It was recently announced that the third instalment in the Star Wars spinoff anthology series would potentially focus on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Not much is known about the project yet — it’s still in a very early development stage; there’s not even a script. The only real information we have is that Billy Elliot and The Reader director Stephen Daldry is in talks to helm the film.
Now it’d take cartoonish levels of cynicism to completely write off a film that doesn’t even exist, and conceptually a film focused on Obi-Wan’s exile isn’t an inherently bad idea — it’ll most likely focus on Obi-Wan’s exile on Tatooine between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Daldry knows how to make mature drama films and seems like a good fit for the exiled Jedi. Kenobi is a man who has spent his entire life doing good and helping others, but now has to ignore his altruistic nature. How do you do good when any degree of attention you draw to yourself is dangerous?
While it isn’t a bad idea, it is an incredibly safe move, and therein lies the problem. In such an expansive galaxy full of different characters and potential stories, why are they confined to the same dozen characters? If Lucasfilm wants to make an expanded universe, it has to actually expand the universe.
From A Certain Point of View
An Obi-Wan-centric spinoff feels like an exercise in brand recognition as opposed to wanting to tell a unique story from a new perspective. There’s an argument to be made that the film needs to focus on a recognizable character like Obi-Wan Kenobi to bring in an audience, but it’s an argument that also downplays that fact that Star Wars is one of the definitive and immediately recognizable pieces of pop culture of the last century. A film about Obi-Wan has the potential to bring in an audience as much as any film under the Star Wars banner.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of Obi-Wan-focused stories, either — there’s the Original trilogy, the Prequel trilogy, The Clone Wars animated series, and he even briefly appeared in the most recent season of Star Wars Rebels. In addition, the current ongoing Star Wars comic has been shedding light on Kenobi’s time on Tatooine in brief interludes.
While The Force Awakens draws a lot of influence from the original trilogy, the characters feel new and unique. They possess some familiar traits but aren’t characters we’ve seen before. Even on the small screen, the animated Star Wars Rebels series is full of original characters; legacy characters like Princess Leia only appear in cameos. Even Rogue One, while not a perfect film, introduced us to new characters. Admittedly, they were mostly one-dimensional, but they had more potential to explore new points of view.
It’s the same inherent problem with the concept of a young Han Solo: over-explaining a character’s backstory and history when it doesn’t need to be. We don’t need to see Han Solo completing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, we don’t need to see Lando bet and lose the Millennium Falcon. We don’t need to know the reason why Chewbacca swore a life-debt to Solo; the specifics aren’t essential to understanding the characters and their relationship. Some things are better left to the imagination. I don’t want to see the entirely possible scene where a young Luke Skywalker accidentally runs into Obi-Wan in Mos Eisley, and then everyone in the theater whispers, “Oh my god, that was Luke! That was Luke Skywalker!”
The insistence on explaining every minute detail was one of the biggest weakness of the pre-Disney expanded universe and falling back into that habit seems like a waste. It’s not creative writing, it’s pandering. We’ve seen Obi-Wan’s story, we know Obi-Wan’s story. In a universe full of unique stories and possibilities, it’d be a laserbrain move to not branch out and explore them.
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