Director: Deborah Chow
Writers: Joby Harold, Hossein Amini, Stuart Beattie, Andrew Stanton, Hannah Friedman
Cast: Ewan Gordon McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Rupert Friend, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse
Cinematographer: Chung-hoon Chung
Editors: Nicolas De Toth, Kelley Dixon, Josh Earl
Streaming on: DisneyPlus Hotstar
You may not have been a fan of the Star Wars prequels when they came out. But now, decades and a sub-par sequel trilogy have passed us by since Obi-Wan and Anakin gave us the greatest lightsaber duel ever while playing The Floor is Lava. Time has led audiences to consider prequel series and the actors’ performances in a new light. There is an increased fondness, reverence and an acceptance for both. After watching Rise of The Skywalker, it’s safe to say George Lucas and the Prequels crew do indeed have the higher ground.
And that’s an advantage Disney is hell-bent on exploiting and running into the ground, in the absence of any cohesive future for the Skywalker saga. Early-to-late millennials like me, who grew up on the prequels (and unabashedly loved them!) now have the money to pay for the hundred and eleventieth streaming service, just to feel young again.
Obi Wan Kenobi knows this – and that’s why when you start streaming it on DisneyPlus Hotstar Premium, it throws you right into a ‘best-of’ recap montage from the prequels, and into an unnecessary, but familiar ‘Order 66’ sequence. While I am confident that the sequence has ramifications later on (and I can guess what they are), that doesn’t hide the fact that it is a blatant fan-service and nostalgia bait.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor)’s story is set a decade later. He is on Tatooine, keeping a watchful eye on Luke Skywalker, who is growing up in his uncle (Joel Edgerton)’s farm. Obi-Wan wants nothing to do with the Jedi anymore, and his only mission is to keep Luke safe, so much so that he refuses to help a fellow Jedi on the run. Simultaneously, a young Leia is growing up on Alderaan, under the loving care of Senator Bail and Beth Organa (Jimmy Smits and Simone Kessell). The Inquisitors are hunting the remaining Jedi. While the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) is much more subtle, surprisingly pacifist, and strategic in his hunt, Inquisitor Reya (Moses Ingram) is ruthless and has a secret agenda against Obi-Wan in particular.
The first episode exploits the desert terrain of Tatooine and Ewan McGregor’s incredible comfort with slipping into the role Obi-Wan to deliver a beautiful and pensive, Logan-esque episode. It takes a strong deeper look at the character’s inner conflict, resignation and disappointment. It begs the question: Who is Obi-Wan, if not a Jedi? As we move to episode two, Obi-Wan has to make his way back to being a Jedi in the cyberpunk landscapes of Daiyu to fulfil a responsibility he had long ignored.
While Obi-Wan’s journey in the first two episodes is compelling, it is marred by some dialogue that is contrived even by Star Wars standards. It doesn’t help that the pacing is uneven in the second episode, and the Inquisitors (including Sung Kang as Fifth Brother) deliver highly cringeworthy performances, with logical leaps of faith to boot. I mean, if you can see or hear the gunfire on the rooftop, it shouldn’t take a Sith a half-an-hour and nearly one act to parkour her way to where the action is.
However, we are just two episodes in and there is much to look forward to. If the capable hands of director Deborah Chow and the cast and crew’s pedigree is to be considered, then we may still be in for a great Star Wars ride, and a definitive Obi-Wan Kenobi story. However, I cannot possibly foresee how Obi-Wan Kenobi will move the franchise forward. I assume my midichlorian count isn’t high enough.
For how long can we be served prologues (Rogue One, Solo), intermissions and sidebars (The Mandalorian, The Book of Bobba Fett), and nostalgia bait (Obi-Wan, Luke Skywalker cameos) from a franchise that seems to be stuck on not moving forward from what’s safe. As much as I hate to admit, maybe Kylo Ren did have it right in The Last Jedi when he said: It’s time to let old things die. Snoke… Skywalker… the Sith… the Jedi… the rebels.
Maybe the real problem with The Last Jedi is not that it veered too far, perhaps it was that it didn’t go far enough.