Showing posts with label Obi-wan Kenobi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Obi-wan Kenobi. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode VI Reveiw

This evening, I had a chance to watch Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode VI. 

Now that this thing is over, I can't wait to start spending some time playing games. This evening, I mulled over what I saw while weeding the garden. 

I mention the garden because that is what a long-time series becomes. What came before is recycled into what comes next. However, in shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi, the creators have to thread the needle. Can you plant one more thing between what the viewer knows from before and knows what came after? 

The show cannot upset what happens in either direction. Obi-wan can't really change from what he was, nor can a lot of new characters pop up without causing a disruption in the original material. 

In this show, they manage to do things nicely. Roughly, but nicely. 

They had to run with the Inquisitors because of the background already established. I personally think it was a bad call to let the Grand Inquisitor get benched for a while, but this pushes a more modern, realistic view of combat. 

Back when I was a kid, I wasn't sure what a lightsabre could do because they actually didn't say. Loose hands for sure. Being cut in half wasn't an option. They didn't do that back in 1977 or any of the 80s. Personally, I thought that perhaps a lightsabre had a stunning feature. Not many characters went to the ground in a splatter of blood. 

In this current iteration of the Star Wars story, we get into what happens when someone gets tagged with a lightsabre. Many people get stabbed, but for some stupid reason, they don't stay down. That really isn't surprising as the Empire has monopolized everything, including medical care. However, old-timers like me want to believe that one good sabre strike is the end. Not especially realistic, but reasonably based on the first 3 films. 

Two things that this point of view does not take into account are easy and cheap special effects plus most of the people doing the stabbing are sadists. They didn't mean to kill, therefore they didn't kill anyone. Mmm. Unsatisfying as it is a completely different type of character and process than what the viewer is used to. The cheap special effects are cool to look at but often don't further the story because the story wasn't about a body count. 

One thing this last episode does well, mirroring the original films, is what I call "IF-THEN" storytelling. Star Wars rarely invokes "simultaneous" events. We see the clock progress as this bit then that bit. Maybe they happen at the exact same time, but the audience doesn't know it and doesn't need to know it. This episode uses that in spades. 

At the outset of this episode, all of the teams are together. Vader and the Inquisitors, Ben and Leia, and poor Reva out on her own. It doesn't take long for Ben to leave Leia, Vader to ditch the Inquisitors with Reva limping along on her own. 

Divided, the matchups begin with Ben and Vader's duel being the most exciting. As their duel progresses, Leia finds her way home, and Reva finds Owen and Beru. But the storytelling doesn't make it explicitly clear if all three of these events are happening at the same time. It's actually refreshing knowing that the incoming calvary charge doesn't have to be timed to the millisecond. The heroes get there when they get there because that is what heroes do, not because they planned it that way. 

The storytelling creates these opportunities. And in this particular episode, that is all the story has to do. We get all that was promised at the outside of the series, a rematch between Vader and Ben. It was well done and satisfying. 

Beyond that, nothing else is needed. I don't see any word on a season 2. This was promoted as a "mini-series", so there may not be a strong need for season 2. The other part of it is Obi-Wan Kenobi was supposed to be a movie. This series was maybe 4 and a half hours. Chopping out an hour wouldn't have done the story any favors and perhaps adding an hour would not have given the viewer more quality. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't care if there is another run of the show, as I felt this really satisfied. Plus there might be a chance that the new Ahsoka Tano series could give us another glance at Anakin and Ben in a different way. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode V Review

 Welcome back. It's Episode V. 

Watching the episode. I finally caught on to the Roman numeral labeling convention. So will this episode be similar to The Empire Strikes Back? 

A little bit. There are all kinds of backstabbing and payouts in this one. First, Reva is promoted to Grand Inquisitor. After tracking and cornering Ben and Leia as they journey down the path, Kenobi negotiates with her to buy some time. During this encounter, Reva reveals her connection to Vader and the Jedi. 

This episode is short and sweet. While Vader engages in a very brief siege of the proto-rebel base, we get a smidgen of development in the form of flashbacks of Anikin and Ben training. These scenes are pretty and forward the story in the current episode. There were light touches of de-aging, but mostly the script runs MacGregor and Christensen as they are. Angles and makeup appear to be the main tools of youth. I liked it as it avoids the uncanny valley which tends kick in hardcore when you see a sudden age jump as decades are shed in seconds and minutes. It was a good call. 

Anyway, Reva's role in this story is revealed. She is the stalking horse, the creature that obscures the real threats. Interestingly, everyone knows this but her. One backstab after another knocks Reva back to her lowly spot in the gang of Inquisitors. This was a far better play than the typical promotion equals death that tends to happen in these stories. 

One other quirk of this episode is the treatment of weapons fire and injuries. It has a lot more in common with the rough Rogue One film than it does in the original films. First, there are a few people with physical shields used to block blaster fire. It works, but not really well. Second, we learn that lightsabre strikes can be either really deadly or maybe just a flesh wound. Vader himself has shown what losing a limb or four does to a person. Given the medical resources of the Empire, there must tons of scarred and grizzled stormtroopers. Anyway, if you get shot or sliced, it appears that being in the Empire might help more than a rag-tag bunch of rebels. 

All in all, this episode ran quick. 40 minutes felt like 15. 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Oops! Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 4 Review

This week flew by. In fact, I thought Thursday was Wednesday. It isn't. 

So, here is this week's review. 

This episode stars Reva, Kenobi, and Leia, with a brief visit by Vader. This episode picks up where the last one ended, Ben and Vader are in serious need of healing. Our old friend the Bacca Tank appears in two different forms. 

Meanwhile, Reva has Leia where Leia wants her. The little princess tries to dance with the Inquisitor and does a remarkable job at it. Unfortunately, too many hijinx with the dark side end up in pain and torture. A child couldn't see that coming. 

Moses Ingram is an excellent villain and foil to Leia. They manage to verbally box each other into surprising corners. Ingram as Reva reveals an incredible amount of understanding of Leia's situation and makes many plays at getting the child to reveal some secrets. It doesn't work, because Reva is an Inquisitor and lets her passions get the better of her. 

The scrappy heroes throw together a terrible plan to invade the Sith Castle in the Mustafar system to free Leia. Indira Varma aka Tala takes the lead and runs the mission save the girl from certain death. I find her very boring, which is actually excellent. She's a spy, she's too dull to notice. It works for me and works for Kenobi, too. 

Much of the rescue involves a series of callbacks to other shows and movies. From the prequels, we get a water world and a tiny breathing mouthpiece. I mentioned the Bacca Tank already, it was used to creepy good effect. Ben tricks stormtroopers with imaginary noises while Tala leaves her communicator on a table like C3PO. My favorite is Ben savaging two stormtroopers like Ahsoka Tano did in the Mandolorian. Snowspeeders make a comeback. 

While I found this episode to be lackluster, the real star is The Force itself. Or at least how it works. At various points, people use and misuse The Force to disastrous effects. Reva finds out that it doesn't work on people who are telling the truth or are at least not telling a lie. Leia also finds that she can protect herself from imagined threats by belief, but all the belief in the world doesn't protect her from getting kicked around. Vader and Ben discover that being aware of each other is rough. 

This sort of undoes some of the worst Force appearances in the most recent 3 films. First, it makes a precedence for telepathy or at least extreme clairvoyance. We got that through "feelings" in the original films, through blurry images in the prequels, and in the last 3 films, full-on mind-melding. Ben and Vader engage in it in an unwelcome and disturbing way, which support's Vader's anger and Ben's fears. 

It also shows how useless The Force is when one cannot imagine the true events occurring. This is greatly amplified when a dark-sider doesn't have the focus or enough information to act, yet acts anyway. It is a slight nod to Ben Solo being a stupid villain, meaning someone who had zero awareness of their actions and how they would be taken by others. 

Personally, I loved Kylo Ren because he was not a Sith Lord and was not bright at all. It was really shocking to see someone completely out of control for no good reason other than that was simply what they were. This is kind of in the vein of Shakespearean villains who engage in evil stuff because they are evil, not because anything special happened to them. 

I'll give this episode a smidgen over middling. 3 of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi - Episode 3 review

 Oh, so much ground to cover for a Wednesday. But Ben comes first. I'll save the other exciting events of the week for the weekend. 

Episode 3 picks up where the last episode ended. Ben and Leia are on the run from the Inquisitors. This episode is odd because it solidifies what happened in the Clone Wars cartoon while seeming to undercut what happened in Rebels. There are a ton of shout-outs to both series in this episode. 

In the last Episode, Reva betrayed the Grand Inquisitor and makes a powerplay with the rest of the Inquisitors. She jumps in the driver's seat and takes the Empire for a spin. She manages to locate and isolate Ben and Leia, which of course leads to typical Empiric missteps. Often, Star Wars plays these types of events for laughs but Ben's encounter with stormtroopers is anything but funny. The two heroes end up on the short bus with a bunch of stormtroopers which could have been played for laughs but instead, we get sorrow and tension before the stormtroopers learn to just walk away. 

Meanwhile Third Sister, or Reva if you like, tries to get the Empire back on Ben's track. She is only partially successful. This is what I like in a villainous character, driven but totally luckless. Reva and the other Inquisitors are forever stuck in a battle of brawn more than will. Where the others are ruthless, Reva is honest. That is one of the most dastardly traits of a villain. She has an awareness of what the Inquisitors are and doesn't fully mean to emulate them. Much to their pain. 

The big cameo is Vader's appearance, a direct result of Reva's power-grabbing stunts. It's a pity that the other Inquisitors are unable to learn from past mistakes and can only emulate important actions. Which leads to vying for power and bad ideas.  

Emperor Claudius

I've had a theory since seeing Rogue One, which is weird because Rogue One is in Obi-Wan's future. In the original three Star Wars films, Vader was a beast. There was nothing scarier than that black suit and dark breathing. But it comes at a cost. There is only so much energy he has to spend. When not in the suit, he's in the tank just trying to be ready to get in the suit. He is worn out, exhausted from the constant pain of his injuries. This was very evident in Rogue One and to a lesser extent, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It comes back in Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Vader sits on his throne. He is more Claudius than Conan. 

He's not his best by any measure. Perhaps a better analogy would be Vader and Tiberius. 

This is the Vader we get in Kenobi. While weak, he dominates the stage, making everything seem small and cramped. This episode opens up the world when Leia and Ben are on the road through deserts and mines, but everything collapses in when they are being stalked by the Empire. 
As the trap closes on Ben and Leia, the scenes take on a more realistic tone. The lightsabres are back to being physical objects as they were in the first 3 movies. Their glow is powerful, almost overdone pitting Ben's blue light against the red of Vader's blade. There is not a hell of a lot of swordplay here. The two battle like boxers coming off the ropes, which makes a lot of sense. Ben is older and Vader is maimed. 

Like the last episode, a lot of smaller characters make their way into the action hinting at a much larger world. Like Rebels, these people play a role they do not completely understand. We don't have a rebellion just yet. But boy is one brewing up. 

The episode ends in a cliffhanger as Reva almost captures what she needs. Curiously, she ends the episode spouting kindness and reassurance, which is the last thing you want from a villain. 

I look forward to the next episode. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode 2 Review

I'm struggling with these spoiler free reviews. There is a practical point where I have to assume the reader has seen episode 1 and the trailer.

So I guess it would be fair to say to you, dear reader, there will be some spoilers after the title card.

OK before I dig into the spoilers, I have to mention that I might not be the demographic this show is targeting. Or I'm exactly the targeted demographic. 

This series is obviously light on the budget. It comes across more like the newer Doctor Who episodes. This type of TV makes wonderful memories of cowering behind the couch while also speaking to the child viewer. Not only does it have that non-specific fear vibe, but the quality also is not your typical CGI to insane levels that Star Wars is known for. It doesn't quite drop into the Three Walls of a Star Trek set, but is more akin to the more adventurous scenes of more typical science fiction shows. 

It has some of the glow of Bladerunner and Tron, while also having the gray cardboard concrete of any number of movies and TV shows from my youth. I kind of love it. 

And now on to the story. Thank God there is a story beyond "and Ben sat in the desert for 10 more years..." I was expecting Hutt and Sand people. And I am really glad they tapped the Inquisitors as villains. Reva, the Inquisitors' very own watergirl for all the respect she gets is devious as she is evil and ruthless. Not a supervillain by any measure, but she gets the job when it comes to luring Ben out of the desert. 

Ben ends up on a world where privacy is king. What had been a hindrance to the Empire is now shared equally with the hero as he hunts for the kidnapped 10-year-old Leia. I hear the actress is actually 8 and I see that she is excellent. 

One of the funny things about Star Wars is, the galaxy is old and things are often presented as "it is because we say it is". In this episode, we get to see why something bad stuff is simply glossed over. The Jedi are truly dangerous to society at large and the embodiment of this is not the Inquisitors or The Jedi, but Leia. Pay close attention to her actions and activities and try to imagine how bad an untrained force user is in the world. 

Anyway, Ben's mission is simple. Get the girl home from a sad-sack world that is all the worst the Star Wars galaxy has to offer. 

There are a few cool cameos in this episode Ewan's daughter and a certain rockstar. Neither is particularly jarring at first glance, but Esther Rose McGregor lands a gut punch line if you figure out who she is. She's someone's daughter. 

And we are back to children. Ben has to win over this precious princess in order to save her from the villains. This is where the writers duck and weave and throw a crackpot idea to separate Ben from the princess. The results are fun, but the whole idea was bad. It's the one disappointment I had. 

As we approach the end of this episode, hope is snatched from the jaws of the Dark Side. Every character would or could have been a beast that either gets owned by their own actions or actually turns out to be a little more heroic than the audience would have believed. It plays rather well. 

On the other hand, as Leia and Ben make their escape, there is a moment of fear. This is the moment where Ewan McGregor pulls off some of his best acting, in a show that doesn't lack good acting. We get the see and feel the moment Ben realizes Anakin is out there. 

I was disappointed by the 35-minute run time, but hey, this was essentially a two-part which ran for 80 some minutes. As I understand it, this show will drop on the typical Disney Wednesday. That means the next review will be in less than 3 days. I can't wait. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi Episode Wan Review

 The title card says it all. 

It's 45 years later and the story is again riding on Obi-Wan Kenobi and friends. When Star Wars first came out, it was groundbreaking and unlike anything that had been done before. So unlike prior films, it was accidentally planted in the realm of science fiction, like that other groundbreaking series, Star Trek. 

Well, it's never been science fiction. It's pure fantasy in a technological world. Which is very different. 

This time out, we get to see Obi-Wan and the Empire at odds with each other when both are at their worst. The time periods in Star Wars have always been shakey to me. Rather than think in years, it's better to just run with "this show is before Star Wars and after the prequels". Nailing down years in a galaxy far far away and a long time ago is rather difficult and really the series does not suffer for it. However, there are a pair of very obvious clocks in this series in the form of characters. 

Since this is before Star Wars, we get to see a different type of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sir Alec Guinness made Old Ben the stately figure we all grew up with. He hated every moment of it, no matter how much we loved him for it. Back in the prequel years, Ewan McGregor was forced into the mold of what Sir Guinness gave us and I really enjoyed his interpretation of what this old war hero was all about. But it wasn't exactly what I expected of Ewan McGregor. He seem hemmed in by what had gone before. 

With this new series, we see a new, new side to Old Ben. It will be no spoiler for the reader to talk about the prequels. With just under 7 hours of content, the prequels covered a lot of ground. It introduced a younger Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council then ripped them away as the Republic shifted to the Empire and the Sith destroyed the Jedi Council.  

The next 7 hours of film, the original 3 films, give the viewer the old washed-up version of the Jedi which has faded into legend and myth. To this, we can add some unusual choices for bridging material. Three cartoon series have filled in the gaps to some extent: The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Bad Batch plus two live-action features, Solo and Rogue One which ducked away from Jedi story entirely. The viewer should be very aware of what the Empire has been up to all this time. It's quite a lot really and all of it is bad. 

This series should answer the questions we do not know the answers to, where has Obi-Wan been all this time? 

The last time we saw Obi-Wan, he had delivered Leia and Luke to adoptive parents with an uncharacteristic smile. It was very strange to see Obi-Wan's world completely destroyed and his only hope in the hands of two children he would not see as prospects for change for many decades. That unnerving smile at the end of the prequels didn't seem reasonable but in light of what was happening to Obi-Wan in the series, it could have been either a complete mask of his true disgust or indicative of being on the horrible end of a complete breakdown. 

After seeing the first episode of this new series, I think perhaps that it is the second. Obi-Wan has suffered a very real breakdown and the smile was merely an indication of how broken he was at the end of those stories. This new series starts with a very slow slog through Old Ben's life as he performs the most mechanical and boring duty: survive on a wasteland planet and hope that nothing bad happens to Luke. Of course, that is not where the episode ends. There are some important evolutions to Ben's duties and outlook on life in those 50 minutes. 

Rather than tell you about this or that plot point and spoil it for the reader, I will merely point out which aspects of the show I enjoyed. First, the first episode was written by Stuart Beattie and Hossein Amini of Pirates of the Caribbean and Gangs of New York fame. Respectively, of course. I cannot stress how far away from the laughs of Captain Jack Sparrow Ben is, and I can happily report that Obi-Wan Kenobi is not nearly as gritty as Gangs of New York was. Thank the Maker!

With this material to work with, the series director could deliver the typical rich setting that Lucas was known for in the first three Star Wars films. However, rather than CGI the crap out of everything, there are a lot of practical effects which reminded me of both the original three movies and TV shows like Dr. Who. A lot is done with very little, which is nice to see in a Disney production. As much as I like Disney, there is something to be said about economy in storytelling.  

Being made for the small screen, the scope and extent of the stages needed to be limited. I am pretty certain that there is CGI I couldn't see in every scene, but hey, that's the best type of CGI. The story is a limited one from Ben's point of view and the nature of made-for-TV actually hints at far wider vistas than what the show delivers. The viewer's impression is that the edges of the screen simply lose details. There is not a cast of 1000s, a lot of scenes are filmed top down so as to hide the edge of the stage. and sometimes, the detail simply peters out at the edges. 

That's actually great. 

It calls back the original movies while also having a psychological purpose. Ben is so burned out at this point that he is far beyond kiting checks Big Lebowski style for trivial amounts. His world has collapsed to just what the viewer can see. 

Actually, it's less. 

As the first episode progresses, the viewer receives a very different rendition of the character than McGregor gave 20 years ago and a wildly out-of-character performance relative to what Sir Alex Guinness gave us 45 years ago. It's not surprising that this would happen, because Ben is neither one of those characters in this series. What will be fascinating to see is the transition between old and new Obi-Wan and how that comes to be. 

I look forward to episode two.