A new adventure for an old hero
Obi-Wan Kenobi fights against the empire and his own doubts in the new Star Wars series
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Obi-Wan Kenobi, streaming on Disney+, is yet another Star Wars show attempting to fill in the gaps between the franchise’s movies. Actor Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan, the role he played in George Lucas’ prequels 20 years ago. This series takes place 10 years after the prequels and 10 years before the original Star Wars trilogy. Obi-Wan is on the desert planet of Tatooine, protecting the young Luke Skywalker whom he’s hidden.
Obi-Wan’s failure with his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker who became the dreaded villain Darth Vader, still plagues him. He’s spent 10 years doubting himself and the Jedi Order. We see a hero who’s lost his confidence—crushed under the weight of a cruel galaxy. But the Empire isn’t content to let former Jedi retire. Vader’s force-wielding minions show up to hunt down and destroy any remnant of the Jedi Order.
An inquisitor, obsessed with finding Obi-Wan, uses 10-year-old Princess Leia as bait to lure him out of hiding. The old Jedi will have to set his doubts aside if he’s going to save Leia and face Vader.
Obi-Wan Kenobi isn’t a bad series, though it’s not without its problems. McGregor is a good actor, and he brings a measure of sorrow to this version of the character. The inquisitors approach caricature, but they’re appropriately menacing without being too scary for most kids. Actress Vivien Lyra Blair looks a little young for 10, but she plays Leia with a pleasant curiosity.
The series employs the same special-effects technology pioneered by The Mandalorian, filming actors in front of a giant wrap-around screen. The effects are good, but we see the limits of the technology. Many scenes feel like a stage play in which actors are grouped in a small semicircle.
The script needed another round of editing for both dialogue and action. For example, in one scene we see inquisitors arrive on a street corner announcing they’re looking for a Jedi on the planet. Tatooine might be sparsely populated, but there must be a more effective way of conducting a planet-wide search. Obi-Wan Kenobi also struggles with believable depictions of Jedi powers—a fault not uncommon to the Star Wars franchise. Sometimes these space wizards seem omnipotent, and sometimes, when the plot demands it, they forget they can use the force to do the simplest things.
Shoe-horning the story between the earlier movies feels awkward, robbing Obi-Wan’s introductions to Leia and Vader in the original movie of their meaning. If you want to enjoy the show, don’t try to connect the dots to other Star Wars installments. They don’t sit alongside each other comfortably.
Just watch Obi-Wan Kenobi on its own terms. It has an engaging story—the old washed-up hero comes out of retirement and straps on his sword for another adventure. The theme of good versus evil is strong with this one, but our protagonist isn’t always sure what his duty is or whether he can fulfill it. There’s something satisfying about watching a hero pursue justice despite his own sense of inadequacy.
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