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A Galactic hero’s reluctant return


WORLD Radio - A Galactic hero’s reluctant return

Obi-Wan Kenobi gets a new chapter in the Star Wars saga

This image released by Disney+ shows Ewan McGregor in a scene from the series “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Disney+ via Associated Press

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Friday, June 3rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Paul Butler.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

We’re on the final day today at the World Journalism Institute. So many of our colleagues at WORLD are here with us working with the students—including our friend Brian Basham. How are ya, Bash?

BRIAN BASHAM, WORLD WATCH HOST: I’m glad you could make it up here with all the travel you’ve been doing. So you’ve been traveling everywhere!

EICHER: Listen, if you’ve not had a chance to introduce your family to WORLD Watch, we’ll make it easy and inexpensive. We’re offering two months for four dollars. Very simple. Go to worldwatch.news to redeem the offer, just make sure to enter “radio” at checkout. That’s worldwatch.news and enter promo code “radio” at check out for WORLD Watch!

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a Jedi master returns.

BUTLER: After Disney bought Star Wars in 2012, the company made five new films in five years. The movies made money, but they didn’t satisfy fans or critics.

The studio has now turned from the big screen to the small screen, on Disney+. And it’s had a bit more success.

EICHER: Last week, it released the first two episodes in the series about one of the most popular characters of the franchise. Here’s Arts and Media editor Collin Garbarino.

AUDIO: [Lightsaber hiss]

COLLIN GARBARINO, REVIEWER: Obi-Wan Kenobi is the third live-action Star Wars series filling in the gaps between the franchise’s blockbuster movies. This time actor Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan, the role he played in George Lucas’s 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 from Darth Vader. But Luke’s uncle doesn’t welcome Obi-Wan’s attentions.

Obi-Wan: He’s my responsibility, Owen.

Owen: Well, I’m his uncle.

Obi-Wan: We talked about this. When the time comes, he must be trained.

Owen: Like you trained his father? Anakin is dead, Ben, and I won’t let you make the same mistake twice. So, leave him on the farm with his family, where he belongs.

Obi-Wan is still plagued by his failure with his former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. 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. Darth Vader’s force-wielding minions show up to hunt down and destroy any remnant of the Jedi Order.

Grand Inquisitor: You know who we are.

Barman: Inquisitors.

Grand Inquisitor: You know what we do?

Barman: You hunt Jedi.

Grand Inquisitors: In actuality, I would say the Jedi hunt themselves. Do you know the key to hunting Jedi, friend? It is patience.

One inquisitor is obsessed with finding Obi-Wan, and she uses 10-year-old Princess Leia as bait to lure Obi-Wan out of hiding. Obi-Wan will have to set his doubts aside if he’s going to save Leia and face Vader.

Obi-Wan: It’s been 10 years. I’m not who I used to be. Find someone else. She’ll be better off.

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 weariness and sadness 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 an air of curiosity and wisdom beyond her years.

Leia: How can I trust you when I know you’re hiding something? You think the less you say, the less you give away, but really, it’s the opposite.

Obi-Wan: How old are you?

Leia: Ten.

Obi-Wan: You don’t sound like you’re ten.

Leia: Thank you.

The series employs the same special-effects technology pioneered by The Mandalorian. It’s still impressive what they’re able to accomplish by filming actors in front of a giant wrap-around screen. But with this series, I started to see the limits of the technology. Many scenes feel like a stage play in which actors are grouped in a small semicircle doing their thing.

And sometimes the script doesn’t make much sense. For example, in one scene we see inquisitors show up on a street corner to announce they’re looking for Jedi.

Fifth Brother: You know why we are here. There is a Jedi hiding on this planet. We need to know where he is. You’ll be rewarded well.

Third Sister: Or you’ll be punished.

Did you catch that? There’s a Jedi on the planet, so they’re going to berate people on a street corner? Sure, Tatooine might be sparsely populated, but there’s got to be a more effective way of conducting a planet-wide search.

The script also struggles to figure out how to handle Jedi powers. 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.

And shoe-horning the story between the earlier movies feels awkward. Having Obi-Wan go on an adventure with a 10-year-old Leia makes her introduction in the original movie sound odd.

Leia: General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.

Also, having Darth Vader and Obi-Wan face each other in these intervening years makes this exchange from the original movie sound false.

Darth Vader: The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.

Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

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 is an engaging story—the old washed-up hero needs to come out of retirement and strap on his sword for another adventure. And there’s no confusion about the bad guy. The theme of good versus evil is strong with this one. But life is still complicated, and 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.

AUDIO: [Theme music]

I’m Collin Garbarino.

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