OBI-WAN KENOBI Review - Does Ewan McGregor's Long-Awaited Return As The Iconic Jedi Live Up To Expectations?

OBI-WAN KENOBI Review - Does Ewan McGregor's Long-Awaited Return As The Iconic Jedi Live Up To Expectations?

Following the premiere of the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ earlier today, we're now sharing our verdict on the limited series! Be warned, though, that some minor spoilers do follow...

By JoshWilding - May 27, 2022 06:05 AM EST
Filed Under: Star Wars

Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, but it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Ewan McGregor playing Obi-Wan Kenobi. The actor was excellent as a younger version of the iconic character made famous by Alec Guinness in A New Hope and we’d argue that, by the time all was said and done, he’d actually made "Ben" entirely his own. Of course, while we got to witness Obi-Wan’s failure to prevent Anakin Skywalker from turning to the Dark Side, George Lucas left it up to us to imagine how this character went from a broken Jedi Master to the wise, incredibly powerful recluse we found all those years later (or earlier depending on the order you watched the films in) on Tatooine. Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is now filling in the gaps, and in these first two episodes, the stage is set for a journey that’s already left us wanting more from McGregor as this iconic Jedi beyond just the four episodes we obviously know are on the way. 

The first instalment does a tremendous job of driving home the monotony of Ben’s existence watching over Luke, though it’s apparent that after cutting himself off from the Force in an effort to keep the boy safe, Obi-Wan has lost his way and is no longer the brave hero who once leapt into action to battle the likes of General Grievous and his former friend in Revenge of the Sith. There’s almost an element of cowardice to Ben when we find him, but as his nightmares remind us, Obi-Wan has been through so much trauma that it’s really no wonder he can’t face the thought of being the man he once was. Whether it’s fear, PTSD or, more likely a combination of both, Kenobi is a broken man and McGregor’s performance is phenomenal and fascinating to watch. He brings an incredible amount of depth to this role, with even just a passing look on the Jedi’s face enough to make the audience feel what he is beneath the surface. The actor’s return as Obi-Wan has been long-discussed and highly anticipated, and everything we see here just goes to show it was worth the wait. That remains the case when we head into the second episode and watch this hero pushed to his limits after being forced to leave Tatooine in an effort to rescue the young Princess Leia. 

As this story unfolds, we meet some fun supporting characters (Kumail Nanjiani is a delight as Haja, a crook with a heart of gold) and spend a fair bit of time with the Sith Inquisitors. Rupert Friend’s Grand Inquisitor looks considerably better in action than some of the shots we’ve seen in trailers and stills, and while he doesn’t have quite the same commanding presence as Jason Isaacs did in Star Wars Rebels, his portrayal of the villain is undeniably intimidating. Moses Ingram’s Reva is the main antagonist thus far, though the actor doesn’t yet seem fully comfortable playing a villain who is clearly meant to be a little more complex than her fellow fallen Jedi. There’s room for that to be better explored over the next four weeks, but whether Ingram is a strong enough performer to really do this character justice is currently up for debate. Something just isn’t clicking into place quite yet, and while there are moments where she’s very good, Ingram's Reva doesn’t currently feel as terrifying or interesting as she needs to be. 

Vivien Lyra Blair, however, gives McGregor a run for his money as the scene-stealing young Leia Organa. It’s hard to imagine Carrie Fisher being anything other than proud of this formidable, witty, and highly enjoyable portrayal of the Princess. Blair does the scrappy Leia we met in A New Hope justice, and we’d say the rumoured decision to shift focus from Luke to her was the right one for Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Director Deborah Chow has already established herself as an expert storyteller in the Star Wars Universe after helming some of The Mandalorian’s best episodes, and handing the reigns of Obi-Wan Kenobi to her was a wise move on Lucasfilm’s part. Joined by Head Writer Joby Harold, the filmmaker continues to expand this Galaxy Far, Far Away in satisfying, meaningful ways, and never makes the mistake of prioritising fan service over strong storytelling and character work. There are a lot of fan-pleasing moments (including some unmissable cameos), but it’s the small moments that really help make this series special. Obi-Wan’s interactions with some familiar faces from this franchise’s past are evidence of that, while his dynamic with Leia promises to be a highlight of the show moving forward. With four episodes left and a certain Sith Lord yet to fully make his presence felt, there’s still a lot of story left to be told, but this is a strong start and one that sets the stage for what feels like an unmissable, must-see addition to the Star Wars mythos. Bolstered by stellar action, Natalie Holt’s moving score, and visuals that should make fans of the prequels and sequels happy, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels like the full package and exactly the series Star Wars fans have been waiting for. 

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a showcase for the immense talents of Ewan McGregor and Vivien Lyra Blair, and after just two episodes, it's already on a par with The Mandalorian as the best Star Wars TV series yet.

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ninerstreet - 5/27/2022, 9:23 AM
I agree wholeheartedly!
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