Obi-Wan Kenobi is a technical masterpiece bolstered by strong performances, yet struggles to justify it's own existence

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By Aldous Foster, Third Year, Philosophy

The newest addition to the Star Wars franchise takes us back to Tatooine, to a rugged and world-weary Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) as he is tricked into fighting the empire ten years after the events of the prequel trilogy.

This is certainly not the Obi-Wan you may remember from those films. This is a man tortured by his past, reliving it each night in his dreams and believing completely that “the empire has already won”, as he says to a young runaway Jedi who he refuses to help. He has given up the Jedi way, hiding his lightsaber out in the desert and focusing only on keeping the empire unaware of a young Luke Skywalker. Only when a young Leia is under threat does he reluctantly return.

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi / Courtesy of IMDB

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the franchise's recent track record, the effects, cinematography, and music are incredible. The shots of Vader’s castle and Fortress Inquisitorius are almost oppressive; dark, jagged buildings towering over bubbling lava or raging waves. John Williams and Natalie Holt do a wonderful job with the theme, twisting a melancholic homage to the prequels with a hint of soaring hopefulness, interspersed with the quick, low rhythmic notes of the empire.

Ewan McGregor does an excellent job of playing a form of resigned sadness with hints at the humour and charm of the old character we know and love. A beautiful sequence in the fourth episode slowly shows us more and more glimpses beneath the rugged exterior of the Jedi beneath, and witnessing some of that confidence and purpose return is like seeing an old friend.

Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader / Courtesy of IMDB

The many other members of the cast are equally praiseworthy. Vivien Lyra Blair is completely believable as a young Leia, stubborn and quick-witted. Whilst initially coming off as brattish, once her wit and rebelliousness become at the empire’s expense, she quickly becomes a favourite.

In turn, Darth Vader is terrifying. Voiced by James Earl Jones and acted by Hayden Christensen, our first look at him is practically a jump-scare. This perfectly sets the tone for how this show wants you to view him. He charges through rebels and brutally snaps a young boy’s neck with just a twist of his hand. We are no longer looking at an arrogant but righteous Jedi, learning the ways of the force, but instead a Sith Lord at the height of his power, practically unstoppable. Vader towers over the camera and all the characters around him, even amongst inquisitors, who are menacing dark side users in their own right.

Joel Edgerton & Moses Ingram / Courtesy of IMDB

It's not all perfect of course. Aside from a slow start, and a downright ridiculous chase scene in the first episode, the show also struggles to truly flesh out any entirely new characters. Moses Ingram plays one of the inquisitors, Reva Sevander, who the show tries to push as a major player, but there’s little of substance to her character, other than that she seems very angry a lot of the time and does some parkour.

The biggest problem that the show faces, however, is that it is so limited in what it can do. We know where the characters we care about are going to end up. Obi-Wan will return to Tatooine, taking care of Luke, who will not be discovered by the empire. Leia will be returned to Alderaan and her adoptive parents. Equally, we know that the inquisitors are not in the original series, meaning it’s a safe bet as to who the show will kill off. The stakes, therefore, are relatively low.

McGregor & Vivian Lyra Blair as Leia / Courtesy of IMDB

By making it Obi-Wan’s task to guard and train Luke, the show limits itself, as he cannot be off-world too long having his own adventures. This is likely why it was originally intended to be a stand-alone film and is now kept as a mini-series. Although the show is a beautiful depiction of a beloved character, it would seem there just is not enough space in the Star Wars universe for any more Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Featured Image: IMDB


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