SPOILER ALERT: This review contains details of the first two episodes of Disney+’s series Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The Force is not strong with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Debuting a few hours earlier than anticipated on Disney+, the first two episodes of the Ewan McGregor-starring miniseries are nearly all undiluted nostalgia with no wisdom to impart and not much of a story to tell.
Lacking the charm of The Mandalorian and embracing the hackneyed efforts of The Book of Boba Fett, the adrift Obi-Wan Kenobi plays way too coy and cute to be taken seriously as anything more than s slick-ish subscriber grab.
Taking place in the netherworld period between the rise of the Empire in Revenge of the Sith and the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope, Obi-Wan is essentially a redemption tale. Yet, as George Lucas learned the lucrative way, a little bit of Joseph Campbell can be good for the myth but bad for the execution.
Full of kidnapped pint-sized princesses, Outer Rim workplace monotony, crises of confidence, well-timed throwbacks and plot holes, the opening of the six-episode series is a soiled mosaic of its influences — which, no matter how much Lawrence of Arabia you mix in with the original Blade Runner, some Matrix and an unseen Home Alone sequel, wilts faster than an orchid under the grueling twin suns of Tatooine.
That demise is made all the more scorched by the fact that significant swaths of Obi-Wan have a mid-1990s syndication cheapness to them, with slightly better lighting.
With four more episodes to go, whether Kenobi proves as tired and exhausted as the ultimately unnecessary and just-dropped first part of the fourth and penultimate season of Netflix’s Stranger Things remains to be seen. However, as the Star Wars machine cranks out product to fatten up Disney+’s inventory, the augury is not so good.
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Putting aside the payday that the likes of Star Wars vets Hayden Christensen and Jimmy Smits plus Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton and a barely recognizable Rupert Friend will be cashing in out of the series scripted by Joby Howard and directed by Deborah Chow, Kenobi is simply surprisingly hollow. Coming out of the much-tainted Boba Fett, the most recent live-action Star Wars series on the House of Mouse streamer, you’d think the Lucasfilm powers that be would have gotten under the hood at least one more time for a smoother ride, so to speak.
An empty vessel jammed with Easter eggs, tired Western motifs and clear script-by-committee pitfalls, the very notion of McGregor’s Kenobi as a chastened exile proves hard to sustain despite his repeated long stares off into the distance. For one thing, the deeply talented actor’s sauntering around the sandy backwater of Tatooine seems more well suited to his Long Way Round, Long Way Down and Long Way Up motorcycle docuseries than a crushed Jedi in mourning. The impressively choreographed fight scenes that take center stage pretty quickly put the boot to any rumination of a galaxy under Imperial rule.
All of which is just so disappointing, and yet unsurprising at this point for the small-screen version of the Star Wars franchise. By the time Smits’ Senator Bail Organa tries to implore McGregor’s dejected Obi-Wan to take up the Jedi cause again in service of saving his adopted daughter Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), lines like “You couldn’t save Anakin, but you can save her” seem almost germane, and that’s just sad.
Or to pull out that famous quote from another Jedi: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
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