Does anybody care what I think of the new Obi-Wan show? I finally watched it, well after everybody else, because we’ve been rotating through our streaming subscriptions.
I mean, how much money can a household spend on this stuff? Sorry, Peacock—you may be great, but we’ll never know.
First: I need younger fans to understand that at the time of the original Trilogy, we would have sawed off our right arms for entertainment of this quality.
We had to wait THREE YEARS for a new movie! Between that, we had to settle for, mostly, our own imaginations with the Kenner toys (which didn’t even have articulated knees and elbows).
For new original content, we read the Marvel Star Wars comic book...and let’s just say, the quality was highly variable:
So to think we got a lavishly produced, six-part miniseries with a fabulous star, Ewan McGregor, reprising his role as one of our favorite characters...well, I enjoyed it. I looked forward to it. And I quite liked the denouement.
Now I did read the various criticism that popped up upon release. And a lot of it seemed valid:
The series didn’t quite seem to have a purpose behind it, except to attract eyeballs.
The only way for the story to work was to start with Obi-Wan feeling defeated and mopey—which wasn’t much fun to watch.
The real problem is that, narratively, it’s Third Sister Reva’s story. She is the one with the “arc.” And I liked Moses Ingram, who apparently was on the receiving end of a bunch of racist harassment online—which is just so depressing and pathetic.
What is wrong with people? Wait, don’t answer that.
Other problems: there was limited suspense watching Obi-Wan and Darth Vader fight because, of course, we know they both survive. Great to see Hayden Christiensen again, though.
The “Stagecraft” VFX technology (using a live-projected background on a giant curved screen, not green- or bluescreen) truly is a game changer—but having seen several seasons’ worth of it, I’m beginning to notice its patterns, and limitations.
You typically have a proscenium-like foreground with characters walking on a small set—and then the projected background enveloping them.
On Obi-Wan, it seemed like the Stagecraft shooting style restricted the camera’s subjectivity, to the point where I wonder if they would have been better off using it less.
It felt like the opposite of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul type of shooting, which is so completely cinematic even when it’s about the most mundane household activities.
There also seemed to be a certain, uncharacteristic cleanliness to the sets and costumes that just didn’t feel all that exciting. Not sure why that happened.
I loved the new John Williams theme—and the Bill Ross cues interpolating it were well done. But it seemed at odds with the more modern television scoring by Natalie Holt.
Like everybody, I’ve cherished each and every bit of John Williams music as he continued to work on Star Wars well past the point we had any right to expect. But I’ve dreaded the inevitable drop-off in quality when he retires...and, well, here we go.
Even though I was trying to avoid spoilers, I did notice online griping about the performance of Vivien Lyra Blair as young Leia Organa.
This child actress—she’s ten years old—had to do the two hardest things in the entire world, in the full spotlight of one of the world’s most rabid fanbases.
First, she had to play a preciously mature child. How much fun was that, Wil Wheaton?
Second, she had to play a younger version of one of the world’s most famous characters—and step into the shoes of a universally beloved, recently deceased public figure!
I have twin girls who just turned eight. They barely like to do FaceTime with their relatives.
So forgive me if I don’t want to be a drama critic when it comes to a ten year-old’s performance on a global stage!!!
I mean, come on, people.
So yeah, there was an unconvincing chase sequence (or two). I put that way more on the director for not protecting her actress and finding a better way to shoot the sequence.
Which brings me to the only criticism that I feel fair in presenting. And, you know, if ten years from now I’m trying to get the smallest job at Lucasfilm, and they find this column, I can just say, yeah, I had that reaction, and I thought it was legitimate.
There were aspects to the writing that I just didn’t buy.
I don’t remember them all, but if you kidnap one of a planet’s most high-value targets—their Princess—which seemed to be accomplished awfully easy, by the way...
Please tell me you check her for electronics? Trackers?
It seemed to get dangerously close to an “idiot plot”—coined by author James Blish as a plot that only moves forward because all of the characters are idiots.
I understand there were some last-minute changes to Obi-Wan—originally his adversary was going to be not Darth Vader, but Darth Maul—and it started as a feature, of course.
So maybe they were under the gun, but there just seemed to be too many sloppy things narratively.
Screenwriting can be glorious fun, full of imagination and creation. You can truly make up anything. Hyperspace, mind powers, creatures, artificial gravity—no problem!
But when you’re altering human behavior—making people act in ways that ring false in order to advance the plot—we’re just gone.
I could buy that Kumail Nanjiani’s character went from being a fake-Jedi hustler to an actual hero—but it happened way too fast. That character simply does not get in the face of an Inquisitor, who he knows could saw his face off with her lightsaber, as a diversion. I didn’t buy that for a second.
There is a scene (spoilers) where good guys are escaping a base in their spaceship, and Darth Vader comes in and uses the Force to “catch” the ship as it blasts away and crash it to the ground. He Force-rips a hole in its hull—our good guys are doomed, but—
The spaceship is empty. A trick!
The good guys were all in a second ship, behind it, which then takes off!
Okay. Wait. STOP. The good guys set this up?
The good guys knew, as they were fleeing in a panicked emergency, Darth Vader will be coming and he can take down one ship, but not two. So let’s trick him by setting up one ship as a decoy?
Really? They had that conversation, and made that plan, because they knew Darth Vader would just happen to find them at the exact right moment for that to work?
Or it was their plan to run one ship as a decoy to get around an Imperial blockade, maybe, and the timing just happened to work against Vader? If so, why was it never mentioned?
No. This is bad writing. That “beat” was there solely because it’s an exciting trickeroo for the audience to watch.
So...that’s my opinion, and I’ll stand by it.
All in all, I enjoyed the series and I’m glad they made it. If I was a Star Wars kid fan today, I’d be in seventh heaven.
But one of the truths of Star Wars—and all storytelling, really—is that there is nothing quite so enchanting as our own imagination, wondering about untold parts of the story.
As those blank spots are filled in—we can enjoy it, but a bit of the magic dies, each time. It’s just a fact of life.
By the way, I am looking forward to the next Star Wars show, Andor.
This is because it is by Tony Gilroy, one of the all-time screenwriting masters. And if he infuses anything of the maturity and sophistication of Michael Clayton into Star Wars, that’s going to be a high point of my year.
I hope people watch the above clip. That’s two people stumbling through a discussion on a street corner to assassinate a whistleblower.
I have never seen a scene like that depicted in quite that way. No lightsabers, no magic, no “action” at all—but you can’t look away!
The look on the guy’s face: I have to explain to this neurotic woman the procedures for killing people—here? Now? And talk about the banality of evil!
“Yeah, we have some good ideas. You say move, we move. The ideas don’t look so good, we back off, reassess.” Like he’s ordering a new photocopier!
And placing it on a street corner—and having the characters on their feet—notice all the energy it gives to the scene?
And notice how the background is thrown out of focus, so we know life is out there, but we don’t see anything but our characters’ faces?
This is a master storyteller. And I’ll put my money on Andor being way better than anybody expects.