
All of this is to say that Anakin is more or less the uniting theme in the main Star Wars storyline.
He is introduced as a young kid who trains to become a Jedi Knight.
He fights to protect the innocent and is generally a good guy.
Eventually, events lead him down a darker path, and he becomes Darth Vader, one of the most infamous villains in the history of the galaxy.
It’s a long road, and tied to his journey is his dark shadow.
What Is the Literal Shadow of Anakin Skywalker? (3 Things)
That covers Anakin and the background information we need for this conversation.
Now we can really get into the main question.
What is the shadow of Anakin Skywalker?
There are really two takes.
On one hand, the shadow is literally the character’s shadow.
On the other hand, it’s a metaphor.
Let’s talk about the actual shadow first.
There are a number of moments in the prequels and Clone Wars where Anakin Skywalker casts a shadow that looks ominously like Darth Vader.
Some examples are more obvious while others are subtle.
But it happens, and it’s always deliberate.
The shadow is reminding us of who Anakin will eventually become.
As for the metaphor, it’s really talking about the dark metaphorical shadow that Anakin casts on those around him.
Really, he casts that shadow over the whole galaxy.
Darth Vader is a major villain whose choices impact an entire galaxy.
As a result, his metaphorical shadow is rather massive.
With all of that in mind, let’s explore the most prominent examples of Anakin’s literal shadow.
#1 Episode I Movie Poster
The most famous example of the shadow of Anakin can be found in the original movie poster for Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The poster was used to promote the movie before it was released in 1999.
The poster features a young Anakin Skywalker (played by Jake Lloyd) standing in front of a structure.
You can see the kid’s shadow cast on the building, and the shadow is shaped perfectly like a silhouette of Darth Vader.
This image was impactful for a lot of people.
An innocent kid with a dark future was portrayed with a relatively simple picture.
It really played into the metaphor of Anakin’s shadow, which is something we’ll discuss at length in a later section.
The movie poster circulated far and wide, and you can still find many pictures and posts that include it.
#2 Episode II Scene
In the second of the prequels, the idea of Anakin’s shadow was revisited.
This time, it wasn’t in the form of a promotional poster.
Instead, there’s a scene where you can clearly see Anakin’s shadow cast on a wall, and it looks very much like it could be Darth Vader.
This scene takes place when Anakin and Padme are on Tatooine.
They are talking to each other, and instead of seeing the characters directly, we see their shadows on the wall.
Because of the way Anakin is posed and his hair is cut, his shadow strongly resembles the image of Darth Vader, helmet and all.
This is no happy accident, either.
The scene was set this way intentionally to use the same imagery from the Episode I promotional poster.
Once again, the shadow is portraying that while Anakin might not be a villain now, dark times lie ahead.
#3 Clone Wars
The last famous example of Anakin’s shadow is in the Clone Wars cartoon series.
The Clone Wars originally aired between the theatrical releases of Episodes II and III.
It was meant to expand the story that takes place between those movies, but it was massively popular and ultimately had a life of its own.
During the cartoon’s run, there was a specific scene that once again steered into the imagery of Anakin’s shadow.
This scene happens in the fifth episode of the sixth season.
This scene is a bit subtler than the others.
In it, Anakin is standing at the entrance to a room.
You can see half of his shadow cast on the wall in front of him.
In that half-shadow, you can see a shape that certainly looks Vader-ish.
It’s the last prominent example of Anakin’s shadow popping up in mainstream Star Wars content, but perhaps in the future, it will be referenced again.
What Is the Metaphorical Shadow of Anakin Skywalker? (2 Takes)
While those constitute the visual references to Anakin’s shadow, the imagery is meant to evoke a powerful metaphor.
Anakin’s literal shadow takes the shape of Darth Vader, the terrible villain he is destined to become.
This is the power of creating a prequel in the first place.
Star Wars was already one of the most famous movie franchises of all time before the prequels were made.
Fans of the series already knew that Anakin Skywalker would eventually become Darth Vader.
They also knew just how dark and cruel Vader could be as a character.
The shadow allowed the creative minds behind the prequels to hint at Anakin’s known, dark future in an interesting way, but it becomes even more interesting when we really explore the metaphor.
Sure, Anakin has bad things ahead, but what can the metaphor really tell us?
What can we explore that isn’t so obvious?
#1 Impending Doom
The prequels (and to a lesser extent the Clone Wars) do a great job of creating dissonance in contrast.
What does that mean?
The prequels depict a bright galaxy full of advanced technology and culture.
Many characters are happy at many points in the series.
The colors are bright.
The atmosphere is hopeful and promising.
Even in the Clone Wars, it really feels like you can count on the good guys to win the fights and ultimately the war.
Yet, the entire time you are watching these movies and cartoon episodes, you know that the empire wins.
You know that the future isn’t bright at all.
Instead, the entire galaxy is headed toward the darker, grittier tones and colors of the original trilogy.
You know because you have already watched that trilogy (presumably).
In other words, the entire time that Anakin is fighting for the good guys, training as a Jedi, and trying to save people, he is casting his dark shadow over the whole galaxy and the whole story.
His shadow is always present (even if not overtly visible), and it spells doom for most of the characters we see in the prequels.
We know the Jedi won’t survive the rise of the empire.
We know most of the other prominent characters are doomed as well.
Anakin’s shadow is a representation of impending doom, and contrasting it with the bright, often happy moments in the prequels makes it all the more powerful.
Of course, there’s another take on Anakin’s shadow.
Sure, it’s present and stifling throughout the prequels, but it also exists in the later sequel movies.
Episodes VII, VIII, and IX all have to deal with a different aspect of Anakin’s shadow.
In the early parts of the story, he was a good character trying to do good things, but his evil fate cast a dark shadow over all of the happy and bright moments.
In the sequel trilogy, Anakin’s shadow was the reason the fall of the empire didn’t restore the bright and happy scenes of the prequels.
Essentially, the legacy of Anakin Skywalker (and more importantly Darth Vader) remained.
His dark legacy cast a shadow over Luke and Leia.
It’s why Luke always struggled to contend with the dark side.
It’s why Leia’s son, Ben, ultimately went over to the dark side.
Even after death, Vader’s legacy remained, and it continued to cast a dark shadow over the entire galaxy.
This additional aspect of Anakin’s shadow adds a lot of depth and darkness to the metaphor.
He didn’t just darken the happy times in the prequels.
And, he was more than the villain who plagued the galaxy in the original trilogy.
He was also a major reason why the galaxy remained dark and gloomy after the fall of the empire.