News broke last week that that Disney was beginning to move forward with yet another installment in the “Story” arm of the Star Wars films, this time a stand-alone movie for Obi-Wan Kenobi. There are no details as to the story because there’s no script yet, only early conversations with a candidate to direct the film, though the lack of details like that hasn’t stopped Disney or other studios from announcing release dates and more in the past.
Kenobi is, of course, no newcomer to the big screen. In the original Star Wars trilogy he was played by Alec Guinness as the wise mentor who helped Luke Skywalker learn more about his Jedi abilities and, reluctantly, his true parentage. In the prequel trilogy Ewan Mcgregor played Obi-Wan in his early years, growing from a sometimes brash young Jedi apprentice into a roguish General during The Clone Wars.
With so much of Kenobi’s story already told, what gaps are there to fill in?
The Tatooine Years
This is the era most people seem to be focused on and guessing the story will come from but to me it’s the least interesting of the available options.
Based on where Obi-Wan is left at the end of Revenge of the Sith and where we find him in A New Hope, he’s spent the intervening years hiding out in his simple hut on Tatooine, living a hermit’s life. It’s this era that is represented by a new Sideshow Collectibles statue that shows a grizzled Kenobi who’s older than Revenge but not yet as old as in Hope carrying a pack and obviously braced for survival on Tatooine’s unforgiving wastelands.
The problem I have with this approach is that it necessarily throws the premise that Ben has remained undetected all those years into question. Anything interesting enough to warrant our attention would, it would seem, also be enough to make the Empire take a look and completely blow his cover. Yes, he sliced a guy’s arm off in the cantina, but he was heading off-world and knew the end was near, so was throwing caution to the wind. It’s hard to believe word of a lightsaber-wielding old man wouldn’t stay confined to Mos Eisley if he were doing this all the time. And any adventures that took him off-world would mean he was essentially abandoning Luke, which doesn’t fit with anything we know about the character.
That’s why I’m just not that interested in this period. This is a span of years that’s alright being left unexplored because we know more or less what he was up to. Going beyond that risks upending some basic character and story points.
The Padawan Years
This seems like much more fertile ground to me. The Obi-Wan that we meet in The Phantom Menace is at the same time completely devoted to the Jedi Order and to his master Qui-Gon. But even there we get the sense he’s a bit of a rogue, someone willing to go to the boundaries of what the Jedi will allow while not breaking the letter of the code, even if the spirit of the guidelines is a bit bruised. That also fits with the evolution of the character through “The Clone Wars” animated series and both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
So how did that begin? What was he like while training with Yoda? What kind of hell did he raise with the other Younglings? Going back to the days of the teenage Obi-Wan and seeing him learn the extents of the Force and what it meant to be a Jedi, including maybe being scolded and brought back into line, would show us where he began.
Not only that but it doesn’t provide as many opportunities for cheap nods to the Original Trilogy. There’s no chance of referencing Vader or anything like that because we’re still in the years of the Republic, when everything was good and pure and the Jedi were the shining guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. The character can be shown aspiring to being part of that noble order, not making throwaway comments that allude to his eventual fate that are meant only to make the audience knowingly chuckle.
How about you. What do you want to see in a standalone Obi-Wan movie?