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Tuesday August 16th

‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ revisits a classic Star Wars tale with fresh eyes

<p>(Photo courtesy of IMDb)</p>

(Photo courtesy of IMDb)

By Elliott Nguyen

The highly anticipated next installment of the Star Wars franchise, the six-episode series “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” began streaming on Disney Plus on May 27 during the annual Star Wars Celebration event. The series’ finale aired on June 21.

Going into it, I could not wait to see what kind of masterpiece Director Deborah Chow had put together. However, what we got was a bit short of that. I could easily understand the vision that the creators had wanted for the project, but there were times when the execution did not exactly match that. Even with the show's strong ending, I felt somewhat underwhelmed because there was no point during the story that truly hooked me. Had this not been a Star Wars series, especially one about one of my favorite characters, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it until the end.

That being said, the series was still a pleasure to watch. After facing controversy from critics back during the early 2000s when the prequel trilogy was released, the characters from that story and the actors who played them deserved to be given a second chance. It was a treat to see Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen back in their roles as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker respectively, and they were not the only ones. A number of other actors from the prequels reprised their roles, including the legendary James Earl Jones, who voiced Darth Vader with as much gravitas as he had in the prequels and the original trilogy.

The overall story was nothing spectacular, but it was a classic Star Wars tale. The series tells the story of the titular Jedi master in hiding, 10 years into the reign of the Galactic Empire. By this point, Obi-Wan is already on Tatooine watching over a young Luke Skywalker. However, a call for help from an old friend results in him leaving the planet and going on a quest that sees him confront his demons; namely, his former apprentice, now called Darth Vader.

Several aspects of the story stand out. The first is the character study of its titular character, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Fans get a deeper look into how he goes from his “Revenge of the Sith” self to the Alec Guiness interpretation that we see in the original trilogy. McGregor’s performance is phenomenal and a highlight of the show. He flawlessly displays Obi-Wan’s hopelessness and guilt, both of which gradually become the realization that he will never make things right by hiding from his mistakes, only by facing them.

Hand-in-hand with that is the exploration of his relationship with Anakin Skywalker after the latter’s fall to the dark side. We get to see both the parallels and the contrast between their former friendship and now their enmity. There is a chilling scene towards the end of the series that deepened and redefined the way I think about their final duel in “A New Hope.”

Tangential to those storylines is an exploration of the Inquisitors, a group never before seen in live-action, performed through the lens of a character original to the series: Reva (Moses Ingram), the Third Sister. She is a new Inquisitor who seems disliked by and dissimilar to the rest. I found it to be an odd choice by the showrunners to explore a new character in a series that was otherwise so dedicated to a pair of existing fan favorites. But while I was not in love with her character, I still found her compelling. If Reva becomes a character that can return in other projects, whether in live-action or otherwise, then perhaps it will prove to be worth it.

The series also carries the theme of finding hope in hopeless situations and standing up against evil — a theme central to the Star Wars franchise. That being said, I do not think the series did anything particularly noteworthy with this theme that other projects had not already done. 

I was very pleased to see McGregor back in the role of Obi-Wan after so many years, especially because of how well-executed it was. In addition to starring in the lead role, he was also an executive producer on the show, so knowing that what I saw on-screen was his true vision was exciting. I found Christensen’s reprisal of Anakin to be somewhat of a redemption for him. The scenes with Darth Vader were bone-chilling — in my opinion, this version of him was even more menacing than in the original trilogy. Of course, other strong performances from the likes of Vivien Lyra Blair (Leia Organa), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) and Indira Varma (Tala Durith) helped keep the show entertaining even when the former two weren’t on the screen. Even Rupert Friend’s interpretation of the Grand Inquisitor was pleasantly surprising, quelling any doubts I’d had after reports that he deliberately avoided watching Jason Isaac’s iconic version of the character in the animated “Star Wars: Rebels” for inspiration.

A perhaps less noticeable but still important aspect of the show was its set design. Say what you will about the most recent Star Wars projects, but “Obi-Wan Kenobi” continues a trend of phenomenal visuals and immersive, lore-faithful sets that help make the world of Star Wars feel real.

There are, of course, some criticisms I had while watching that I still stand by after the finale. 

Not all of the characters were acted out quite as well as those whom I mentioned previously. I found Sung Kang’s Fifth Brother to be dry, uninteresting and generally a detriment to any scenes he was in. 

There were also some questionable story decisions that some dedicated fans of the franchise might pick apart. The scoring was rather weak throughout the show, and it was not until the last two episodes that I was able to notice any at all without specifically looking for it. Previous Disney Plus Star Wars shows like “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” each had a catchy, recognizable theme that set the tone and tied things together. Meanwhile, I cannot recall a single instance in which the theme of “Obi-Wan Kenobi” actually played during an episode. The show is one that is far more connected to the central storyline of the recently-dubbed Skywalker Saga when compared to previous live-action Star Wars shows, and I think the music suffered as a result. It seems to me that the creators wanted the series to feel like an extension of the episodic movies by borrowing aspects of the music from those films. If that was indeed their intention, then I admire it, but I find that the end result was scoring that fell flat and failed to make a strong impression on me.

Nevertheless, I felt satisfied by the end. To say that “Obi-Wan Kenobi” was a disappointment would be inaccurate. The series did not quite live up to its general expectations, but those expectations were incredibly high. There is a difficulty in creating a middle chapter to a story, especially when the story of what happens both before and after has already been available to the public for years. I was not blown away by this show, but I am glad that it exists and that I got to see it. I will be watching it again, and you should too.


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