"Obi-Wan Kenobi" Review: An Exciting Addition to the "Star Wars" franchise

In Star Wars, the original 1977 film, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) was an enigmatic older man living out his days on Tatooine, a desolate desert planet. The prequels reintroduced Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) as a young apprentice, training under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson).

At the end of the prequels, the once-mighty Jedi were betrayed by Obi-Wan’s apprentice Anakin Skywalker. The original cinematic series began decades later when Jedi, like Ob-Wan, were in hiding. Little is known about what transpired between the two trilogies but the new Disney + series Obi-Wan Kenobi seeks to explore that dark period when the Empire gained strength and the Jedi were hunted.

The story in Obi-Wan Kenobi begins years after the events of the prequels and reveals Luke to be a young farmer growing up dreaming of becoming a pilot while his sister Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) lives in wealth on a distant planet. Separated at the end of the prequels, these two siblings don’t know about each other with only a few high-ranking officials aware of their importance in the galaxy.

When this story begins, Obi-Wan lives a secluded life on Tatooine while keeping watch over Luke (from a distance). While Luke keeps to himself, the outspoken Leia wanders around freely, leaving herself vulnerable to a group of conniving thugs. After these thugs surround Leia and kidnap here from her home planet, Obi-Wan is called in to rescue her.

Director Deborah Chow, who previously directed two episodes of The Mandalorian, helmed all six episodes this new limited series and she quickly establishes the familiar world here. In the first episode, she relies on familiar faces and locations to re-establish where everything stood at the end of the prequels. At the same time, the program also establishes great new characters like the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) and the cunning Reva (Moses Ingram), an inquisitor obsessed with finding Obi-Wan.

The show introduces young Leia with mixed results. In the original trilogy, Carrie Fisher commanded the screen as the headstrong Leia. In the new series, it often feels like the writers are working too hard to present Leia as overtly tough and wary. She’s constantly questioning everyone around her. It was undeniably difficult for everyone to fill in the shoes once filled by Fisher but the writers here seem to be struggling with the character. At some points, she's a smart and savvy youngster finding her place in the universe but at other times, she's completely naive and reckless, putting her character needlessly in danger

As the star of the program, Ewan McGregor easily steps back into the role of Obi-Wan (the actor also serves as an executive producer of the project). He’s one of the main reasons why the show works so well. He brings a gravitas to the story that elevates even as the story hits some over-the-top beats.

Although the universe here feels familiar, the story itself feels like a unique addition to the canon. It never detracts from the prequels and sequels even though it features characters and plot points that were previously well-established. In the three episodes that have aired so far though (the first two were originally available for review), the most frustrating element of the series has been some of the dialogue and some of the choices the writers have made, especially when it comes to Leia.

Despite its issues though, Obi-Wan Kenobi offers enough intrigue to remind viewers of why they love franchise (especially the thrilling third episode). Even though people know where the lives of these characters are headed, there’s still a lot of excitement here  that offer a fresh appreciation for the character relationships that many viewers believe they already know.  

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