By Matthew Moorcroft
Part I – Strong Recommendation
Part II – Strong Recommendation
- Directed by Deborah Chow
- Starring Ewan McGregor, Rupert Friend, Moses Ingram, Vivien Lyra Blair
I’ll be the first to admit that Star Wars hasn’t exactly impressed me as of late. Sure there has been some episodes of The Mandalorian that were strong but other then those select few the series has found itself in a rut. Stuck on nostalgia bait and unsure of it’s direction after a couple of fan divisive projects, there was a dread going into Obi-Wan Kenobi that it was going to be more of the same old, same old. And why wouldn’t it be? This is the easiest show to pander to the crowds and “win back fans” who were displeased by prior attempts to shake the franchise (aka make it more interesting), and all it really needed to be was a six episode self-jerk fest of Ewan McGregor saying meme worthy lines into the camera.
Thankfully, it managed to snag up the best director from the entirety of The Mandalorian (Deborah Chow) and a separate creative team entirely, and because of that Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite it’s existence initially as easy prequel nostalgia, manages to be the most fresh Star Wars has felt in years. More of a moody, atmospheric character study then a full on high-octane action-adventure series, the series opens with an immediate callback to Episode III in Order 66 – this time from the eyes of the younglings, and the haunting imagery (which feels uniquely relevant in the wake of the mass shootings from the past week) sticks throughout the entire two-episodes as a reminder about what was lost.
Ewan McGregor was always one of the best parts of the prequels, and under new direction he might be the best he’s ever been as the character. It’s hard to say that at the moment as we are only a third the way through but he makes a strong impression quickly and stays excellent throughout. Seeing him back as Obi-Wan feels like finding a glove from years ago that still fits – yeah it’s a little old now, but it’s the same glove and it does the job magnificently well. He anchors most of the show on his back even if he’s surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, particularly from the likes of Moses Ingram as Reva. While her villain is still shrouded in mystery, it’s clear that Reva is a different kind of antagonist then we are used to from the series and Ingram chews up the scenery like no tomorrow. Friend is equally as good on that front, even if it takes a while to get used to the fact that Jason Isaacs’ Rebels portrayal might still be the pinnacle of that character.
But the real winner might be Chow herself, who makes a great case for her to jump into full time features with her work here. Chow seems to have been one of the few directors who really knows how to take advantage of the Volume (along with Bryce Dallas Howard and maybe Jon Favreau himself) and her presence was sorely missed on the second season of Mando. Thankfully she makes up for it here and really kills it in the visuals department; the cinematic qualities of the show feel more distinct, from the close-ups to the gorgeous neons in the second episode. The universe is more alive then it’s ever been on the small screen and there isn’t really a moment where you think “oh yeah, this is still a TV show”. Natalie Holt’s score is also refreshingly old school, feeling more like a classic Williams-esqe orchestra then Ludwig Gorransson’s more unique sounds for the Mando-era shows.
I think the real magic of Obi-Wan Kenobi though comes with how it feels. Star Wars has a certain feel to it that, ever since 2019, Star Wars hasn’t quite managed. Sure, The Mandalorian in it’s best moments comes close but all of it feels artificial. There is a mythic quality to the series that it’s best installments capture; The Last Jedi‘s speech about the Force, Rogue One‘s tragic conclusion, Solo‘s Kessel Run, etc. The best moments of modern Star Wars have captured that feeling and while it’s too early to say if Obi-Wan Kenobi completely captured it, these first two episodes did and did it in spades. When one of the best moments of the episode is a little Leia talking to a floating robot about all of the different ships passing by you know that they’ve managed to make it work.
And with 4 episodes left to go, I’m already ecstatic for what else they have in store. A bright future awaits the future of streaming Star Wars if they can keep up this momentum. Just don’t let Favreau anywhere near it, please?