Review: Obi-Wan Kenobi – Just Misses The High Ground

Star Wars fans have pleaded and cried for some form of Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off for years, but now it has been placed at our feet, does it deliver? For the most part, it does, but Obi-Wan Kenobi also comes with a fair number of issues – notably, dull side characters. Obi-Wan Kenobi follows Ewan McGregor’s adored protagonist ten years after the events of Revenge Of The Sith, where he is struggling to cope with his former friend and apprentice Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side, until he is forced to confront the consequences. This review does contain spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The series opens up with a fitting and tense opening sequence which follows Order 66 from the perspective of the young padawans and Jedi masters. Obi-Wan Kenobi does an excellent job of creating an emotional weight which transitions appropriately to when we are greeted with the now reclusive Obi-Wan. As mentioned, the Jedi master is a broken man and lives a sheltered life, no longer standing for what he once did – which he is frequently reminded of. Ewan McGregor’s portrayal comes across as a more realistic and admirable one, which feels like what the sequel trilogy tried to achieve with Luke Skywalker’s reclusiveness following his failure with Ben Solo.

From his hermit-like ways to his growth during the course of the series, Ewan McGregor depicts an aged Obi-Wan exceptionally well. Likewise, it was warming to see Hayden Christensen return as Darth Vader, delivering on a character who has drastically grown in power and is fuelled by anger at his former master. Christensen was dealt bad cards in the prequel trilogy, so it was enjoyable to watch him return with new material and shine in his scenes – if only there were more of them. Vivien Lyra Blair also did an excellent job at bringing a child Leia to life, where she translated the personality and mannerisms of the Princess to a T.

Press Photo from Disney+

Another point of praise for the series has to be for the score, which was incredible at conveying the correct tone and emotional weighting, especially during the Darth Vader and Obi-Wan fight scene in the final episode. In fact, the final episode was easily the highlight of the series where the tension, emotion, and narrative weighting were nailed. The fight scene featured Obi-Wan doing his signature pose, combined with an immense atmosphere. Likewise, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a visually impressive spectacle, again, especially with that final fight between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. The lighting had a striking contrast with the dark gloomy backdrop being illuminated by the red and blue of the lightsabers, but simultaneously without being so dark that it fell into the Game Of Thrones pitfall where you have to squint to make out what is going on. This leads neatly into the action scenes which were spot on and very well choreographed, fully taking advantage of the modern capabilities the original trilogy couldn’t as the fight scenes made full use of lightsabers and the force. This made for suspenseful, exciting and action-packed scenes for the most part.

The best scene-stealers in Obi-Wan Kenobi were always going to be any that Ewan McGregor shared with Hayden Christensen, it’s just a shame that there were nowhere near as many flashbacks as I expected. For the flashbacks there were, there were some minor issues, which we will look at later. Of note was after the final fight scene, which truly tugged on your heartstrings when Obi-Wan saw Anakin’s burnt and almost unrecognisable face. Lighting played a huge part here with the red lightsaber illuminating Anakin’s features and Obi-Wan’s blue lightsaber highlighting the teary emotion on his face. This same scene was fascinating to watch with Hayden Christensen’s voice blending with James Earl Jones’ which was a creative and heartbreaking touch.

Seeing the return of Darth Vader and James Earl Jones with his iconic voice, was spine-chilling and exciting as you really grasp a sense of how formidable and rage-fuelled he is, such as him constantly force choking people and demonstrating significant power when holding back a ship from taking off. This made Darth Vader feel like a genuine threat to an Obi-Wan who needed to believe again. It seemed reminiscent of that scene in Rogue One where Vader simply feels unstoppable. Other excellent parts to note were Obi-Wan delivering an iconic ‘Hello There’ which was a must let’s be honest, Ian McDiarmid returning briefly as the iconic Emperor Palpatine, and a short but much-anticipated cameo from Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn’s force ghost.

Press Photo from Disney+

But it’s not all nostalgia and joy, as Obi-Wan Kenobi featured a handful of coincidences, dull side characters, and poorly explained scenes. Character-wise, Reva the inquisitor stuck out like a sore thumb. The writers were clearly trying to draw parallels with Anakin by making her impulsive and angry, but we’ve seen this all before. The inquisitors were initially an aspect I was really keen to see in the show, but considering it was a six-part series, they featured too much considering it was titled Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately, a lot of the criticisms of the show revolve around Reva as she became a character the show focused perhaps too heavily on. From the off-set, she wasn’t very charismatic and didn’t feel as interesting of a villain especially when perhaps the most recognisable villain of all time was also in the show. That being said, she did have an interesting motive and backstory, so at least she gets a one-up on Rey.

That being said, Obi-Wan Kenobi was still littered with the aforementioned conveniences and poorly done scenes. For example, the terrible chase scene with child Leia somehow outrunning a gang for much longer than she realistically should have done just felt laughable and likewise, Reva’s cringey parkour running scene as she was trying to chase down Leia felt unnecessary. There were also conveniences that never get well-explained and we’re supposed to accept such as how did Reva get ahead of Leia when Leia was escaping through the tunnel? It also felt convenient that Reva had the foresight to put a tracker on Leia’s droid when she was being interrogated, did she somehow know she’d escape? Who knows!

Reva’s character didn’t make much sense following the reveal that she was a padawan that survived Order 66 and was secretly trying to get close to Darth Vader to kill him. Yes, it’s an interesting premise, but what was her goal after that? Then why after revealing this to Obi-Wan did she proceed to kill the rebels? What was her long-term goal? Why was she trying to hunt down Luke as justice? Did she really deserve redemption? Again, who knows. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a Reva spin-off!

Press Photo from Disney+

As mentioned the final episode was the highlight of the series whereas some episodes, especially Episode 4, felt a little slow at times which isn’t ideal with a six-part series. As noted, there were several occurrences of characters being in the right place at the right time and last-minute rescues, which can be somewhat forgiven as there are only a limited number of episodes, but there seemed to be a lot of them regardless. Another criticism comes from the flashback scenes which featured some questionable de-ageing to put it lightly.

Overall, Obi-Wan Kenobi falls slightly short of expectations (minus the final episode), especially with the amount of potential it had. I wish it focused more on the core two characters of Obi-Wan and Darth Vader rather than trying to throw a boring side character into the mix in the hopes we get invested. Sorry Reva! That being said, it was an enjoyable watch and was visually astounding with an emotional and fitting score to accompany it.

Holly Hammond

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