Obi-Wan Kenobi walks a tight-rope between enjoyable and underwhelming

TV review: It is absolutely okay. And for many Star Wars fans that now feels like a win

It’s been a rough old road for Star Wars ever since the disappointment of the JJ Abrams-Rian Johnson “sequel” trilogy. Those films swerved from mindless pastiche to actively hating on Star Wars and everything it stood for. And they brought out the ugly side in the Jedi fanbase, with actress Kelly Marie Tran singled out for horrific abuse despite the fact her character, Rose, was nowhere near the worst thing about Johnson’s Last Jedi (a Star Wars movie that suggested you do something better with your time than watch Star Wars).

True, The Mandalorian (aka the Ballad of Baby Yoda) has restored some of that old Star Wars swagger. However, that series felt largely cordoned off from the wider franchise. But now Disney, which acquired Star Wars from George Lucas in 2012, is going straight back to the muddled motherlode with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney Friday), a direct follow-up to the prequel movies which, starting with 1999′s the Phantom Menace, divided Star Wars fans down the middle.

The good news is that it is profoundly okay. That might not sound like much. And yet, given the damage Disney has wrecked on Star Wars, perfectly fine is… perfectly fine.

Ewan McGregor is back as Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi master who trained a young Anakin Skywalker only for everything to go Sith-shaped when Anakin (Hayden Christensen) fell into a lava pit (unfortunate) and was reborn as deep-breathing baddy Darth Vader (the mother of all bummers).


Ten years later, it seems Obi-Wan is the only one not to know Anakin lives — and that he is actively scouring space in search of his former mentor. Obi-Wan meanwhile has changed his name to Ben Kenobi — nobody will ever figure out his secret identity! — and is keeping a discreet eye on a young Luke Skywalker.

Alas, with the Old Republic in decay and the evil Galactic Empire on the rise, these are dark times for Jedi Knights — even those of the retired variety (as Kenobi is). And he receives a reminder of just how grim the galaxy has become when the desert world of Tatooine receives a visit from the Inquisitors — former Jedi now devoted to hunting down and killing these one-time guardians of the universe.

Star Wars aficionados will get a kick out of this mid-tier hokum — though you have to feel for the rest of the cast trying to keep pace with the excellent McGregor. One smart move by director Deborah Chow is quickly move the action off Tatooine — the setting for far too much recent Star Wars content — to the noirish city planet of Daiyu. That’s where Obi-Wan has gone in pursuit of the young Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair), who has been kidnapped by bounty hunters. And it is where he catches whisperings that Vader may not be dead after all.

Hayden Christensen was horribly maligned as a Back Street Boys clone imposed on Star Wars when he appeared opposite McGregor in the prequels. However, with a new generation of Lucas devotees having grown up with those films, the tide has now shifted — and there is real excitement at the prospect of his return.

Alas, his screen time early on in Obi-Wan Kenobi is limited and we can only hope his big moment arrives sooner rather than later across the remaining four instalments (Disney having released episodes one and two back to back). Until then Obi-Wan Kenobi walks a tight-rope between enjoyable and underwhelming. It’s is absolutely okay. And the tragic truth is that, a decade into the Disney reign, for many Star Wars fans “absolutely okay” feels like a win.