Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022) Episode 5 Review
“Where were you while he was killing my friends?”
One Word: Deaging.
They couldn’t deage Hayden Christensen for his return as Anakin? In Part III when Kenobi sees a vision of his padawan in the distance, I was impressed that they were able to make him look like he did in Revenge of the Sith. After all, that’s the last time he saw his pupil before his descent into darkness. The opening scene winds back the clocks sometime during the Clone Wars when Anakin’s rage was still rising to the surface.
With this flashback we see the dynamics between pupil and master, it also serves to show that after all these years Anakin has yet to learn this sessions lesson and Kenobi will capitalize on it. Clever, but contrived.
We are a week away from the series finale, and yet the show has failed to build the excitement leading up to it. Of all the episodes thus far, this one is filled with missed opportunities. Mainly because it had all the right ideas but lacked the proper execution.
We’ve never seen Darth Vader play chess before, and in that regard this episode has some merit because it comes really close to showing us a side to Vader we’ve never seen before. It’s a compelling idea that isn’t as satisfying as it should be.
This episode should have built upon the idea that the resistance was trapped in a hole with nowhere to go. Even if you knew that they would get away in the end, it should have tricked you into believing otherwise. An anxiety inducing trip that kept you at the edge of your seat because you feared Vader would win. With that as the backdrop you ignite the action with the proper excitement, but modern filmmaking can’t save the action. How is it possible that we had better choreography in 1999s The Phantom Menace?
The framing of the action masks an older performers capabilities but there’s ways to work around it if you use camera movement and framing to your advantage. Which should have been used to display of Obi-Wan’s return to form. Slaughtering Storm Troopers that brought out the inner children of adults watching.
If you had that ticking clock as the backdrop, you also add stakes. When you see characters die, it matters. Their sacrifice matters. Because they’re fighting to give everyone else a chance. But I felt nothing when NED-B died. Look me in the eye and tell me you felt nothing when KS0 died… exactly!
I also disagreed with Tala broadcasting her grenade for everyone to see. It should have taken Reva by surprise. Visually, it would have been compelling to see the wind knocked out of her, and the losses on the other side. If you are going to blow yourself up, make it count and take some troopers with you.
This would also buy the resistance time, as the foot soldiers on the ground regrouped. Again, this should have been an anxiety inducing thrill ride.
There’s also something to be said about Vader landing on the scene. The gates open and Kenobi is gone, and there’s no reaction? This could’ve been amended with a wide shot, where he looks back at Reva but doesn’t say anything before walking away. With this simple gesture, the audience knows he’s upset but he has no time to deal with her insolence.
I have no qualms with the way Vader holds back that ship or how he takes it apart. Finally! His full power on display. I’ve been saying he’s too powerful of a character and you quickly write yourself into a corner with him. This is precisely what I was referring to, and it’s glorious.
I do however take issue with the ensuing scene where Reva faces off against Vader.
At this point in time Obi-Wan and the resistance have successfully fled, and there is no doubt Vader is angry. When someone is angry sometimes they can’t stand to look at the person. He knows Reva’s betrayal is coming, I wouldn’t have broadcasted to the audience that it was coming. I would have had them wait for it, and I wouldn’t have had Vader turn right away either.
Instead, when she finally ignites her light saber, I would have illustrated the minimal effort from Vader to stop that blow. I find an effortless stop more visually compelling. Then you lunge her back with a flicker of the wrist. She comes back at him, but Vader effortlessly dodges every move as if he can see her every move from a mile away. The scene does this to some effect, but I would’ve changed the framing to a closer proximity, make it intimate, since Reva is being emotional.
Let’s stop for a moment, and celebrate that brief moment when Vader lights up two sabers briefly. We all wondered how that would be after the introduction to Darth Maul in 1999. When he splits the saber in two I figured he might wield both in anger like we saw him do in 2002, Attack of the Clones. But I know it was a mere tease, and it worked! Hats off to the team for that brief but rewarding moment.
But I suppose Vader doesn’t need to wield two sabers at once. The wide framing of the sequence makes Vader look sloppy in the encounter. I would have had Vader stand his ground, and defend his position with minimal effort. It could have made for a visually pleasing sequence. (See: The Curse of the Golden Flower. Notice how Chow Yun-Fat fights the first half of the fight sitting down. That should be the standard to the choreography)
I know Vader is toying with her in this brief duel, but I am not entirely sure that I would have had them engage in it. After he takes her sword, I would have had him force choke her. In this position, you have two options, you either bring her towards Vader slowly with some dialogue thrown in for good measure. But I feel like we’ve seen this before, so I would have Vader walk towards her with dialogue thrown in for good measure. Perhaps a combination of both, having Vader walk towards her while simultaneously bringing her to him.
In any case, I would have dropped her to his feet, I would have done a call back to the imagery in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin has Count Dooku at his feet with two blades crossed, ready to execute him. Except this time, both blades are red.
What the episode does right is the blurry frame coming into focus, where Reva is seemingly dying while looking up at Vader. But then the angle pivots to a wide shot to show that the Grand Inquisitor was in fact alive. But it would’ve been far more effective to maintain this angle, and have him revealed by coming from behind Vader. This angle is so great, in fact, that I wouldn’t have left it. I would have had the Grand Inquisitor come towards her. The intimacy of that shot is far more compelling, because she is dying and as they walk away you can cut away.
From that angle you could also easily shift her attention to the flashing light in the sand. It gives her the strength to crawl over to it. When she flips over she plays it the hologram. The next thing you know she’s grabbing hold of her saber and you know she’s not done fighting. She will crawl out of the gutter once more, and Kenobi senses this.
Small changes can amount to changing a whole lot. Director Debrah has had the right ingredients and the right ideas from the inception of the show, but the execution needed some refining. I am curious if she had a tight deadline to meet because it is not the best representation of her skillset.