Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
One of the issues Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm have both had to work around with their Disney+ content offerings is that these are big-screen properties being pared down into chunks of essentially high-end television content. It’s a constant battle. No one show — whether it be The Mandalorian or Moon Knight or Loki or The Book of Boba Fett — has escaped the curse of “too little money, too little time.” The answer to that problem in most television material is to focus on character interplay and drama. Marvel can usually split the difference thanks to the tone of their stories (the upcoming Ms. Marvel is a good example), but Star Wars is an entirely different beast. If Star Wars looks cheap, what are you even doing?
Part III of Obi-Wan Kenobi is, unfortunately, the worst-looking product we’ve seen put onto Disney+.
I didn’t really hate the episode. It didn’t disappoint me because after The Book of Boba Fett, my expectations are, I feel, properly calibrated. Even after Part I and Part II, which I loved, I didn’t feel like the drop in quality for Part III came entirely out of left field. Overall I feel like it deserves a slightly bewildered, “OK … that’s it?” That’s the “rematch we’ve all been waiting for”?
Yeah, I know, people felt that way about the first two episodes, which I thought were quite good. In this case, though, Part III is clunky in ways the other two weren’t. Surprising ways! Why is Obi-Wan accidentally saying Leia’s name? Why is their rendezvous in the middle of a random field? I’m glad they hook up with their contact, but she’s not going to keep that disguise up very long if she’s killing her troopers like that. Why is Obi-Wan so quick to trust her? Why is this Jedi Underground Railroad’s tunnel system so easy to circumvent? Why haven’t they established the Grand Inquisitor is, in fact, still alive?
Star Wars has to maintain the veneer of being a prestige property. Besides the nostalgia it continues to mine, that’s all it really has. I don’t think something like Part III inherently kills it, but for people who are casual fans of the franchise, I think it makes following along really difficult. It starts to feel like a cash-in for fans rather than an event for everyone.
And, look, I want to be clear: Star Wars is the franchise that basically invented the modern special-effects fantasy spectacle and has continuously been a platform for developing new methods of building on-screen worlds. The Volume technology has done wonders for Disney+ so far. The Prequel Trilogy was largely George Lucas designing new digital technology that redefined the industry — even if their experimental nature means they don’t look particularly amazing by today’s standards. It’s a real problem if a Star Wars product looks this poor. I’m surprised it passed muster.
For the sake of ease, I’m going to just lapse into bullet points.
- Another Qui-Gon tease. If Liam Neeson doesn’t show up and park his ghostly ass on a log by the end of this, well, what are we even doing here?
- I liked the glimpse of Darth Vader being assembled. Do not like the prominence of green lights on his armor.
- Cool to see another planet that looks like Southern California. Just kidding. It’s adorable and kitschy in the Ewok movies but has no place in these Disney+ productions.
- At least we get that faraway glimpse of Anakin so that Hayden Christensen gets a little face time.
- Enjoyed seeing the Inquisitor base. I know they’re not popular to a lot of viewers but the “retail supervisor with a chip on their shoulder because they make $12 an hour instead of $9.50” is a real energy, and I think Moses Ingram in particular rolls with it.
- It’s neat that they confirm Obi-Wan had a brother on the planet Stewjon. In the Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi novelization, it was implied Owen was Obi-Wan’s brother. Lucas went ahead and made Owen the actual step-brother of Anakin for some reason.
- I don’t like Obi-Wan slipping up and calling her Leia, and I don’t like the re-iteration of the Padmé reference, which was lovely last episode but feels a little overplayed here.
- “The Path” is a neat concept and I’m happy to have canonical confirmation that Quinlan Vos survived Order 66.
- Jabiim was an important planet in the old Clone Wars canon and I’m glad to hear it referenced again.
- The rematch duel is just awful. I get what they’re going for, with Vader’s raw power overwhelming an out-of-practice Obi-Wan, but the cinematography is truly poor. The lightsabers look like LEDs. The music by composer Natalie Holt fails the moment, which screams for callbacks to old motifs but never goes there. The sound design is perhaps the biggest failure; we barely hear the hum of the lightsabers or the clash of their blades. It feels like a fan film. It feels worse than some fan films.
- Which is odd. The Mandalorian has done such a great job of making lightsabers seems like dangerous, mythic weapons. I wish that was the case here.
- It wouldn’t make any sense for Vader to move with the speed and agility of a Jedi from the Prequels, but I really wish they brought Nick Gillard back to choreograph the battle. Someone who knows what they’re doing, at least. The Sequel Trilogy has some great fights but also a lot of poor ones (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in particular), so I was hoping the Obi-Wan team had learned its lesson. Apparently not.
- Speaking of dueling: I figured we’d see Obi-Wan fight an Inquisitor or Reva before working his way to fighting Vader again. I guess that can still happen in the next few episodes.
- The cliffhanger is not particularly interesting to me.
- As someone who likes televised science-fiction, especially stuff shot in the 1970s and 1980s, it did make me laugh that the go-to setting for this first rematch was an abandoned quarry. Can’t beat a good abandoned quarry.
Head over to read my write-up about Star Wars Celebration if you want my thoughts on upcoming toys. Didn’t buy anything this week.
Nothing this episode.