The Media Man Reviews: Obi-Wan Kenobi
Huh, another Star Wars show already? Feels like yesterday since I reviewed the last one!
For those of you that may remember, I reviewed The Book of Boba Fett back in February. I didn't like it. It was a mediocre mess of a show with bizarre story-telling priorities, a lack of proper focus and a wasteful use of a Clone Wars fan-favourite character. So you better believe when Obi-Wan Kenobi came out, I was practically begging "PLEASE be better than The Book of Boba Fett!" As you can imagine, there was a lot of hype surrounding this show. It was a show starring Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Ewan McGregor was reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi and shock of all shocks, Hayden Christensen was returning as Darth Vader! It was easy to see why Star Wars fans had at least a little hope for this series.
As for this show, it has quite a history to it. Obi-Wan Kenobi was meant to be one of those spin-off movies in the same vein as Rogue One and Solo. But then Solo bombed and much like The Book of Boba Fett was made from a movie into a series, Obi-Wan Kenobi was also made into a series for Disney+ instead. Deborah Chow, a woman who has directed a few episodes of The Mandalorian was made director and at one point, the scripts were ready...but then Kathleen Kennedy ordered a re-write of the scripts before they could even start filming. Given this woman's horrendous track record with Star Wars, that's not a good sign...
So was the Force strong with this series? Or should we let this thing be hunted down by the Inquisitors? Let's dive in to Obi-Wan Kenobi...
Section 1: The Story
The show is a six-part miniseries that sees our titular hero living life in exile after the events of Order 66 that saw the fall of the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan is getting by the best he can on Tatooine while keeping an eye on Luke Skywalker from afar. But his life is thrust back into action when Princess Leia winds up kidnapped as part of a plan to lure him out by an insidious Inquisitor named Reva (aka the Third Sister) who seems way too keen to destroy him. Made even worse by the fact Darth Vader also catches wind of Obi-Wan's existence and is after him for revenge after being left for dead on Mustafar...
So how did this show fare up? Eh...pretty badly, I'm sorry to say.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a promising TV show mired by a plot that doesn't make a lick of sense. This is one of those shows that falls apart the moment you think about it for even a second. No joke, it's practically miraculous on how many plot-holes and writing inconsistencies that are in this show to the point that I can list them all:
1: Why does Bail Organa send Obi-Wan to rescue Leia? He knows Obi-Wan is watching over Luke and that if he leaves, Luke is left unprotected. What was stopping him and his wife from sending an army to find Leia or even better, go and find her themselves?
2: Why is the Fortress Inquisitorious left unshielded? No, their dumbass explanation doesn't make any sense because this series takes place after Jedi Fallen Order, a video-game in which one of the levels sees Cal Kestis and Cere Junda breaking into said base and Darth Vader had to come in to chase them away so you'd think they would've fixed that after that infiltration took place!
3: Why does Darth Vader stand there like an idiot and let Obi-Wan get away in Episode 3? He was chomping at the bit to kill him and used the Force to rub his face into fire and even used the Force to put the flames out after torturing him so what was stopping him from putting the flames out again so he could chase after Obi-Wan after Tala's interference?
4: During Tala and Obi-Wan's interference, how does nobody hear her talking to Obi-Wan or hear Obi-Wan's voice coming from the comlink? And how did nobody hear Tala taking out the Imperial Officer that challenged her? It's not like they were wearing earphones or anything that cancels out noise so what the heck?
5: How did Reva get ahead of Leia at the end of Episode 3 despite her being miles ahead down a tunnel? It's downright asinine that she somehow got ahead of Leia, reached the end of the tunnel miles ahead of her and killed the pilot she was supposed to meet without it being established there was some other way she could've got there! It's not like there was another tunnel or anything leading to where Leia was heading, nor do we even see Reva go up to the surface to get there quicker so again, how did she do that?
6: If Leia bonded so much with Obi-Wan during the course of this series, then why does she have no reaction to his death in A New Hope? In fact, why does she act like she has no knowledge of Obi-Wan despite spending a lot of time with him and getting saved by him numerous times in this show? This series literally created two plot-holes that didn't exist before by making the plot about her and Obi-Wan!
7: How does Vader not sense Obi-Wan isn't dead when he buries him under all the rocks? I remind you guys that he was able to sense Obi-Wan when he was onboard the Death Star so surely he could've figured out he was still alive.
8: Obi-Wan has Vader beaten, crippled and at his mercy in the last episode...yet he doesn't kill him? All Obi-Wan has done is allowed Vader's existence to carry on killing more innocents and enslaving people with the Empire! Obi-Wan could've prevented the entire original trilogy from happening if he killed Vader here and there...yet he didn't?! WHY?! And don't give me any of that "it's not the Jedi way" stuff as Obi-Wan has left all that behind here and the Jedi are no more. Also "the Jedi way" led to its downfall so why would Obi-Wan want to keep that going after it led to their near extinction?
9: Why does Vader get the entire Star Destroyer to chase after Obi-Wan instead of just going by himself and leaving the Star Destroyer to chase after the fleeing Rebels? He has his own TIE Fighter so what was stopping him from getting in it and chasing after Obi-Wan's escape pod? We see even in Star Wars Rebels that he can get into his own TIE Fighter and join in the space action so why didn't he just do that here?
And the biggest of them all: HOW THE HELL DID REVA SURVIVE GETTING STABBED BY A LIGHTSABER, FIND A SHIP AND MAKE HER WAY BACK TO TATOOINE DESPITE ALL THE SHIPS BEING GONE AT THE TIME?!?!?!
This is a show that feels like it has a very basic understanding of Star Wars and only a surface level knowledge of its plot and characters because the amount of baffling writing choices, plot holes and continuity errors made by this show's very existence makes you wonder did any of the writers who worked on this show do ANY research before they wrote this series? And a lot of this could've been avoided if it hadn't been for what they chose to make the plot of this series about. I mean why did this plot have to be about Obi-Wan rescuing Leia? By choosing this concept for the story, it creates more problems than it solves for Star Wars and opens up a lot of the plot-holes I mentioned before. This show should've been about Obi-Wan coming to terms with his new life on Tatooine and as Luke's little guardian angel while dealing with the Inquisitors. I know people are annoyed that so many of these Star Wars shows are taking place on Tatooine but in this case, it SHOULD have stayed on Tatooine because by moving it away from Tatooine, you get his messy plot that raises too many questions.
Also this plot isn't enough to carry six episodes either. This is a plot that can carry two episodes at best, yet they stretch it for six episodes and thus gives us another issue with the series that The Book of Boba Fett had: poor pacing. Granted its an episode shorter than the previous show so the pacing is a little better, but it still feels dragged out. Like Leia gets caught in Episode 1, Obi-Wan saves her in Episode 2 but there's still four more episodes left to go so they can't have him just get back to Alderaan and be done with it and thus Leia gets caught again in Episode 3 and has to be saved again in Episode 4. You see what I mean by making this the plot being a bad idea? If they went with a different idea for the story, we wouldn't have these pacing issues I mentioned.
Another problem this show has is a lack of real tension. We know Obi-Wan isn't going to die here because he's still alive by the time of the original trilogy so we can't ever feel worried for him whenever he's in danger. Same goes for Leia. And I especially rolled my eyes when Reva stabbed the Grand Inquisitor. Like come on guys, did you SERIOUSLY think we'd buy that for a single second? We know he's not going to die because he's still alive by the time of Star Wars Rebels. For anyone who's seen that show, it feels like the show is actively insulting our intelligence for thinking we'd seriously believe he's dead. It didn't even accomplish anything in the end so why did they do it in the first place?
So yeah, this show is a mess with a nonsensical plot stretched out longer than it needed to be, a plethora of plot-holes and a lack of tension. Is there anything good about it? Well for starters, it's actually ABOUT Obi-Wan Kenobi. That's a plus I can give it above The Book of Boba Fett at least, it's actually about the character it's supposed to be about. XD All the episodes feature Obi-Wan in them and we don't have any characters from The Mandalorian stealing the spotlight. Also he's not upstaged by his supporting cast like Boba Fett is. I also liked some of the action in the show, namely Obi-Wan vs. Darth Vader in the final episode (ludicrous conclusion not withstanding). Obi-Wan's arc is pretty decent too. And it was kinda badass watching Owen and Beru fight off Reva but all that does is show how much she sucks as a villain so that's kind of a backwards compliment. You know, finding stuff that's good about the story is much harder than I thought it would be...
With writing this inconsistent, poorly paced and contradictory when placed in the greater Star Wars canon, it baffles me as to how the people at Disney messed up this badly. They had ONE job, make an awesome show about Obi-Wan Kenobi and they couldn't even do that right. Remember how I said Kathleen Kennedy ordered the scripts to be re-written? Yeah, maybe she should've kept her mouth shut as I bet the original drafts were way better than what we got...
Section 2: The Characters
Some familiar faces are back and some new ones are here too. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand...it really is a mixed bag with them all.
There's Obi-Wan Kenobi (played again by Ewan McGregor), the star of the show. Obi-Wan is presented as this broken man who really has fallen from grace, a skilled Jedi Knight now reduced to living life in the desert while watching over Luke. After being put on his mission to save Leia, he reignites that spark of life he once lost and is able to confront his greatest failure again when he has a faithful rematch with Darth Vader. In spite of the story's myriad of problems, Obi-Wan himself is pretty great here. Ewan's performance is top notch, he still has that trademark Obi-Wan wit we love him for and he shows he's still got it in some of the action scenes, even being able to handle himself when searching for Leia on Daiyu without once needing his lightsaber. The only thing holding him back is again, the poorly written story that causes him to make idiotic decisions at times like accidentally using Leia's name when they're supposed to be pretending to be someone else (I remind you, this guy disguised himself as Rako Hardeen to infiltrate a bounty hunter plot in an arc of The Clone Wars so he shouldn't be making such a rookie error) or not killing Vader when he had him completely defeated and at his mercy. Still, at least the show's actually focused on him and doesn't have him being upstaged by the supporting cast like what happened with poor Boba Fett in his show.
We also have a young Princess Leia (played by Vivien Lyra Blair). As she's only a child here, Leia is of course not the inspiring, fearless woman she would be in the movies but we do see some seeds of the woman she would become later in life due to being very smart for her age and being compassionate to the point of thanking droids for their work. The big problem I have with her is her intelligence is very inconsistent. She's smart enough to make keen and sharp observations of people to the point some fans mistakenly believe she can read minds (she doesn't, it's just really awkward execution that makes it feel that way) but she's also dumb enough to somehow think Obi-Wan is the kidnapper because his face happens to be on a wanted poster. Also she's just a load for a good chunk of the series, justified by her being a kid granted but it does get old real quickly when she's constantly needing to be saved. At least she helps out in Episode 5 well enough but that's about it. This show would've benefitted so much from not having her in it at all as she's just the main cog in the greater machine that makes up this story's many problems I mentioned earlier.
And of course, we have Darth Vader (played by Hayden Christensen and voiced by James Earl Jones). Once again, Disney shows a brilliant understanding of Vader's character by portraying him as this huge, imposing figure who is full of rage and hatred yet can be very quiet and calculating, best shown in Episode 3 when he silently makes his way through a village while massacring innocents who get in his way. They also do a great job on displaying how powerful Vader is too by having him literally wipe Obi-Wan's face into flames with the Force, put the flames out with the Force, rip a ship apart as it tried to escape (only for it to be a decoy anyway) and effortlessly hold his own against Reva without even needing his own lightsaber. Like Obi-Wan though, his biggest problem is that he's in a story where dumb things happen so he's constantly making idiotic decisions that betray the smart and scheming Sith Lord that we know him to be in other Star Wars media. Even now, I still can't for the life of me thinking of why he just stood there like a lemon and let Obi-Wan escape when he could've stopped him easily in Episode 3! It really sucks because again, Disney clearly GETS Darth Vader, yet they make him much dumber than he should be here. They nailed his character in Rouge One and Rebels so why did they drop the ball here?
And then we have who is technically the main villain of the show, Reva the Third Sister (played by Moses Ingram). I feel so sorry for Moses in this show. Not only was she unfairly abused by the fanbase for incredibly racist reasons, but she's stuck playing easily the worst character in the show. She's clearly trying so hard with the material she's been given to work with, but it just falls flat because of how poorly written Reva is. On paper, she sounds really interesting as this former Jedi Youngling who survived Order 66 and wants revenge on Darth Vader for leading the massacre on the Jedi Temple. In execution...she kinda sucks. As a villain, she's constantly acting like a bad-tempered, overly emotional idiot who comes to conclusions way too quickly (i.e. somehow thinking Obi-Wan will come for Leia instead of Bail Organa) and is so bad at her job that Obi-Wan can stay ahead of her without needing to fight back, she can't even mind-read a ten year old kid with the Force and is constantly getting distracted from the task at hand in Episode 4. Then comes the last episode where she nonsensically survives being stabbed by Vader (and don't say the Dark Side did it because the Dark Side doesn't work that way) in the most blatant case of plot armour I've ever seen a character wear, is barely able to hold her own against Owen and Beru and struggles to keep up with a fleeing Luke Skywalker. But the worst part is that despite all the atrocities she's committed in the show...she gets a redemption arc at the end. Yes, the Inquisitor who joined the ranks of the very man who murdered all her friends (that in of itself a colossal act of hypocrisy on her part), orchestrated the kidnapping of an innocent girl to lure out a man she wants to kill just because he was the one who trained Vader (but it wasn't Obi-Wan's fault Vader turned evil), attempted to torture said innocent girl and then attempted to murder an innocent boy just because he happened to be related to Darth Vader gets a redemption arc in the end because...she didn't kill Luke in the end? No guys, that was forced (no pun intended) as all hell and you know it. She should've died in Episode 5 and that was the end of it, a suitably tragic ending to the woman who wanted revenge and only got death in the end.
The Grand Inquisitor is here too (but for some weird reason is NOT played by Jason Issacs, but Rupert Friend instead). He is the Cad Bane of this show in where he's purely here for fan-service, and really bad fan-service at that because he doesn't do anything, Rupert Friend doesn't sound anything like Jason Issacs so he doesn't even feel like the character he's supposed to be and he gets stabbed by Reva just so she can look better than him, yet it's meaningless because we know he's not gonna die here. You could literally cut this guy out the show and nothing would change. This guy should've been in Reva's place as the secondary villain alongside Darth Vader if you ask me, that way he'd have far more of a purpose and we could avoid all the bad writing surrounding Reva.
We have a few more characters here but they're not as important to talk about as the main ones. Fifth Brother is here but also doesn't do anything (yet he displays far more personality in this show than he did in Rebels), there's another female Inquisitor named Fourth Sister who doesn't even get a personality and is just a random extra, Haja Estree is a con-artist pretending to be a Jedi who may as well not be here with what little point he had, Tala is an Imperial spy working for The Path that has an interesting story to her but isn't in the show enough to make use of it, Bail Organa (played again by Jimmy Smitts) should've had a big role in this show but is given nothing to do and Luke is shoved into Episode 6 just to give Reva something to do while Obi-Wan's dealing with Vader.
The characters are an interesting bunch in how they have potential and are great in some aspects, but the execution is what holds them back from truly being great.
Section 3: The Cinematography
Now the part that Disney does best in its Star Wars media, making it look good. Says a lot about the quality of these Disney+ exclusive shows when the most praise I ever give goes to the visuals, doesn't it?
Much like The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi manages to make the most of its budget and give us some pretty damn impressive visuals for what's a streaming exclusive series. I bet I could show you an image of this show and you'd think it came from one of the movies! The sets are so impressive that it's hard to tell if any of them are even fake or if they're all real, the CGI effects are top notch with convincing looking ships and blaster effects and the practical effects are absolutely stunning. Like with the previous Disney+ shows, Obi-Wan Kenobi really knows how to make convincing looking aliens thanks to some really well done prosthetic make-up and costume work. I especially admire the work done on the Grand Inquisitor and Fifth Brother. Both of them look like real aliens and match their animated counterparts very well, even if there's some subtle changes to them to make them look more realistic and not so animated.
The costume work is excellent here. Everybody's costumes look fitting for the characters and matches who most of these recognizable names and faces would usually wear be it Obi-Wan's rugged looking robes, Leia's regal attire that a young princess might wear, the all black costumes of the Inquisitors and of course, the iconic Darth Vader suit. Hayden Christen looks SO good wearing it and they make Vader look absolutely incredible here. One of my favourite shots of the costume especially is this shot where he's using the Force to burn Obi-Wan and the suit is bathed in the glow of the flames:
This shot is just...(chef's kiss) I love it! He truly looks like some creature from hell laying waste to his victim here! Not only does Disney (mostly) know how to write Vader accurately, but they sure know how to make him look scary and intimidating and this show continues that trend. And while we're on the subject of this scene, I give major props to the film crew for handling and staging this scene and bringing it to life. I mean fire is NOT safe to work with and I can't imagine it was easy to film while taking health and safety into account.
As for the backgrounds, we have the familiar deserts of Tatooine in Episode 1 that really aren't that much to look at anymore as we're so used to the look of Tatooine by now. But then we get Alderaan, a planet we haven't seen much of in the Star Wars universe and they really make it look like this peaceful, grand utopia that would be nice to live in. It even serves as an impressive contrast to Obi-Wan's situation. He's stuck watching a kid on a desert planet while Leia is living with Bail and his wife in a beautiful, tranquil paradise. Sadly, we don't see much of Alderaan and what we get for most of the show are some unimpressive looking worlds. We have Daiyu which just looks like a generic grungy cyberpunk city (a very convincing looking one that's massive in scale and beautifully detailed mind you but still boring to look at), Mapuzo which is just a boring looking mining planet and Jabiim where most of where it takes place is an underground base for The Path so we don't have a lot of interesting stuff to look at. Even Obi-Wan and Vader's rematch in Episode 6 takes place in a barren rocky wasteland which just isn't an interesting location for a battle as ANY action piece can be set there. Granted it does lead to some impressive visuals like Vader burying Obi-Wan with rocks or Obi-Wan using the Force to lift up a bunch of rocks to bombard Vader with but still, it's no Mustafar in terms of cool scenery for battles is all I'm saying.
The only really cool and interesting looking place our characters explore is the Fortress Inquisitorious, and its presence only serves to make the Empire look even dumber in this show because now I'm asking why they haven't beefed up security or shielded the base after the events of Jedi Fallen Order. Plus the scenes there give us one of the show's plot holes I mentioned earlier. Like the Imperial Officers DO NOT have headphones or noise cancelling equipment and yet somehow don't hear Tala whispering to Obi-Wan in the com-link despite her sitting like a few inches away from them. Tala even incapacitates an officer, clearly making some noise as she does it and they STILL don't hear her! This entire scene would've made way more sense if they just gave the actors playing the Imperial officers headphones to wear so it'd be more believeable that they couldn't hear Tala. I do like how the Fortress looks a little different in the show compared to the game as it makes sense it would do given Cal's infiltration led to a lot of damage being done so naturally they will have fixed it since then. For the record, here's the comparisons:
(Jedi Fallen Order) (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
And then we have the action scenes. It wouldn't be Star Wars without them, am I right? The action is a very curious case where it's either really good or really laughable. You have the great stuff like the fight with Obi-Wan and Vader in Episode 6, Vader effortlessly tossing Reva around like a rag doll and beating her with merely a wave of his hands and you have the utterly awesome scene of Obi-Wan holding back the water in the Inquisitorious by using the Force to stop a cracking window until just the right time to stop the Stormtroopers from chasing him. And then you have the laughable stuff such as grown-adults struggling to keep up with a fleeing kid in two different chase scenes involving Leia or you have that rather embarrassing scene where Tala takes out a couple of Stormtroopers by...slapping them on the head and grabbing their chins? It's things like this that have me questioning if Deborah Chow as a director knows how to handle fight scenes or chase scenes because you get awkward moments like that juxtaposed with some pretty awesome ones which gives us a mix of both good and bad action scenes here.
The cinematography continues to be where Disney shines best in making Star Wars content, but Obi-Wan Kenobi pales compared to the far more impressive stuff we've seen in The Mandalorian and even The Book of Boba Fett with less interesting looking scenery and some occasionally goofy action that looks awkward. For what we got, it's mostly good and at least Disney can give us something good to look at whenever the writing doesn't work out...
Obi-Wan Kenobi gives me the same feeling of disappointment than The Book of Boba Fett did, only this time it's worse as there was NO excuse at all for the show to be this bad. The writing is all over the place, the plot is not fit for purpose and creates plot holes that didn't exist before, too many things don't make sense here, the characters are let down by occasional moments of stupidity and while the visuals are nice, they're pretty standard and are also let down by occasionally naff moments. With how much of a let down Obi-Wan Kenobi was, I'm honestly losing interest with these Disney+ Star Wars shows. Except for The Mandalorian, they've just been mediocre as all hell and it's really getting disappointing just watching these promising shows turn out so bad. I'm only going to be watching The Mandalorian Season 3 at this point, and even then I'm not that enthusiastic after The Book of Boba Fett ruined all the development that came from Season 2. The rest, I just don't care anymore. If this is what we're in for, mediocre shows with bizarre writing and poorly handled characters, then I'm not interested anymore. I'll be sticking with the original movies, the prequels, Jedi Fallen Order, The Clone Wars and Rebels from now one as those are peak Star Wars for me. And I hear The Bad Batch is good too so I'll check that out. As for this show, maybe Obi-Wan was better staying in exile rather than getting his own series...
And that's all I have for this review. I thank you all for reading and I invite you to share your thoughts on the episode below. Did you like it, did you not like it? Comment away to let me know. Join me next time as we venture into the Sinnoh region...but with a whole new look to it. See you then, media fans!