I 'Obi-wan' -t My Time Back
Nostalgia. It’s a comforting blanket for many in this day and age of revamp-reboot franchise blockbusters, having become a device utilized by execs to attract praise from fans and moviegoers wide, manipulating them into screaming and shouting when something they recognize makes a surprise (re)appearance or a famous quote finds a roaring comeback. It’s a thoughtless gesture designed to sweep up collective hype in the audience as they are reminded of their childhood via recycled images and dialogue. It’s a major part of the market of new wave blockbusters that are heavily advertised on social media to generate reaction; a clickbait article frenzy of easter eggs and "top ten moments!" It can be exhausting.
So when word got out that a limited series was in the works by mega studio Disney focusing on the Star Wars character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, I was immediately skeptical.
Within the context of larger blockbuster features, it is almost from the get-go that we recognize the type of story we are going to receive from Disney to expand upon the classic character's legacy. The current phenomenon of world-building, supporting character cameo, and easter egg hunts will satisfy most fans these days, with lesser priority for the story itself (if there even is one). Obi-Wan Kenobi not only manages to fail to tell a competent, worthwhile narrative, but it also fails to uphold any sense of urgency and adventure.
Despite the nearly six-hour runtime, a period most would deem long enough to introduce new characters, rehash and flesh out previous stories on top of continuing a linear narrative, it simply can’t. An overarching impression of quantity over quality is the only real continuity from episode to episode, as it squeezes in as many little subplots as it possibly can, all the while not relaying any new information whatsoever. It’s a misfire on an epic scale, constantly teetering between dull and a complete waste of time.
Although the colossal financial success of the Disney sequel trilogy cannot be argued, it was inevitable that the majority of the fanbase and general audiences alike would gravitate toward the member-berries™ – an over usage of legacy or background characters and notable quotes to dredge up in – component of the franchise. Such references have been employed recently within the entertainment canon to guarantee a positive reaction from fans, reconnecting them to childhood or the grouped popularity of a certain fan base. Used to differentiating degrees through all three of the Renaissance films, it’s a cheapened aspect of those movies, serving little to no purpose in the narrative.
The Obi-Wan series is, unfortunately, no different. Through its six-parted run, it consistently puts its previous-installment MacGuffins first and its storytelling second, stopping the narrative dead in its tracks in order to hold for a moment of imaginary at-home applause. Such pauses permit the audience to realize how horribly limited the Star Wars universe really is, disallowing itself any conceptual growth. It’s a factory of content wheel-spinning into eternity.
Legacy characters make an appearance throughout: a young Leia joins Obi-Wan throughout the series to remind audiences that she has a key role in the original trilogy (wink WINK). The show-runners drop and hint at obvious references to A New Hope, a blatantly distracting and downright out-of-place effort within the context of the show.
Like many others when first introduced to the galaxy far, far away, I had an awakening of what movies and filmmaking could be, and beyond that, what a liberated imagination could accomplish. Lucas’s original concepts, characters and locations, all drawn from westerns and samurai classics alike, purposely reconstructed for a space operatic classic, met with the romantic nature of friendship with classic hero vs. villains fables; it’s monumental in its execution.
Obi-Wan Kenobi does not bring back any of these profuse emotions or concepts, but it does reevaluate them into a quickly, rehashed extravaganza of nothingness. It’s six hours that ultimately feels like a screaming, rotting corpse of all memories that once were, now resembling a Frankenstein-esque monster of the past, doing nothing original despite its attempts to reapply thematics from the original trilogy.
An anticipated aspect that fans were clambering for was the glorious and triumphant return of fan-favorite actors Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, both reprising their respective roles as Obi-Wan and Vader (with Christensen donning the heavy suit for the first time in his career). Fans should have gotten what they desired. McGregor is the show’s highlight; he still maintains a sense of rhythm to stoic and heroism beats that he showcased in the prequel trilogy, but he allows himself to introduce tortured and regretful characteristics, which is always a fresh approach when dealing with pre-established characters.
Christensen’s Vader, however, fumbles. Although it is confirmed that it is indeed Hayden inside the armor, it feels like a waste. It’s significant that he returned after playing such a large part of the prequel trilogy, and having him hidden behind a suit that ultimately portrays no actor identity is kind of sad. I do appreciate the token idealism to it, but is there any point? Christensen does show his face from time to time, but when he does it’s clouded in either makeup or a glossy, distracted CG de-aging effect, an ongoing trend in the onslaught of Star Wars properties as well as franchise filmmaking as a whole.
I believe it’s time to dial back. The overstated, overwrought “things we know” type of storytelling will become tiresome sooner or later. A creative industry built on callbacks and sheep-mentality crowd cheering can not in any sense fuel creativity in this day and age. As someone who believes The Last Jedi was the last true piece of actual quality with the Star Wars label on it, my fleeting hope slips through my fingers faster and faster when each new product rolls around. It’s a futile game of predicting which recycled characters and story threads they are dredging up next.
Sure, on the outside, Obi-Wan looks pretty; it’s got action, character drama, and an over-abundance of puzzle pieces to help audiences recall a simpler time. But in reality, it’s an endless slew of desperation; a lame cry for ideas that is willing to jeopardize pre-established stories so they no longer make any sense. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a million-dollar firework show, a fleeting moment of cheap entertainment that is instantly forgotten the second it is over.
I simply cannot take anymore Star Wars. As someone who used to be floored by every addition, it pains me to say that I’m officially sick of it. It seems the force is not strong with this one.