The Case for Kenobi: A Star Wars Story

Ah, General Kenobi.

We’ve been hearing rumors for years now that an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie will happen under Lucasfilm’s line of “A Star Wars Story” spin-off films. Actor Ewan MacGregor has expressed a desire to return and has a good relationship with Lucasfilm’s Jedi Masters at the Walt Disney Company. The only thing we seem to be waiting on is an official announcement from Lucasfilm themselves.

While most Star Wars fans seem to be onboard with the idea, I do hear naysayers pop up from time to time. I’ve heard a few arguments as to why there shouldn’t be an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie, but by far the biggest is that there would be nothing interesting there to explore. “He’s just hiding out on Tatooine during the two decades between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope” they say. “There’s no dramatic potential there” they say.

I’m going to tell you why this argument is wrong.

This line of thinking comes with the assumption that the Star Wars universe can or should only support one type of film: a space adventure film. To be fair, sprawling space operas are the only thing we’ve seen from the franchise so far. Even the comparatively more grounded Rogue One dealt with galactic-scale events: big action and big stakes. However, I think it’s short-sighted to think that’s all a Star Wars movie can offer us, especially when it comes to the films that lie outside the main saga.

Please indulge me for a minute, while I make a comparison to another franchise.

LoganX-Men: Apocalypse

Logan and X-Men Apocalypse. If you saw both of these movies, which one did you enjoy more? If you find yourself in agreement with the majority of critics and audiences the answer would be the former, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% and a box office take of 619 million worldwide. Compare this to X-men: Apocalypse’s poor Rotten Tomatoes score of 48% and less impressive box office take of around 544 million.

Now which one is more in line with what you would expect from the X-Men franchise in terms of style, tone, and subject matter?

Typically, an X-Men film can be expected to contain a few things: a world at stake, a large stable of mutants with unique and varied powers, and big expensive action setpieces. Logan contains none of these things, and yet it is perhaps the most well received X-Men movie ever.

Instead of going big, James Mangold gave us an intimate story set in just a few locations, with deeply personal stakes. It was a breathtaking movie with exciting action and potent drama, but it wasn’t a huge spectacle in the way that the other X-Men films are.

Now, let’s apply this logic to Star Wars.

There is a TON of dramatic potential for an Obi-wan Kenobi movie. Much like Logan, this is a guy who’s lost everything. After the events of Revenge of the Sith, he’s almost certainly wracked with guilt: haunted by the ghosts of his past. He failed Anakin, Qui-Gon, and even Satine (my fellow Clone Wars fans know what I’m talking about).

By the time of A New Hope he seems to have found peace and purpose, but I’m sure it took time for him to get there. Maybe even some training with the force ghost of Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn. The Last Jedi recently explored the themes of failure and regret, and I think an Obi-Wan movie could tread even deeper into these themes and really examine the psyche of this character.

Kenobi Novel Cover

Of course, there needs to be some external conflict as well, and I think there’s plenty of opportunity for that, maybe just not on the scale we’re used to with Star Wars. The Star Wars novel Kenobi, now decanonized as a part of Star Wars: Legends, provides a great template for this.

The book is essentially a Star Wars western and centers around a spat between local farmers and Tusken Raiders. It takes place right after Obi-Wan first rolls into the town of Anchorhead (He’s The Drifter in a true Spaghetti Western fashion). The core conflict is all about Obi-Wan’s desire to do good and help people, and how it conflicts with his primary mission to watch over Luke: a mission which requires him to stay in hiding and avoid fraternizing with the townsfolk.

Much like Logan, I can envision Kenobi: A Star Wars Story as a small-scale grounded drama with personal stakes. A character study that really gives Ewan MacGregor a chance to exercise his acting chops in a way that George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels did not. Lucasfilm could even adapt part of the story from Kenobi, in the way that writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan drew upon Legends sources for some elements of Han’s backstory in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Add some spaghetti Western flair, stylish visuals, and gritty action and you’ve got yourself a movie.

So, if you still don’t believe an Obi-Wan movie could work

Then you are lost!

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