Anticipation is a funny thing. It often gets the best of us even if we try to keep it low. After watching ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ it was the next Star Wars project I was most looking forward to. But how could anyone keep their expectations low with this series? Billed as “The rematch of the century” by Disney. Obi Wan Vs. Darth Vader. Originally, it was supposed to be a movie with Obi Wan facing off against Maul. Then it was changed to an 8 episode series with a similar story and then rewritten down to 6 episodes with Vader replacing Maul as the big bad. Rumors suggested that the plot was too similar to ‘the Mandalorian with Obi Wan going off to rescue a young Luke. I was glad they decided to drop that story-line. I didn’t want Obi Wan to have his hands tied with a little kid by his side…..
I know opinion is divided on this series. I have seen high praise for this show but also there are negative opinions about it. As I write this the show has a 60% audience score on rotten tomatoes and 7.2 out of 10 on IMDB (which was in the high 8s when it premiered). Reading some of the positive comments for the show I was truly confused and wondered if those comments were being sarcastic. Alas, I think that the joke is on me and the positive reaction is very large and real while the negative reaction is growing louder.
It’s would be pretty difficult to get this show wrong. The pieces were already in place. You have that 20 years gap between the prequels and original trilogy to explore. You have that line in ‘A New Hope’ where Vader says “A presence I have not felt since….” and doesn’t complete the sentence leaving the line open for interpretation and allowing further meetings to happen between these two characters. You have an excellent actor in Ewan Mcgregor as Obi Wan and I think Hayden Christensen is a fine actor (check out ‘Shattered Glass’). I remember before I watched ‘Revenge of the Sith’ that I had hoped Obi Wan would have two battles with Vader. The first over the Volcano and the second would be Vader in his new form which would lead to a stand off and the Jedi having to go into hiding. That was one of my small gripes with Episode III. It had so much lead up to Vader but only gave us a glimpse of him in the end.
In an interview with Debra Chow before the show was released she said she was advised to make the show “bigger” by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni.
Unfortunately, this show is anything but “big”.
So to start with, we had the first two episodes released back to back and not all that much happened. Yes, Leia was kidnapped, but as for big action set pieces that would hook the audience in to bring them back for the next episode there were none. Even if there were none what did we really get here in the first two episodes? A couple of very poorly shot chase scenes in which grown adults could not catch a little girl, and an Inquisitor jumping from building to building shouting “Obi Wan!”. There was nothing impressive or epic about this, characters felt miscast, Leia was annoying (as all young Skywalkers seem to be), the sets looked like sets, more specifically, obvious indoor virtual sets. The pacing was slow which made the episodes boring. By the end of episode 2 it’s revealed to Obi Wan that Vader is alive. How does Obi Wan react? Well it’s kinda hard to tell since his face is in shadow and the scene is poorly lit. Missed opportunity number one for Ewan Mcgregor to shine.
Then we move onto part 3 of Obi Wan Kenobi, which still felt slow. Now remember, this series was originally supposed to be 8 episodes and was re-written to 6, yet this still feels very much like “filler”, we don’t know what to do here so lets make Obi Wan look like an idiot.
We have the introduction of Vader and Obi Wan’s reaction to seeing Vader for the first time. Unfortunately, this intro is a damp squib. We can barely see Obi Wan’s reaction for most of his face is in shadow, even more so than it was at the end of episode 2. Missed opportunity for Ewan Mcgregor to shine number two. Vader enters with no fanfair or pomp. Vader and Obi Wan have a fight in a mining area, which looks again like a small indoor set that cannot even match the weakest effort of a Star Trek mining set.
Part 4 and it feels like a rehash of episode 1 and 2. Leia gets kidnapped AGAIN and we spend a large amount of time with Kenobi walking around AGAIN inside an imperial base, slowly demonstrating that he is getting his powers back even though at the beginning of the episode he had difficulty moving a small bolt. While it’s perhaps the best episode at this point it still feels like something they could have covered back in episode 2. I just wonder why it needs 4 episodes to get to this point, and he’s still not fully himself and there’s no real trigger to him regaining his powers, he’s just “getting used to it again”
You get the gist. This series is small and not epic. It’s Obi Wan for Christ’s sake. ‘The Mandalorian’ looks frickin amazing but the most anticipated return of a Star Wars character is given this kind of a send off? Is this really the best they can do? Even for those of you who had issue with ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ there was never a time where you felt “this is poorly made” or “that is just an indoor set”. ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ was well made, it felt epic and far superior to ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’. Let me point out also that both of these series were made under Covid restrictions.
Part 5, and while I can say it’s getting better it’s still slow. We are again on another planet that we have to get off. Again Reva shows up shouting for Obi Wan. Why does the episode feel so stretched out? If you watch the scene where the Storm Trooper transport ships are flying to the planet and landing to musical fanfare and then we go through the whole scene again with the Inquisitor Reva’s ship arriving and landing to musical fanfare. This feels like someone near the end of work, watching the clock as it gets closer to going home time and pissing around instead of really doing anything until they can burn the last 5 or 10 minutes. I mean, this show/movie has been in development for years. YEARS! What the hell were they doing all this time? “Ah, let’s wing it, it’s Obi Wan, people will watch it no matter what”. Yeah. They might be right.
So Reva is revealed to be a former youngling from the Jedi temple who was stabbed by Darth Vader as a child and again stabbed by Vader at the end of episode 5. Yet she survives being stabbed by a lightsaber twice! Once is lucky, but twice? Really?
There are some things I like about the episode of course. Vader not fighting with a lightsaber and simply using the force shows how powerful and skillful he is. Seeing a flashback of Obi Wan and Anakin training was nice. These Star Wars series could do with a few more of those.
Part 6. The final part of the series. This episode felt like it was ticking the boxes of what everyone wanted to see. We get…
We discover how Vader got that cut on his head between the end of episode III and episode VI.
Obi Wan and Vader fight.
Obi Wan finally meets Qui Gon again who will train him.
Leia will keep her past with Obi Wan a secret. (this is not what we wanted to see but something people were wanting to know since the first part of this series).
Vader says he killed Anakin which somehow is supposed to explain why Obi Wan told Luke the same thing in ‘A New Hope’.
I mean, why not at least spread these things out instead of making us wait over 6 episodes? Little felt natural about this episode. The least natural thing of course were the sets. So.Obviously.Indoor. They have really spoiled a large part of the series for me.
While ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ and ‘Obi Wan Kenobi’ weren’t exactly what I was hoping for I can say that Boba Fett was well written, well made, still felt like Star Wars and had the quality to match the movies too. I may not have liked the direction they took the character or the areas of his past they chose to explore but I can’t fault them for how they did it. Obi Wan however feels poorly crafted, makes nonsensical choices for the characters and stretches a thin plot out over 6 episodes.
With all those criticisms out of the way, would I recommend it? No. Would I watch a second series? Yes. Why? Hope.
And I’m a sucker.
Favorite Quote: “Hello there!” – Obi-Wan