Obi-Wan Kenobi Series Review (Season 1)
A highly anticipated tale, let down by a muddled story and weak implementation of new characters.
Under Disney’s stewardship, Star Wars has faltered on the big screen, but has found greater success on the small-screen format in recent years. Following on from The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi has been highly anticipated for years. It’s a shame then that this tale will leave you wanting.
Halfway between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the exiled Jedi master is hiding from prying eyes on Tatooine. Having mostly abandoned the ways of the force, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) embarks on a mission to prevent the Skywalker twins from being discovered. The six episodes take the character on a round trip, witnessing an oppressed galaxy under an iron grip. This would have created an ideal direction for the plot to take, a teacher coming to terms with his failure, but it’s spoiled by the intrusion of a new character. Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram) is an inquisitor, a special agent of Darth Vader (voiced again by James Earl Jones) trained to hunt down Jedi fugitives; but she also has her own motives that slowly reveal themselves. How Reva is written into the story severely undermines the narrative and displaces Obi-Wan at several points. As a result, it takes a downturn in the middle with episode four being the worst offender. It repeats a rescue from earlier in the series without moving the characters forward and piling on many illogical moments for good measure. When Obi-Wan Kenobi chooses to focus on the titular protagonist, his encounters with the dark side are fully engaged with story threads from the mainline films, but when the episodes pivot towards Reva, it drags the pace and weakens the ensuing action.
For Obi-Wan Kenobi we have a set of new and returning faces. Without giving too much away, it’s the latter that makes the biggest impact. Ewan McGregor was one of the best actors of the prequels and it’s good to see him back in the role. As the series goes on, he does come into his own, becoming a stronger leader who cares for the downtrodden. Vivien Lyra Blair plays a young Princess Leia and she does a serviceable job; at times the writing trips up her scenes, especially early on with a weak chase sequence through the woods. Despite the damage she does to the plot, Reva is portrayed well by Moses Ingram. The actress sells her character’s emotional baggage and desire for revenge. However, her incorporation becomes an afterthought when we reach the end of the series, making it even harder to take her character seriously. This is most evident in the final episode as the contrast between Reva’s insignificance and the most poignant moments becomes very pronounced. Other side characters have some light development from a spy in the imperial ranks to the leader of an underground insurgency. They serve the story well enough without detracting from the main leads.
There’s no faulting the wider presentation either. The blend of practical and computer-generated effects is on top form. It’s the right mix of old and new, recreating older planets and pouring a ton of detail into the new ones. Extras, physical props and costume work all fit in well with the setting and a band of characters on the run from tyranny. The lighting and atmosphere is also strong, particularly for the lightsaber duels. The action is edited well with several call-backs to previous films that result in solid payoffs; some sequences fare better than others but the variety of set-pieces does remain strong throughout. Natalie Holt’s score has a well-defined tone, seamlessly blending a main character theme with both trilogies. The extensive budget at the studio’s disposal continues to create vivid pictures for the franchise, even if the story remains lacking.
Despite its high potential and strong fanfare, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a let-down. Ewan Mcgregor does a serviceable job and the moments that do connect work brilliantly. But in its bid to introduce new characters and implement them into the wider universe, it muddies the water and veers off in unfocused, unnecessary directions. It’s worth watching for the final episode and some scenes that lead up to it, but this series falls well short of the saga’s pedigree.
Rating: 3/5 Stars (Fair)
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