“You made mistakes… we all did.” The pep talk that drags one of the greatest heroes in sci-fi out of retirement must have been repeated a lot in the Lucasfilm offices over the past few years. After all, before Disney+ and J.J. Abrams, the Star Wars legacy was looking a bit bruised. George Lucas’ prequel trilogy of 1999-2005 left the series with a slightly bitter aftertaste: while it won over an entire generation of new fans, it did so with three patchy blockbusters that are now ageing like (blue) milk.
Kicking off its third renaissance with 2015’s The Force Awakens, Star Wars has been fighting back ever since – it’s now Disney’s second-seat franchise just behind Marvel, thanks to five record-breaking movies and a string of spin-off streamer shows. Unlike The Mandalorian and The Book Of Boba Fett, though, there’s a whole lot more at stake with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Running for six episodes, the new series is roughly the same length as the entire prequel trilogy, giving director Deborah Chow the chance to rewrite history as well as bridge the widening gap between two different generations of devout Star Wars fans. This isn’t just another show that occasionally crosses paths with the fringes of the bigger story: this is the bigger story.
Following the best recent Marvel shows, Obi-Wan Kenobi proves again just how blurry the line now is between TV and cinema by giving us a proper new Star Wars chapter that already makes everyone’s Blu-ray boxsets look incomplete. Fluffy and baggy in places (what Star Wars story isn’t?) the series still moves elegantly, carrying weight and worth in every frame thanks to Ewan McGregor’s gritty performance and Disney’s bottomless budget.
Set 10 years after the end of Revenge Of The Sith (more specifically, circa 9 BBY – Before the Battle of Yavin – right between Solo and Rogue One), the story finds shamed Jedi Obi-Wan (McGregor) living life as a hermit on Tatooine. It’s been 10 years since he watched his own pupil Anakin (Hayden Christensen) turn to the dark side, and 10 years since he chopped off his legs and rolled him into a volcano. Now racked with guilt and desperate to forget the past, he’s forced to dig up his old lightsaber again when little Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) is kidnapped by pirates.
It’s all a trap, of course, planned by new baddies Grand Inquisitor (a perfectly weird Rupert Friend) and Reva Sevander (a perfectly badass Moses Ingram), two of Vader’s henchman who are tasked with hunting down any surviving Jedi Knights. Two episodes in, Obi-Wan and Leia are on the run together, with the show channelling John Wick, Blade Runner, The Searchers and every samurai movie ever made (all while McGregor perfects his Alec Guinness impression).
Whatever’s left of George Lucas’ 45-year-old vision survives here in the show’s influences, drawing from Westerns and Japanese cinema to meld Star Wars back into the shape it first took in 1977 – albeit repainted here with a flawless $150million sheen. Not wasting too much time on Obi-Wan’s moping, Chow guns the show forward at a furious pace, ending an action-packed double-header debut with a blast from the past and a whole lot of promise for the rest of the series.
Walking the line between nostalgia and novelty as well as shouldering the entire Skywalker saga, Obi-Wan Kenobi has one of the toughest jobs in the galaxy. As long as no-one tries to bring Jar Jar Binks back in the next few episodes, it might just pull it off…
- Fans of The Clone Wars and Rebels will have plenty to cheer about here, mostly in the live-action debut of Grand Inquisitor, Reva (aka Third Sister) and Fifth Brother (played here by Sung Kang).
- Look out for a dianoga in a background aquarium tank in the Daiyu spice lab. The next time Leia sees one of those, she’s fighting it in the trash compactor scene of A New Hope.
- “Help a veteran get a warm meal,” says a clone trooper begging on the street. That’s a cameo from Jango Fett actor Temuera Morrison – aged up here to play one of his many OAP selves.
‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is streaming on Disney+ from today (May 27)