Obi-Wan Kenobi is getting the Theatrical Treatment and Thank the Force!
All signs point to the most theatrical experience on your television screen.
We are about a month out from the premiere of the much anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Even though I thought the film was ok, it is still baffling that Solo: A Star Wars Story was the film that got made instead. But let us just call a truce as the timing has worked out well for Obi-Wan. The Prequel Trilogy love is at an all-time high, and Star Wars overall is on the up and up. And this is due to the streaming side of Star Wars.
And yet, Star Wars must find its way back to the theatrical stage if it wants to stay relevant. As popular as WandaVision might have been, it won’t hold a candle to the visibility and popularity of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. The appeal for actors joining the MCU streaming shows is likely a path to MCU films. Riri Williams will make her MCU debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever before her series, and Ms. Marvel will be featured in The Marvels next year.
But Star Wars is at minimum two years away from returning to the big screen (which would put the total years at five since The Rise of Skywalker). Therefore they have to give theatrical bombast to SOMETHING while we wait. And Obi-Wan Kenobi, more than The Mandalorian and certainly The Book of Boba Fett is getting that theatrical pampering. In every stage, Obi-Wan Kenobi is being elevated compared to the previous live-action series. Here are three main indicators:
The Story is a Natural Continuation of the Films
One of the triumphs of the MCU Disney Plus shows is that they have been seamless continuations of the films as we continue on specific character arcs (Loki starts right when he disappears in Avenger’s Endgame). Of course, the MCU is still a young franchise, and thus it is easier for streaming to pick up where theatrical left off.
For Star Wars, it is a different story. The Mandalorian is closer to The Original Trilogy (which ended its original theatrical run almost 40 years ago). Therefore, the story includes characters played by actors who are older (like Mark Hamill), passed (like Carrie Fisher), or have a different actor playing their younger self (Harrison Ford). So Lucasfilm is faced with two options: Either rely on de-aging/deep fake technology to recreate characters like a Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker, or recast.
However, for Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucasfilm chose a story that takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, so Ewan McGregor has actually aged into this role. Similarly, both Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse have also aged into their characters at this point in the timeline. This coupled with Hayden Christensen returning as Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, and it won’t be a surprise if people add the Obi-Wan Kenobi series in their Star Wars rewatches between The Prequel Trilogy and The Original Trilogy.
The Production Value
Yes, there are locations like Tatooine, present in every trilogy and live-action series. But we will also see the first live-action version of Fortress Inquisitorius and another new metropolitan planet. Because there are more Force-sensitives in this series, there will be more lightsaber battles/choreography which just feels cinematic. No matter what you thought of The Sequel Trilogy, the visuals of all three Rey and Kylo fights in each film were stunning.
Deborah Chow directing all six episodes will give Obi-Wan Kenobi a singular vision similar to a film while The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett had various directors across episodes. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, but it does run the risk of inconsistency in tone. For example, there is a clear difference in VFX quality and scale from The Book of Boba Fett Chapter Three and Chapter Five. This made the show feel like their were TV executives behind-the-scenes divvying up the budget and all of it went to two or three episodes. If these shows are meant to be extensions of the Star Wars universe, they should be consistent in quality.
And, of course, John Williams returning to compose the score for Obi-Wan Kenobi might be the biggest pull to make this show feel more cinematic (look at his IMDB and see how many television/streaming shows he has composed the main title theme for to see how big of a deal this is).
Andor is another film character making his small screen debut later this year. And the show looks like an even greater scale of production based on the first behind-the-scenes featurette. More will probably be shown at Star Wars Celebration but hopefully this high production value will continue with film characters to close the gap between the two mediums.
The Release Strategy
Like other Star Wars content, Lucasfilm is keeping details of Obi-Wan Kenobi close, and select imagery and footage have been released. But something that connects Obi-Wan Kenobi more to films than the other shows is the release during a holiday weekend. And one that Disney has kept coming back to despite mixed box office results: Solo: A Star Wars Story did bomb over this weekend, but Aladdin (2019)scored a $86M domestic opening on its way to $1B+ worldwide.
And even though Solo flamed out, Lucasfilm has a history of releasing films over this weekend (Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were released concurrently in 1983 and 1984, and The Last Crusade was released during Memorial Day weekend in 1989).
It is fitting that Obi-Wan Kenobi, which was rumored to be an “A Star Wars Story” film in development, is also getting a Memorial Day premiere. Not only that, but Ewan McGregor announced that the premiere date would be a two-episode premiere. So, essentially, the first film in a trilogy (ok maybe that is reaching, but it is 1/3 of the whole show). But the effort of doing a video announcement for the move instead of just a tweet says a lot about the excitement surrounding the show.
To top it all off, Obi-Wan Kenobi will essentially premiere at Star Wars Celebration 2022 in Anaheim. Ewan McGregor will be there, and I am sure the rest of the cast will join him, so Thursday — Sunday will be one long PR push for the show. There is also the possibility that they will show the first two episodes Thursday night into Friday at the convention center, creating a theater-going experience.
One thing is for sure…Disney/Lucasfilm needs to announce an ACTUAL Star Wars film with a theatrical release date sometime in this decade in between the MCUs and the Avatars. Because I’d rather not have to go to a convention to experience Star Wars with a large group of my fellow fans.