When Lucasfilm released The Phantom Menace in 1999, Star Wars fans were initially ecstatic. The franchise had remained dormant on the big screen for 16 years following the release of Return of the Jedi, and fans were hungry for new stories set in the galaxy far, far away.
As you probably know, the movie was a commercial success but critically reviled. Many fans felt the film didn’t carry the spirit of the original trilogy, while others found issues with the screenplay, dialogue, and acting in the cheesy sci-fi spectacle. This continued throughout the other two entries in the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. One element that many critics and fans agreed upon, though, was that Ewan McGregor was awesome as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
McGregor is back in front of the camera as Obi-Wan in the new Disney+ series of the same name set ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. His reprisal of the role marks the first time a prequel actor has appeared in live-action since Revenge of the Sith’s release in 2005. Ironically, this means Obi-Wan aired 16 years after its direct predecessor, just like The Phantom Menace.
While the series is all about Kenobi, it also features the return of Hayden Christensen to the role of Anakin Skywalker. The former Jedi is now the Sith Lord Darth Vader, and Christensen is essentially unrecognizable under the mask and obscured by the prosthetics needed to make Vader look horribly burned. Christensen’s performance was a particular sore spot for critics when the prequels were released, so many fans view Obi-Wan Kenobi as a chance for the actor to redeem himself after the prequels.
Kenobi is a chance for Lucasfilm to appeal to a wide audience on Disney+. Fans of the prequel trilogy will be delighted to see McGregor and Christensen back in the roles that made them household names. Meanwhile, Star Wars fans who disliked the prequels could see Kenobi as a chance for Lucasfilm to correct the mistakes of those films.While the series isn’t over yet, so far it’s been a fun chance to revisit some of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. McGregor’s impression of Sir Alec Guinness continues to improve as the timeline slides closer to the events of the first Star Wars film, and Christensen’s Vader is suitably imposing in his all-black armor. Time will tell if Kenobi suffers from the same critical disdain as the prequel trilogy.