*** Spoilers. Look, friend. It’s on you at this point. ***
Star Wars is as culturally pervasive as any media property can be. From its inception, the hero’s journey with magic space samurai has captured its audience’s imagination and garnered a passionate fanbase. While Star Wars films have enjoyed massive commercial successes and critical failures alike, the universe has endured for decades. Prequels, sequels, spinoffs, books, and cartoons alike have flooded the media landscape for about 45 years now – and Disney does not appear to want to halt the gravy train anytime soon.
Following in the footsteps of the much-acclaimed Mandalorian, Kenobi is another Disney Plus series intent on squeezing out as much Star Wars lore in a live-action format as possible. Kenobi intends to fill some of the time gap between Episode 3 and Episode 4 by showing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s stewardship over Luke and Leia Skywalker as children. “Why?”, you may ask. Why is this worth making a standalone miniseries? Well friends, your nostalgia hasn’t been monetized enough yet. It’s 2022 and there are still million-dollar gaps in your favorite intellectual properties. This isn’t to say that every single spin-off, remake, or reboot is inherently soulless money-grubbing. In fact, the Mandalorian pulled this off better than most. Allowing the Star Wars universe to breathe with new characters not revolving around the original cast went a long way to justify its existence. Pairing that with the American western aesthetic made Mandalorian a pleasant and refreshing experience. However, Kenobi is not that.
What did you want to see out of this show? Be honest. We all wanted the same thing. We wanted to see another epic showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. The original trilogy didn’t give us much. The prequels stumbled their way into a fun climactic lightsaber duel with at least some gravity to it. Kenobi needed to deliver on a matchup for the ages. The problem lies in just this. Sure, we wanted to see another cathartic clash of the neon laser swords, but what are they going to do to earn it? Unfortunately, Kenobi gives us a retreading of the same plot points of Mandalorian. Kenobi is protecting a child (Leia), and the bad guys are after them both. The whole mini-series is your cliche cat-and-mouse game that we’ve all seen a hundred times. I wish that I was oversimplifying for the sake of making a pithy rant, but when you really look at this story what you get is just more of the same. A story that feels like trudging through the majority of six episodes to see a singular fight scene makes me think that this whole operation would have been better served as a fifteen-minute fan-fiction video on YouTube, which would have carried just as much emotional weight as it did here.
What makes this even more frustrating is that the main antagonist, the “Third Sister” (Reva), is one of the most flat and one-dimensional villains we’ve seen. Being aligned with the Sith, one would assume her motivations are ambition and pain. Guess what? One would assume correctly. Now, Kenobi eventually elucidates her backstory as a survivor of Anakin’s slaughter of the younglings in Episode III, now intent on killing Vader. However, this character arc falls flat due to the unimaginably dead-on-arrival acting behind it. Ingram’s delivery of Revan primarily consists of mean-mugging the hell out of whoever she’s looking at. Even upon the reveal of her ulterior motives, her face and body language remain an unflinching bulwark against the nuanced emotional conflict the script laid out for her. For a character that is written as the primary foil for Obi-Wan, there needs to be a level of charisma that ultimately failed to be met.
To be fair, the show isn’t all bad. In fact, the technical aspects of the show are just as high quality as we would expect these days. Specifically, the cinematography is gorgeous to watch. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as the man behind the camera is Chung-Hoon Chung, of Oldboy fame. Chung’s resume speaks for itself. Leading the photography of other stunningly captured movies such as the IT reboot and Last Night in Soho, his ability to produce gorgeous looking films is well documented. Sadly, pretty camera work can only mask a bad screenplay so much. Despite Chung’s immaculate gold spray paint, the Disney turd remains.
Now, of course, I can’t review Kenobi without mentioning Ewan Mcgregor.
Ewan Mcgregor is still a great actor. He’s been the face of Obi-Wan Kenobi for two decades. This is nothing new. What else do you expect?
Kenobi, ultimately, is an experience that solely relies on your nostalgia for support. It provides no new perspectives. It spends half its time retreading the events covered in the prequels. It just honestly doesn’t have much to say. Here’s another Star Wars dud to add to the collection of half-hearted stories that fail to deliver on the vast world of opportunity available to it.