Obi-Wan Kenobi lives up to the hype

One of the more intriguing quirks of the Disney era of Star Wars, following the megalith’s acquisition of George Lucas’s Lucasfilm in 2012, has been the growing re-evaluation of Lucas’s critically panned prequel trilogy. This, of course, could simply be a case of millennial nostalgia, although I would say it is also founded on a valid sense of appreciation for movies that – while undeniably flawed in execution – are rich in the kind of cohesion and ideas that Disney’s sequel trilogy sorely lacked. Whatever the reason for it, this reappraisal is evidently a driver for the latest Disney+ Star Wars show, Obi-Wan Kenobi, a slick six-part series that seeks to explore what happened to the Jedi Master after the harrowing events of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. The show even begins with a recap of the prequels.

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Directed by TV veteran Deborah Chow, from scripts by showrunner Joby Harold, Obi-Wan Kenobi finds Ewan McGregor’s stoic Jedi still in hiding on Tatooine, where he has given himself the holy mission of protecting the young Luke Skywalker. In reality he is a broken man, haunted by the fall of the Jedi, the death of his friend Anakin (Obi-Wan is unaware that he survived to be Darth Vader), and stuck in a daily loop of drudgery and boredom. In interviews leading up to the show, Chow referenced films like 2017’s Wolverine-centred X-Men spin-off Logan in describing Obi-Wan’s darker, more character-driven approach compared to the rest of the franchise. Judging from the two episodes that premiered today, she wasn’t wrong. It’s a compelling portrait of defeat and regret, bolstered by a sad, soulful performance from McGregor, who has managed to dim the twinkle from Obi-Wan’s eyes.

To make matters worse, Obi-Wan is now cut off from the powers of the Force, for fear of alerting the Empire’s Inquisitors to his presence. These Jedi hunters, who hardcore nerds will recognise from animated show Star Wars: Rebels, take advantage of the Jedi’s compassion. In one key scene, the ambitious Inquisitor Reva (Moses Ingram) lures a Jedi out of hiding by threatening to kill a barkeep, revealing the Jedi to be played by none other than Uncut Gems co-director Benny Safdie. He highlights Obi-Wan’s dilemma: to act, to play the hero, to save others, is to condemn yourself (and likely Luke) to death. “What happened to you?” Safdie’s character Nari asks Obi-Wan at one point. “You were once a great Jedi”. Nari is later found strung up in the town square.

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