Ewan McGregor’s Solid Jedi Return


Ewan McGregor's Solid Jedi Return

Whether you love George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels like a cuddly Ewok or hate them with the might of a thousand Death Stars, it’s hard to deny that Ewan McGregor was a hit in 1999 as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.

TV review

On Disney+. New episodes appear every Friday.

23 years ago – long before origin stories were fashionable – the actor cleverly imagined how a preternaturally wise whippersnapper version of Alec Guinness might behave and explored the transition from schoolboy to recluse. McGregor and Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn were 100% far better additions to Star Wars than any of the boring cast members in JJ Abrams’ recent shaky trilogy.

And so it’s a pleasure to welcome the Scotsman back to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Disney+’s latest series set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (about nine more to come). The first two episodes of the sci-fi drama, which aired Friday, don’t hint at the addictive triumph that season one of The Mandalorian had, but the force is mostly involved.

The show is set 10 years after the events of 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, in which Anakin Skywalker transformed into Darth Vader – the OG mask enthusiast.

Ewan McGregor is playing Obi-Wan Kenobi for the first time since 2005 "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith."
Ewan McGregor is playing Obi-Wan Kenobi for the first time since 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

While the math is confusing, it actually makes sense. McGregor, the actor, is now 17 years older, true, but the story of the Aights movies unfolded over 13 years and the hottie was prematurely sent into a midlife crisis with a stupid beard. Now, at 51, he’s closer to his character’s true age.

A decade later, Obi-Wan calls himself Ben, as he does in 1977’s A New Hope. Living on the dual-sunbeam desert planet of Tatooine, he keeps a distant eye on 10-year-old Luke and tries to survive in secret while the last remaining Jedi are violently hunted down by Inquisitors (led by a mad Rupert Friend).

This is where Obi-Wan, The Mandalorian, Star Trek, and Stargate SG-1 begin to resemble each other. Obviously it wouldn’t be fun to see a burlap hooded man crouching in a cave all day, so there are unplanned missions that take him away from the world where we meet characters with big personalities. Kumail Nanjiani, with his signature wry humor, plays an underground character that we hope to see more of.

Meanwhile, he is being pursued by a tenacious Imperial Inquisitor named Reva (Moses Ingram).

Obi-Wan is being pursued by the Inquisitors, led by the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend).
Obi-Wan is being pursued by the Inquisitors, led by the Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend).

Early on, little Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) from her home planet of Alderaan with her adoptive father Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits, back from the prequels) plays a big role. She is strong-willed and precocious even as a teenager, and writing takes her sharp attitude too far. We don’t need Princess Doogie Howser.

What’s missing in Obi-Wan is the same Jedi says quoi what’s been missing from most of the over-stretched “Star Wars” franchises (except “The Mandalorian”) since Disney bought Lucasfilm: the feeling of seeing something sparkling and new. Production is expensive with detailed CGI set pieces and creatures. However, there is very little difference to filmmaking. Nothing innovative or cool. Aesthetically, the series is part of an ongoing effort to water down an iconic American blockbuster and make it look like another “Star Wars” product.

Joel Edgerton, left, and Moses Ingram in a scene from the series "Obi Wan Kenobi,"
Joel Edgerton (left) and Moses Ingram in a scene from the series Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Disney+ via AP

Appearances aside, the story is compelling so far, and McGregor continues Obi-Wan’s story in a very emotional way – something Alden Ehrenreich’s horrific Han Solo film failed to do.

The most important thing to note (this is less of a spoiler than a sweetener) is that Jar Jar Binks does not appear in the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Everyone can relax. He’s reportedly off to tease someone else, far, far away.

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