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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Five Hopes for the Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie

After months of rumors and speculation, THR reported on Thursday that a Star Wars Anthology movie centered on Obi-Wan Kenobi is indeed in development at Lucasfilm. No official confirmation via StarWars.com has been made yet, but Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) is reportedly in early talks to direct the film, while Ewan McGregor is not yet committed to reprising his role as the titular Jedi.
This film would most likely take place during the 19 years Kenobi spent keeping an eye on Luke Skywalker in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Aside from the 2015-2016 comics From the Journals of Old Ben Kenobi and "Twin Suns," a recent episode of Star Wars Rebels in which he finally vanquished longtime foe Maul on Tatooine, little is known about his experiences during this time, and thus the era is ripe for a new Kenobi story.

Like Han Solo, Kenobi ranks high on the list of greatest and most beloved Star Wars characters. He's charismatic, wise, completely selfless, and one of the best warriors in the franchise. He's also one of the best Jedi to ever grace our screens; despite the Order's failings (especially when it came to the Council), there's no doubt that Kenobi represented the Jedi's greatest qualities.
When putting the spotlight on a character as essential to Star Wars as Obi-Wan Kenobi – or old Ben, as he's known during this era – there are so many fan expectations about how to explore his inner workings and expand on what we already know about him. With that in mind, here are five hopes for the Obi-Wan movie:

The Empire won't be a major part of the story

One problem that this movie is already facing is that its (probable) time period – during the height of the Empire – will feel a little stale and overused by the time it hits theaters; Rebels and Rogue One both deal with the theme of finding hope when the galaxy is at its darkest hour, and director Ron Howard confirmed on Twitter this week that "The Empire Looms Large" in the untitled Han Solo film. Even The Last Jedi will find the near-identical First Order threatening to wipe out all resistance.
Obviously, the Kenobi movie cannot avoid any references to the Empire. It is, after all, the reason why he's hiding out on Tatooine in the first place. And considering their iron grip on the galaxy, we'll probably see at least a few stormtroopers pop up wherever Kenobi's journey takes him.

But they shouldn't be the primary villains. "Secret mission to strike a major blow against the Empire" has been done before. "Imperial agents sent to hunt down remaining Jedi" has been done before. As tempting as it would be to see Kenobi face off with Hayden Christensen's Darth Vader once again (as the Collider Jedi Council has suggested), it would be far more interesting and refreshing for the antagonist(s) to be a third party.

Liam Neeson will return as Qui-Gon Jinn

Qui-Gon's death in The Phantom Menace was a pivotal moment for Obi-Wan, pushing him towards Jedi Knight status and directly inspiring him to take on Anakin Skywalker as his Padawan. We can attribute Jinn to much of Kenobi's wisdom and skill, and it's a shame that he had to perish in order to move the plot of the Prequel Trilogy forward.
There's no doubt that Kenobi carries Qui-Gon's teachings wherever he goes, but that doesn't mean that the deceased Jedi Master can't have a very real (though not exactly tangible) role in the film's plot. He appeared as a Force ghost in three episodes of The Clone Wars with Neeson returning to voice him, offering advice to his old apprentice and later teaching Yoda how to preserve his own life as a Force ghost after death.
Qui-Gon's ghost isn't some kind of deus ex machina that's ready to materialize every time his old friends are in trouble, but when Kenobi's at the lowest point of his life, it would make perfect sense for his master to lend him a few words of wisdom. It's almost certain that Kenobi also learned the Force ghost trick from Qui-Gon during this time, though this journey might feel a little repetitive, since we already saw it through Yoda's eyes in The Clone Wars.

If Neeson is willing to reprise his role in animated television format, you can bet that he would return again for a live-action performance and a much heftier paycheck to go along with it. The appearance of Qui-Gon's Force ghost is objectively a very likely part of the movie, and thanks to the importance of the character and Neeson's own star power, this would probably be one of the first casting announcements after confirming Ewan McGregor as the main character.

Cate Blanchett will appear as Satine

You can't understand and explore Obi-Wan Kenobi without recognizing the three most influential figures in his life: his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, and his soulmate, Satine Kryze. Introduced in The Clone Wars, Satine was Obi-Wan's equivalent to Padmé; a beautiful leader with an incredible wardrobe who nearly tempted him to leave the Order to pursue their love.
Like Padmé, Satine was also a strong and inspirational heroine of her own, serving as Duchess of Mandalore and leading the Council of Neutral Systems during the Clone Wars. She played the damsel in distress at times, but that was more related to her strict pacifism than any lack of skill and courage. She openly challenged the Jedi's role as "peacekeepers," and her banter with Obi-Wan showed how they complemented each other as intellectual equals. 

Under her rule as Duchess, Mandalore escaped its violent past and entered a new era of peace...until the Death Watch splinter group joined forces with Maul and wrested control of the planet, culminating in Maul's murder of Satine in front of Obi-Wan. "Remember, my dear Obi-Wan," she spoke in her final breaths, "I've loved you always. I always will."
Though Satine has no business showing up as a Force ghost, her death was a devastating moment for Kenobi, and she could easily appear in wistful flashbacks to their time together, or even in a Force vision. Like Anakin's fall to the Dark Side, Satine's death and Kenobi's denial of their love must be one of his greatest regrets, and this movie can't pretend like he doesn't think about her regularly.

Blanchett as Satine isn't just a popular fan-casting: it's perfect and logical in every sense. Satine's physical appearance was modeled on Blanchett's and her regal attitude was inspired by the actress' performance in Elizabeth. The Oscar-winner has starred in the Disney/Lucasfilm blockbusters Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Cinderella, and this November's Thor: Ragnarok, so if Satine is making an appearance, there's no one better to play her.
Luke and his family will have a strong presence

Kenobi has gone into exile on Tatooine in order to keep an eye on Luke. This is his main purpose during this time period, and thus the movie will either see him face a threat that poses a danger to Luke, or make the tough decision to abandon his post in favor of a more pressing matter. 

We got a taste of the former in "Twin Suns," in which Maul goaded Kenobi into a fight by threatening Luke. The episode ended with old Ben observing the Lars homestead and Luke's silhouette from afar, satisfied that no harm had come to the boy who he believed to be the Chosen One.
This movie will tell a different story (anyone who watches Rebels knows that Maul stands no chance of appearing in-person), but we can guess that it'll follow a similar arc, with Kenobi thoughtfully watching Luke, more resolved than ever in his duty to protect the boy, in the moments before the end credits roll.

However, knowing Disney, they won't just limit themselves to a Luke-esque silhouette on the big screen. You can bet that they'll recreate young Mark Hamill with CGI, in the same style as Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One. Alternatively, depending on when exactly the film takes place, we could see an even younger Luke played by a new child actor. 
Since Luke is only vaguely familiar with Ben Kenobi at the beginning of A New Hope, he probably won't have too many scenes in the movie. But his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are wholly aware of Kenobi's purpose and Luke's parentage, so there's ample opportunity for Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse to reprise their respective roles from Revenge of the Sith.
Edgerton in particular expressed interest in appearing in a Kenobi movie in June. "Everyone talks about Obi-Wan being super cool, Owen secretly knows that he was there, and he did some of the cool s---, too," he said. Edgerton's fame has only grown in recent years, starring in acclaimed dramas like Warrior, Black Mass, and Loving, so the filmmakers might just bring his Owen fantasies to fruition if he agrees to bring his new star power the film.

One of the biggest opportunities given to this movie is the chance to flesh out Owen and Beru's characters, including their relationship to Kenobi and how they protected Luke in their own right. At what point did they forbid him from seeing or training Luke? Did he visit them often in the early years? This doesn't need to be the focus of the movie, but it will still need to acknowledge both Luke and his parents to some extent.
And while we're at it, what about Leia? Yes, she's being raised as Alderaan royalty and Kenobi knows and trusts her adoptive father far more than Owen and Beru, so it makes sense that he would invest most of his time in Luke, but wouldn't he at least consider visiting Alderaan undercover and checking up on the other Skywalker twin? 
Add that to Jimmy Smits' willingness to return as Bail Organa (as demonstrated by Rogue One) and you've got yourself a whole act of the movie on Alderaan, giving us a better look at the ill-fated planet as Ben and Bail team up to save young Leia from those who have discovered her parentage. This is pretty unlikely, of course, but Kenobi does need to explicitly recognize at least once that there's a second Skywalker on the other side of the galaxy with just as much Force potential.

We'll see a new side of an old character

We've seen the young, slightly reckless Padawan who avenged his master and obeyed his dying breath. We've seen the calm, reasonable master whose renowned diplomatic skills earned the nickname of "the Negotiator." And we've seen the old, wise hermit who still has a few (mind) tricks up his sleeve. The Obi-Wan Kenobi in this movie shouldn't be more of the same, but rather, something in-between: a lost, disillusioned warrior.
His Order is gone. Most of his friends are dead. He either thinks that he killed his best friend, or he knows that Anakin's wounds by his blade have only cemented his Darth Vader persona. Even with Luke nearby, representing the galaxy's new hope, Kenobi must be going to some pretty dark places.

Above all else, this movie should show us how Kenobi made peace with the events of Revenge of the Sith and became the elderly mentor archetype that we first met in A New Hope. And there's no way this is going to be a peaceful transition, or a pleasant one. To put it simply, this should be Obi-Wan Kenobi's Logan. (Come to think of it, just "Ben" would be a pretty badass title, albeit a difficult one to market.)
Hours of meditating in the sand? More like day drinking in Mos Eisley and getting in bar fights. When Kenobi calls it a "wretched hive of scum and villainy," he must be speaking from personal experience after some brushes with danger on the sandy streets. Who wouldn't want to see a grizzled, spiritually broken Kenobi kick ass with his bare hands? (He's not foolish enough to reveal his lightsaber in public, after all.)

Kenobi's broken state shouldn't last the whole movie, of course – maybe a pep talk from ghost Qui-Gon could cure him by the end of the first act – but an uncertain and pessimistic Kenobi is a whole lot more emotionally resonant (and marketable) than the same rock-solid, morally-centered Jedi that we already know and love. 

What are your hopes for the Kenobi movie? Which familiar faces would you like to see appear? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Entertainment Weekly Covers 'The Last Jedi'

Entertainment Weekly is covering Star Wars: The Last Jedi this week. As with The Force Awakens and Rogue One, they're providing new details and images on multiple elements of the plot, including never-before-seen creatures and the relationships between characters old and new.
Rey and Luke's relationship is at the center of The Last Jedi, but EW reveals that – as expected – he won't be greeting her warmly. He's on Ahch-To for a reason, even though he's undoubtedly aware of the galactic conflict that his old friends are involved in, and the sudden appearance of this girl with his old lightsaber – who he may or may not recognize from his past – won't be changing his mind immediately.
Exactly why Luke's on this island won't be fully revealed until December 15 (with the help of flashback scenes), but Mark Hamill revealed to EW that Kylo Ren wasn't just Luke's best student and his nephew; Luke thought Kylo was the Chosen One, and that trust led to deadly consequences. "Luke feels responsible for that. That’s the primary obstacle he has to rejoining the world and his place in the Jedi hierarchy, you know? It’s that guilt, that feeling that it’s his fault, that he didn’t detect the darkness in him until it was too late," Hamill says.

Rey has an obstacle of her own: the identity of her parents, and the reason why they left her on Jakku many years ago. EW confirms once and for all that this long-speculated secret will finally be put to rest in The Last Jedi—but it may not be as important to her as we think. "Yes, it would potentially change her mind, or at least give her a little bit more peace in moving forward," Daisy Ridley says. "But ultimately what’s coming is coming, and whatever abilities she has are there."
It calls to mind Maz Kanata's words to Rey in The Force Awakens: "The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead." If Rey discovers that she's a Skywalker, that may give her more confidence, but even the most promising Skywalkers have fallen in the past.

Maz herself has been confirmed to appear in The Last Jedi for a while now, but there's been no sign of her in any marketing materials or plot details (leaked or otherwise). Unfortunately, director Rian Johnson tells EW that her role will be smaller than in The Force Awakens, though he assures that it's still "a really fun part." It wouldn't be a stretch to predict that Maz will only pop up in Rey's Force visions on Ahch-To, given her own Force sensitivity and apparent familiarity with Rey's past.
But just because Rey's parentage will be revealed doesn't mean that The Last Jedi is spilling all of the Sequel Trilogy's greatest secrets. While Snoke will get a larger role (in the flesh, this time), Johnson says that his past will still remain a mystery, pointing out that we never learned about the Emperor's rise to power until the Prequels.

Like the Emperor, Snoke's got his own crimson-hued protectors: the Praetorian Guard. But unlike the robed Imperial guards, the Praetorians are designed to look more threatening, as if they could spring into action at a moment's notice. EW's new image shows the Praetorians preparing for battle in what looks to be Snoke's throne room:
On the polar opposite side of the Force, Luke doesn't have any bodyguards, but he's hardly been alone on his island. EW unveils the Caretakers, a nun-like species of amphibious-looking land dwellers with bird-like feet. Johnson says that they're all female and they communicate with Luke through "a blubbery sort of Scottish fish talk." As their name suggests, their primary function is to take care of the structures on Ahch-To (including the first Jedi temple). They "tolerate" Luke's presence, but they'll probably be happy to see him go.
And, of course, there's the porgs: the adorable, puffin-like creatures who have quickly become fan favorites since their debut at D23 last month. They're most likely less intelligent than the Caretakers and serve more to sell toys and make the audience go "awww" than actually contribute to the plot, but the below image indicates that Chewbacca will be letting one hitch a ride on the Falcon.
Chewie's still recovering from Han Solo's death, and though the Wookiee's mission with Rey and Luke is helping to distract him from the loss, Han's ghost (figuratively, as Johnson makes sure to clarify) will still loom over the film. Kylo's been "knocked off base" by his patricide, Johnson says, and his emotional turmoil will undoubtedly translate to even more violent anger.
Leia's also dealing with the same incredible loss, but after suffering the deaths of her parents (both adopted and biological), the destruction of her homeworld, and the disappearance of her twin brother, she knows how to move on and focus on leading the Resistance. Like Luke, she'll be guiding someone who might one day take her place: Poe Dameron.

We knew that Leia and Poe were close colleagues within the Resistance, but according to Oscar Isaac, their relationship goes much deeper. Poe has the reputation of just a confident, hotshot pilot, but Leia sees in him "the potential for a truly great leader of the Resistance and beyond," Isaac says. "I think Leia knows she won’t be around forever and she, with tough love, wants to push Poe to be more than the badass pilot, to temper his heroic impulses with wisdom and clarity."
Under pressure from the First Order, the Resistance will also be facing some conflict from within. For Leia and Poe, that will most likely take the form of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, Laura Dern's new character. EW has no explicit details on her, but Johnson tells them that "part of the fun with Laura’s character, with Admiral Holdo, is figuring out what her relationship is to everybody as you go along through the movie." 
If Holdo is interested in taking Leia's position herself, she might end up exploiting her secret political weakness. In the Bloodline novel, the Princess came under fire when it was publicly revealed that she was Darth Vader's daughter; if Holdo spilled the beans on Leia's relationship to Kylo Ren, the First Order's most fearsome enforcer, it could convince the other Resistance higher-ups to vote in Holdo's favor. Having an evil father and evil son doesn't exactly reflect well on oneself.

Holdo may be something of an antagonist, but at least we know that she's aligned with the Resistance. Benicio Del Toro's "DJ" has much murkier allegiances. He's described as "an enigmatic figure whose tattered, threadbare clothes and lackadaisical attitude conceal a sharp mind and expert skills." John Boyega reveals that DJ is the best "slicer" (hacker) in the galaxy, taking advantage of the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. "It’s an ongoing war that will never end. For him, he’s trying to benefit off of that — which doesn’t make him the person you want to trust."
Finn will be meeting DJ on the casino metropolis of Canto Bight as part of a mission for the Resistance. At the beginning of the film (after he wakes up from his coma), Finn will want to continue with his plans of leaving the war behind, but Resistance mechanic Rose Tico will inspire a change of heart. She's heard about the ex-stormtrooper who helped save the galaxy, and like Rey, she'll be meeting her hero and convincing him to rejoin the fight.
The most fascinating thing about Rose is her anonymity in comparison with superstars like Rey, Finn, and Poe. "She’s this nobody, this background player, which is what makes her interesting," Kelly Marie Tran tells EW. "She’s not the best. She’s not royalty. She’s someone who is just like everyone else." Even if Rose is initially disappointed with Finn's reluctance to join their cause, it's safe to say that they'll grow close while navigating the dangers of Canto Bight—and perhaps even develop a romance.
What do you think of these new images and reveals? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @SithObserver, and may the Force be with you all.