'Obi-Wan Kenobi' Is Shaping Up to Redeem the 'Star Wars' Prequels

Directed by Deborah Chow

Starring Ewan McGregor, Vivien Lyra Blair, Flea, Moses Ingram, Rupert Friend, Benny Safdie, Joel Edgerton, Kumail Nanjiani, Hayden Christensen

Photo courtesy of Disney

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 30, 2022

No amount of nostalgia can save the Star Wars prequels, which were disappointing at the time and even worse in hindsight thanks to their screensaver-level CGI. It's not so much that Jar Jar Binks was a bad character — it's that it's hard to even view him as a character at all, when he's rendered with all the refinement of the Dancing Baby GIF.

That's why it's such a revelation when Obi-Wan Kenobi begins with a four-minute synopsis of the prequels — which, as a condensed montage, actually look pretty awesome. Pod racers! Darth Maul! Anakin becoming Darth Vader! Nearly seven hours of films translate into an emotional, action-packed four-minute sequence.

Obi-Wan Kenobi picks up 10 years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and, unlike some other Star Wars properties that have attempted to fill in gaps in the backstory (e.g. midi-chlorians), doesn't feel like it's needlessly meddling in the universe's mythology. As fans have already seen in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is hiding on Tatooine and using the name "Ben" while keeping watch over a young Luke Skywalker. (Time hasn't been kind to Ben; despite this being only a decade later, he appears to have aged at least 17 years.)

Obi-Wan Kenobi's first episode nicely sets the tone for his quiet, lonely life: repeated scenes show him working an assembly line job, commuting home through the desert, sitting quietly in his cave-like home, and otherwise keeping to himself. There's a mournful and vaguely dystopian tone to this section — something that's emphasized by the Empire's Inquisitors, who come through Tatooine hunting for surviving Jedi.

The wan Obi-Wan is eventually drawn out of hiding when a gang of criminals, led by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, kidnap Princess Leia (Bird Box's Vivien Lyra Blair) and take her to the planet Daiyu. With its neon signs, perpetual darkness and seedy underbelly, Daiyu has the very fashionable aesthetic of Blade Runner — the only thing missing is a Vangelis score.

Flea and the menacing Inquisitors (played by Moses Ingram and Rupert Friend) give Obi-Wan Kenobi a sinister criminal element. Comic relief is provided by the reliably hilarious Kumail Nanjiani, playing a grifter posing as a Jedi, and the extremely precocious Blair. The young Leia's outspokenness, intelligence and occasional scathing burns make her a perfect fit for the older Leia portrayed by Carrie Fisher.

Unlike the serialized Western style of The Mandalorian, the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi aired so far feel very much like the first section of a movie. They slot in nicely with the films of a Skywalker Saga, shaping up to be a welcome improvement on the franchise's iffy history with sequels and prequels. If the prequels helped to pave the way for this show, maybe they weren't so bad after all.

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