notexactly the man you remember. “
So now we get the backstory no one wanted about the most lacluster character in that galaxy far, far away. ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi‘ is a nearly no-stakes tale with corporate sanctioned guidelines for legacy characters with predestined fates going on an inconsequential adventure in a universe we care very little about anymore. Still, for what it is, it ain’t half bad. Which is perhaps the best one could say about this Disney merchandise fueled theme park ride.
The limited(?) series is set ten years after the finale of ‘The Revenge of the Sith’. Master “Ben” Kenobi (a fully committed Ewan McGregor) is living a modest, haunted by guilt “retirement” on Tatooine keeping an eye on young Luke Skywalker while hiding from the rest of the galaxy.
After Imperial “Jedi Hunter”/Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram) arrives seeking Kenobi for Lord Darth Vadar (played in-suit/flashbacks by Haydn Christensen) the unfolding and compounding crises drag this reluctant old Jedi back into the fight.
I won’t spoil anything. But, on his adventure old “Ben” encounters preexisting characters including a young Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair, charming), her “father” Senator Organa (Jimmy Smits), and a surly Uncle Owen (Joel Edgerton). With some noteworthy new cast, as well: Rupert (‘Homeland’) Friend, Indira (‘Games of Thrones’) Varma, Kumail Nanjiani, and O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Director Deborah Chow helms all six episodes. While established film writers Hossein Amini, Stuart Beatie, and Andrew “Pixar” Stanton help showrunner Joby Harold flesh out this once feature film into an almost compelling, character driven story. And the small-screen production is quite impressive. Even John Williams offers some new themes for composer Natalie Holt to chew on.
- Nothing here matters much. We know where the major players end up and all the on-screen tension in the world can’t supplant inevitability. If they’d only taken established characters into less conventional, riskier places or developed new characters more thoroughly. Alas, more nostalgia bait for the masses.
- Despite an effective (CGI assisted?) James Earl Jones’ vocal performance and a hella fierce lightsaber duel, Darth Vadar’s menace has been neutered–either by streaming budget/time constraints or by Disney+ channel mandates. Acting badass and being badass are very different things.
- It’s just not very cohesive. G-rated “family friendly” one scene; jumping into PG-13 dark and gruesome the next. While characters bounce between logical, mature choices and wistful, arbitrary ones. It impresses as assembled by cooperate committee rather than from a group of creators serving an organic story.
The strong cast (new and returning), solid production, a couple of passable action scenes, a measure of dramatic payoffs, and more than a few fun throwbacks keeps ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi‘ (barely) above the mediocrity plaguing this Disney-verse. I, at least, enjoyed it more than the prequels. Faint praise. But Recommended, nonetheless.