In 2015, Disney announced that they would be releasing standalone Star Wars films alongside their new episodic films, and one of the more eagerly anticipated characters who fans wanted to see on screen was that of Obi Wan Kenobi.
Obi Wan is a classic fan favourite in the Star Wars series, both for his role in Episode IV: A New Hope (played superbly by Sir Alec Guinness), and for Ewan McGregor’s performances in the Prequel trilogy, a series of films which continue to split Star Wars fans down the middle, but even the most volatile prequel haters will still commend McGregor’s take on the character.
However, despite the fans’ interest, it seemed as if LucasFilm had more pressing issues than Obi Wan, with both Rogue One and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story both jumping ahead, and with no mention of the possible film at either Star Wars: Celebration or D-23, it appeared that maybe the project was nothing more than fans’ pipe-dream.
But all hope is not lost in the galaxy! The Hollywood Reporter revealed earlier this year that not only is an Obi Wan standalone film in the works, LucasFilm is in talks with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stephen Daldry to direct. And with this news, the question becomes 'what should an Obi Wan Kenobi movie be like?'
|Obi Wan Kenobi, as portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness (left) and Ewan McGregor (right)|
When discussing the possible story for the Obi Wan film, we first have to examine the character from where we last saw him (the end of Revenge of the Sith). Obi Wan is hiding on Tatooine, living the rest of his life undercover as a hermit, hiding from the Empire while keeping a watchful eye over a young Luke Skywalker.
With it being Obi Wan’s own close friend and Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, who turned to the dark side, slaughtering and dismantling the Jedi Order, it’s imaginable that Kenobi would feel a heavy sense of guilt, blaming himself for Anakin’s turn, making the former Jedi Knight bitter and depressed.
And, this is where the traditional motifs of the Western Genre come into play. You see, one of the classic tropes in western films is the grizzled, reluctant, ronin-like hero, forced into action by circumstances outside of his control.
This can be seen in some of the most popular and memorable western films of the genre’s heyday, such as the 1953 George Stevens film Shane, and the infamous Clint Eastwood Man With No Name trilogy. The film could see Obi Wan, laying low on Tatooine as a miserable, weary shadow, of his former self, forced into travelling across the galaxy (while attempting to avoid any detection by Darth Vader or the Empire), and performing one final heroic, presenting itself as a gritty character study of what becomes of a man past his greatest day, and what it means to be a hero.
|The classic 1953 western Shane could prove a major influence|
Many popular films in recent years have borrowed heavily from the ideas and stories found in Westerns, most notably the Mad Max series, and most recently, Logan, a film so inspired by Shane, that the film directly quotes the classic film. Much like Logan, this Kenobi film could explore what becomes of our hero when his fellow heroes are no more, and how our protagonist lives with the blame and the guilt for that, and has to revive the parts of themselves of which they tried to bury, in order to just survive.
And, there is precedent for a story similar to this in the Star Wars world. In 2013, writer John Jackson Miller published the novel Kenobi, a character study set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, exploring the life of the former Jedi once hiding on Tatooine.
The story sees Obi Wan, going under the alias of ‘Ben’, presenting himself as a reclusive, enigmatic stranger on the planet, going to great pains to remain an outsider. However, after witnessing a turf war between a group of Tusken Raiders and a local militia led by a ruthless war chief, Kenobi is forced back into action and restore order to the community.
|Kenobi by John Jackson Miller|
The novel itself bears many similarities to that of Shane, with Kenobi characterised as the laconic gunfighter, riding into the town and protecting the locals from an aggressive gang. The similarities lie so deep that Starwars.com published an article discussing the novel, where it states that the original pitch to LucasFilm for the novel was 'Shane - but with Obi Wan.'
There’s a lot that can be said about the possibility of a Western-inspired Obi Wan Kenobi film, and the premise only continues to become more intriguing as thoughts progress. This would be a serious departure from the adventurous tone of the Star Wars films, similarly to how Rogue One sought to present itself as a war movie, but much like Logan, this film would have to strip away many of the elements which made its original films so beloved. And by doing this, Disney and LucasFilm could offer us something groundbreaking and thought provoking, a real breath of fresh air in the landscape that is a galaxy far far away, and give fans the Obi Wan movie that they’ve anxiously waited for, for decades.
With the recent success of Logan, as well as other Western-inspired films such as Hell or High Water and Mad Max: Fury Road, it allows the filmmakers room to craft a really ingenious story, and present a Star Wars film more in the vein of Unforgiven and tell a visceral and brutal story about hardship, and what becomes of a hero after he’s lost everything… everything but hope.
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