Obi-Wan Kenobi is the last straw for Star Wars and myself. It has become clear that this franchise has already realized its full creative potential, which means the property’s future will be nothing but fan-service and unnecessary “fill out a wiki page” storytelling. And that is exactly what the core fanbase seems to want. The huge upheaval of opinion that happened after The Last Jedi has proven that risk-taking is not something Disney wants to ever do with the franchise. Star Wars will only be as safe as possible from here on out and that is boring.
Obi-Wan Kenobi does everything everyone expected it to do and that seems to be the bar for good mainstream art these days. Yes, your favorite lifeless action figures will get to smash their laser swords against each other and use their superpowers to throw big rocks. It will mean nothing substantial in the grander scheme of things – the events of the series have no rewarding effect on the movies we’ve already gotten – but all anyone seems to care about is that these actors and filmmakers play out their most basic toybox fantasies instead of telling complex stories with complicated conflicts and characters.
It’s fascinating to see how pro-prequelization mindsets have warped the perception of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that Princess Leia can’t just be a strong, independent, and intelligent character on her own merits as she is in the original Star Wars. No, it must be Explained like everything from your favorite franchises now has to be Explained. This feminist icon of fiction has to learn those qualities by following around a man, and he has to give her something that solidifies her own identity as opposed to her just being that herself. Luke Skywalker can’t just have a toy he plays with. No, it has to come from an established character because every single trinket in this universe has to have a Big Meaning. The endless milking of the Star Wars canon means that nothing can just be. All must be Explained.
The lack of risk-taking also comes in the form of the filmmaking in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Deborah Chow has garnered a ton of praise from fans and that seems to be due to her ability to strip any interesting cinematography (and light, jeez this show is uninterestingly dark) out of the picture in order to provide the kind of Marvel Cinematic Universe blandness we get from Disney’s other IP behemoth. For any faults one might take with The Last Jedi, it’s hard to argue against the kind of cinematic look Johnson tried to bring to the franchise. But, going for a vision means some folks will reject it outright. Instead, Obi-Wan Kenobi feels like the kind of committee filmmaking that has led to cinema becoming greyer and less dynamic than any other time in the medium’s history.
It’s a shame that Obi-Wan Kenobi has such talented folks in its cast. Ewan McGregor is fine but that is all he needs to be for fans to salivate over his every moment as the character. And by the time he becomes a pull-string puppet at the end of the finale so he can Say The Line, he has become nothing more than another soulless husk that only exists for fans to point at and go, “He did the thing I know! That’s all I want!” The real victim of the show is Moses Ingram. Her character Reva could have been the focus of her own entire show and her journey across the season has been the most enjoyable. Too bad she has to be crushed under the weight of this nostalgic ether binge.
Obi-Wan Kenobi proves that Star Wars is no longer taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It’s as close to home base as it possibly can be because that will provide the safest return on its investment. Even with promises of more distant stories like The Acolyte or Taika Waititi’s in-development film, it all sounds like an empty gesture to fool people into thinking there is anything creatively interesting worth doing with this property anymore. With Disney committing to this kind of approach to Star Wars for what is likely the rest of our lifetimes, it’s hard not to feel like the evil Empire actually won in the long run.