Despite the initial negative reception of the prequel trilogy, the three films have been experiencing a renaissance – particularly among those who grew up with the films. Following the immense success of projects such as Jedi: Fallen Order and the final season of The Clone Wars, audiences have been clamouring for an extension of George Lucas’ vision of the prequel era. And that’s exactly what we got, as Ewan McGregor returned to the saga for Obi-Wan Kenobi, a new Disney Plus series that marked one of the year’s most anticipated television events.
Initially envisioned as a feature length film, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a six-part miniseries that’s set ten years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The series follows the titular character as he sets out to rescue the kidnapped Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) from the Galactic Empire, leading to a confrontation with his former apprentice Darth Vader (Hayden Christensen).
Considering the dramatic weight of Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi would have been the perfect opportunity for a character study that explores the psyche of one of the most beloved Star Wars characters. Unfortunately, the series was rewritten in favour of a more hopeful and uplifting story. As a result, the Disney Plus original series trades in its dramatic potential for a story that plays it safe, adhering to a tried-and-true formula with very little to offer.
The addition of Princess Leia as a child was kept under wraps as a surprise, and the series benefited from the dynamic she forged with the jaded old hermit. While the chemistry between the two was radiating throughout the series, it’s a dynamic that we’ve seen in Star Wars many, many times. When the same trope has been explored in other Star Wars media such as The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch, as well as the final episodes of The Book of Boba Fett, it’s hard to not see the studios’ insistence in choosing familiarity over something that would require more creative risks.
When the original Star Wars film debuted in 1977, it was revered for its originality as well as its role in pioneering modern special effects in film. Obi-Wan Kenobi wasn’t interested in doing any of that. Whether it’s ripping off the finale of Jedi: Fallen Order and Star Wars: Rebels, or the underwhelming fight choreography that is limited by the usage of StageCraft (which was masterfully utilised by The Mandalorian), the latest live-action Star Wars series suffers from a severe case of unoriginality.
Alongside Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen was positioned front and centre throughout the series’ extensive marketing campaign. Promoting the reunion of the Jedi Master and his former apprentice as the main draw of the series, it’s perplexing that half of the series’ overall runtime is dedicated to developing Reva/Third Sister’s character. Despite Moses Ingram’s talent (as seen in The Queen’s Gambit), the writing of the show fails to deliver a compelling character, with most of her character development being lifted from Trilla/Second Sister in Jedi: Fallen Order. After the finale, it’s difficult to see the rationale for the decision to piggyback off Obi-Wan Kenobi instead of giving the inquisitor a series of her own.
In Obi-Wan Kenobi, fans were promised to witness the “rematch of the century”, a story that will recontextualise their inevitable clash in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Instead, what we got is a formulaic series that’s bogged down by characters with unclear motives, bland action sequences, and weightless fan service. Perhaps, the greatest duel in Star Wars was never about the conflict between a Jedi Master and his one-time friend and apprentice, but rather the fight between expectations and reality that takes place inside the mind of a fan.