Has anyone ever been as ill-served by the movie business as Hayden Christensen? Plucked from TV series obscurity by George Lucas to play the whiny bitch who would become Darth Vader, Christensen did about as well as one could to bring something, anything to the two Star Wars prequels he was in. He failed, kinda miserably. But I’m not entirely sure that anyone could’ve succeeded, given the cards he was dealt.
After 2002’s Attack of the Clones, Christensen made Shattered Glass (2003), a small character piece about journalist Stephen Glass, who was exposed as a serial plagiarist. And he was amazing: fragile, funny, cocksure and downy-soft, all at once. It should’ve been a calling card, a signal to Hollywood that he was a young actor capable of great things. Of real talent.
Then 2005’s Revenge of the Sith came out and sealed his fate. Lucas dropped the ball on the Star Wars prequels — in almost every way — and had no idea how to coax anything resembling quality from his actors. (Harrison Ford famously said that Lucas only gave the O.G. Star Wars cast two on-set directions: faster and more intense.) So everyone sucked — aside from Christopher Lee, because no one can bring that dude down.
An established actor can survive one or two bad performances. Every producer knows that not everyone can hit it out of the park every time. But a neophyte delivering bad performances in two of the most anticipated movies of all time? Unsurvivable.
A couple of unforgettable movies — Doug Liman’s Jumper in 2008, the heist flick Takers in 2010 — later and Christensen is all but forgotten.
At least, until this trailer for Outcast dropped yesterday on Deadline. Set in 12th century China, and costarring Nicolas Cage at his most bonkers — he’s doing some kind of accent that only makes him sound like Nicolas Cage doing some kind of accent — Outcast is…well, something.
Who knows if this thing will be any good. It’s directed by a guy named Nick Powell, who choreographed and shot the fight sequences in The Bourne Identity. Cage and Christensen seem to be playing Crusaders who made it to China and, somehow, get embroiled in a familial struggle for the throne — which sounds kind of ridiculous but, then again, it’s a Nicolas Cage movie and they often sound kind of ridiculous.
Here, Christensen looks like he’s aged a bit into a young-old Brad Pitt, if that makes any sense. (If it doesn’t, keep it to yourself.) He doesn’t talk much, which is probably good.
Really, it’s just kind of nice to see him again. He deserved better than he got.