Photo: Obi-Wan Kenobi Episodes 2 and 3
The Return of the Jedi – Obi-Wan Kenobi Episodes 2 and 3
My feelings toward ‘Star Wars’ as a whole have grown more and more mixed over the years. Between Disney’s questionable treatment of the sequel trilogy and the abundance of Disney+ original series that have both already come out and are underway, I’ve found it difficult to feel any genuine sense of excitement whenever a new series or project is announced. Despite all that, the original trilogy will always have my respect for its monumental impact on both film and the science fiction genre, shaping a large portion of entertainment into what we know today…on top of just being an excellently told trilogy. But my personal feelings about the franchise aside, it’s time to talk about ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’, the newest ‘Star Wars’ show to come out.
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Not counting season seven of ‘The Clone Wars’, there have been four ‘Star Wars’ shows released to Disney+ so far, all of the varying levels of quality. I very much enjoyed ‘The Mandalorian’, I found ‘The Bad Batch’ to be merely okay, ‘Visions’ was a bit of a mix for me depending on the episode, and ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ was, to me, the weakest of the four. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about this show coming out, though the news of Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprising their roles after an over-decade-long absence from the franchise certainly caught my attention. With their inclusion, would we be getting a more grand, ambitious story delving further into both Anakin and Obi-Wan as characters? Only time would tell, and now that the series has arrived, what do I think of it? Well…
Directed by Deborah Chow, ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ takes place after ‘Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’ and follows the titular Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who’s gone into hiding following the extermination of the Jedi, and is now secretly watching over the son of his fallen apprentice Anakin Skywalker to ensure his safety. Amid the ongoing hunt for all the remaining Jedi, Obi-Wan finds himself unwittingly thrown into a rescue operation for the young Princess Leia, who’s been captured by a group of bounty hunters intending to lure him out. Meanwhile, Anakin has risen back to power under the Empire as Darth Vader, and the two are about to meet once again…
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Having now seen the first three episodes, I can say that ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ does a number of things fairly well, but at the same time it’s left a decent amount of room for improvement. There are some interesting ideas present, and there’s a subtle, menacing build-up for things to come, but the show suffers from a rather slow pace that at times makes it hard to be properly engaged. I am fully aware that the appeal of ‘Star Wars’ comes from more than just cool action sequences, but the writing of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ doesn’t quite stand out in the ways it was meant to, and in turn, it can be a bit hard to get invested when the plot does get going.
For a series lasting six episodes, it doesn’t feel like all that much has happened considering the narrative is now at its halfway point. I feel like this show could have benefited from tighter pacing, perhaps combined with a longer episode length. For instance, the recently released Part 1 of ‘Stranger Things 4’ features episodes that are each over an hour-long, and while that show has a lot more characters to juggle, each episode moves at a brisk pace that keeps the story compelling. ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ on the other hand struggles to reach that same sense of pure engagement thanks in part to some trimmable fat and less-than-airtight writing.
Ewan McGregor gives a more subdued performance that accurately reflects that state of his character, but the sense of heart that Obi-Wan always had is still there. Despite the quips that he would make in the Prequel Trilogy being understandably absent for the most part here, Obi-Wan comes across as caring and genuinely approachable. Most of the other actors do their part well, including Hayden Christensen and James Earl Jones as Anakin/Darth Vader. I will say that I wasn’t overly fond of Vivien Lyra Blair (‘Bird Box’) as young Princess Leia, but I’m not the kind of person who’s willing to be overly critical of a child’s acting talents, and as such it’s something I’m willing to overlook. Meanwhile, Moses Ingram (‘The Queen’s Gambit’) does a solid job as Reva Sevander, whose presence is effectively intimidating in just about every scene she’s in.
Because this is a ‘Star Wars’ show, ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is a very polished-looking series, and while the visual direction isn’t the most groundbreaking you’ll ever see, it does its job just fine. In particular, the district on planet Daiyu that a majority of Part II takes place in is very visually pleasing, giving off a strong ‘Blade Runner’ vibe. I also appreciated a brief moment in which Leia runs past a series of tanks holding creatures that were clearly puppets. Again, the moment only lasts a few seconds, but in a day and age where CGI is generally favored by Hollywood, it feels wholly satisfying to see a new ‘Star Wars’ product make use of some good old-fashioned practical effects. That’s not to say the CGI in this show is bad either, in fact, Part III has a pretty neat shot in which probes are set up to be launched into space. Once more, it’s a shot that doesn’t last long, but it is visually striking.
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The Dark Side of the Force
The overall tone of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is fairly similar to that of the previous ‘Star Wars’ series, especially ‘The Book of Boba Fett’, though at the same time, it feels a tad bit more serious and dark. Considering the events of the movie this show follows, a more serious atmosphere works very well in its favor. This show isn’t afraid of showing innocent bystanders getting hurt or killed, and the personal nature of the conflict between Obi-Wan and Anakin isn’t underplayed in any way. There are a few violent moments that I honestly wasn’t expecting, and they give the series a sense of edge that the other ‘Star Wars’ shows haven’t really seen. Hopefully, the series keeps this dark tone up, as it’s exactly what the inevitable future confrontation between Obi-Wan and Anakin really needs.
Is ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Worth It?
If you’re a ‘Star Wars’ fan, there’s a strong chance you’ve already watched this show up to this point, but in case you haven’t, don’t let some of what I’ve said here turn you off. ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ may have a few things holding it back, but it’s still a decent television series all things considered. Even if the writing and pacing could be better, the overall tone of the show works really well, and the characters are on point. I’m curious to see what kind of direction the remaining three episodes of this show will go in, and as long as it keeps things dark and intriguing, I will be happy to continue recommending it to both fans and non-fans alike.
‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is now streaming on Disney+.
Cast & Crew:
Directed by: Deborah Chow
Written by: Joby Harold, Hannah Friedman, Hossein Amini, Stuart Beattle.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Joel Edgerton, Rupert Friend, Moses Ingram, Vivien Lyra Blair
By Austin Oguri
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Austin Oguri is a screenwriter and has deep appreciation for the art of film in general, he aims to offer unique perspectives through his film reviews and feature articles. He also has a soft spot for lesser-known works, and enjoys spotlighting them whenever he can. Austin has always found it necessary for people to encourage and bring out the best in each other, and as a writer at The Hollywood Insider, he can combine that ideology with his ability to think outside the box and truly express his love for the arts in the best ways possible.