“Like you trained his father?”
KENOBI is a six-part series that recently finished its run on Disney+. The Disney purchase of Star Wars has been a mix of highs (Mandalorian, Rogue One), lows (Rise of Skywalker), and in-betweens (Solo, Book of Boba Fett). I think Kenobi may well be the high-water mark for the Disney ownership of the Star Wars IP. It had some issues, don’t all work, but I really think they managed to stick to the landing.
The premise is that eleven years have happened since Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan Kenobi is working at a fish factory on Tatooine, having given up on resisting the Empire and arguably his plan to teach Luke to be a Jedi. Owen, arguably correctly, blames Obi-Wan Kenobi for the fall of his stepbrother to the Dark Side. More correctly, he’s also worried that Luke training to be a Jedi will make him a target.
Owen’s fears are not unfounded as while Darth Vader is certainly a threat, he is not the only Jedi Hunter out there. An entire organization of Dark Jedi called the Inquisition seek out the remaining Jedi and their supporters. This group was familiar to me from both the original WEG Star Wars RPG (where they were created) and Star Wars: Rebels.
One of the Inquisitors, Reva, is obsessed with finding Obi-Wan Kenobi in order to present him as a gift to Darth Vader. She’s got a pretty good grasp on the pettiness of the Sith. The Inquisition thinks Darth Vader isn’t interested in revenge but want to just do the best job possible for the Empire. Which shows they not only don’t understand Darth Vader but are completely clueless to the Sith Way. Power exists to be used for your petty vendettas, not to bring about any idea of galactic peace.
Well, Reva has a pretty good idea of what to do to motivate Kenobi and kidnaps Princess Leia on Alderaan to lure out Obi-Wan Kenobi from hiding. She, correctly, deduces that Bail Organa’s old friendship with the man will result in Obi-Wan being called out of retirement. Of course, Obi-Wan is in no shape to rescue anyone and being the one to save Princess Leia is likely to bring Darth Vader into the mix. Really, there’s absolutely no one worse to bring Leia to the attention to unless it’s Palpatine himself.
Overall, the show is an excellent character study of Obi Wan Kenobi and Ewan McGreggor does a fantastic job as the character he played in the prequels. You can certainly see him slowly becoming Alec Guiness’ character and while the age isn’t 100% accurate, you can tell he’s been run through the ringer this past decade. Vivien Lyra Blair does a fantastic job as the adorable ten-year-old Leia and it’s amazing she’s only eight while filming.
The real star of the show is Hayden Christensen doing the David Prose role as Darth Vader’s physical body while James Earl Jones has his voice modulated to sound a bit like he did in his heyday. Between them, Vader is terrifying and manages to fill in some of the gaps between the movies. There’s some genuinely impressive non-voice related acting underneath Vader’s helmet and it matches up with Pedro Pascal’s work in The Mandalorian. There are a few flashback scenes too where, while Hayden doesn’t look like he did as a young man, still is boyish enough that it’s only mildly noticeable.
Moses Ingram proved a controversial choice as the Third Sister of the Inquisition but there’s no reason she should be to any real Star Wars fan. She’s a brutal, cruel, and corrupt figure with her actress doing a great job reveling in her Sithiness. I disliked when they attempted to soften her as she was an excellent runner-up to Vader for evil. Sadly, Rupert Friend’s Grand Inquisitor is incredibly non-threatening and unnecessary in any show with Darth Vader. They should have written him out completely.
The action, special effects, and themes of the show are all very well done. Honestly, the continuity is a bit too faithful as anyone who has played Jedi: Fallen Order will wonder why the Hell a Disney produced show is cribbing from a video game versus making their own content. The Inquisitors are from the cartoon, and I don’t think anyone was really begging to see them in live action. They feel like the Diet Coke of Dark Siders and the show treats them as such, diluting the power of red lightsaber-wielding sorcerers.
The Kenobi series was originally pitched as a trilogy of movies, and I don’t think that would have worked but I absolutely wish this had been a movie. If they made a compilation movie of about 2:30 hours of the best part of this miniseries, then it absolutely would have done gangbusters box office and been the first thing to get me out of the house into the theater since the plague.