In the Star Wars universe, only Sith deal in absolutes. But on Dork Side, we don’t discriminate against Force-users who take a stand. In Dork Side Duel, two members of our writing staff wield words instead of lightsabers and argue over the most controversial topics concerning a galaxy far, far away. It doesn’t matter who shoots first, as long as they choose their targets wisely.
The Light Side
David: With respect to Sir Alec Guinness (who will always be the elder statesmen Obi-Wan), the only man who should portray Obi-Wan Kenobi in any Star Wars film going forward, is Ewan McGregor…that is, as long as you are focusing on Jedi Master Obi-Wan from the end of Revenge of the Sith. McGregor not only established himself as the perfect Kenobi during the prequel trilogy, but the animated The Clone Wars series modeled their Obi-Wan off of the actor’s looks as well. In fact, James Arnold Taylor’s fantastic voice work for The Clone Wars, even sounds like McGregor…and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
One would think that if Disney/Lucasfilm were to actually do a Kenobi Star Wars Anthology Film, then the only hurtle would be, who to choose to don the signature brown robes of Luke Skywalker’s first mentor. And, it is my opinion that Disney making TCW part of the new official Star Wars canon, means that they already have Ewan McGregor in mind, to once again play Obi-Wan. I know it’s a bit of a stretch to connect that particular set of dots, but come on, who else could you possibly see in the role?
In a time where Hollywood seems to be rebooting every movie franchise ever made, it would certainly be refreshing to see some continuity and familiar faces in Star Wars. They are already going to have the unenviable task of recasting Han Solo, I can’t imagine they would want to do this all over again, with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Keep Ewan McGregor, and you’ve already got the best part of the prequel trilogy.
The Dark Side
Kyle: If an Obi-Wan spinoff film or even trilogy comes to fruition, the toughest call the filmmakers would have to make is who to cast as Obi-Wan. And though I’m not sure who could play the Jedi, I know one person they shouldn’t.
That’s not to denigrate Ewan McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan in the prequel trilogy. It is one of the only aspects of those movies that is still enjoyable and hasn’t rotted with age. McGregor slipped perfectly into the role, channeling the mannerisms and charm of Alec Guinness while still making the character his own.
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But it’s precisely the fact that McGregor was so successful in the role that he shouldn’t reprise it. If there is an Obi-Wan spinoff, there are really only two possible time periods to set it in: before the prequels, or between Episode III and IV. (I argued in last week’s Jedi Council that it would make sense for both to be explored concurrently in a live-action TV show.)
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If Disney wants to show us Obi-Wan’s origins and early life before he met Anakin, then obviously he would likely need to be recast, as McGregor is too old to play that part. But even if such a movie or series is set during Kenobi’s exile on Tatooine, the creative team should find a new actor, because it would be a different Obi-Wan we’re seeing.
McGregor was so good in the prequels that he is the definitive Obi-Wan of that era, just as Guinness delivered the definitive interpretation of the character in the original trilogy. But we’ve come to associate them with those personas that it wouldn’t be believable for McGregor to sell us a different version of the Jedi Master. He’s already imprinted in our minds as the sly, hopeful, tragic character we came to know in the prequels.
This doesn’t even mention McGregor’s well-known distaste for the franchise, especially some of its fans. (Funnily enough, the only person who publicly disliked Star Wars more than McGregor was his predecessor, Guinness.) Sure, he’s hinted he’d be open to returning to the character, but I imagine he’s envisioning the potential paycheck and not so much the challenge.
And that’s OK. McGregor’s Obi-Wan belongs to a different era of the Star Wars universe, one with different sensibilities. One of the strengths of Star Wars is its flexibility, allowing the franchise’s concepts to be molded and shaped according to its creators. That extends to the characters, who function more as archetypes than personalities. And while McGregor and Guinness gave us performances to love, they are elegant weapons from a more civilized time. It’s time for some new blood.