Begun, the new Star Wars rumors have. The usually reliable Heat Vision blog at The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that the next installment in the Star Wars extended universe (after the director-juggling Han Solo prequel and, probably, a Boba Fett film) will be an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie. No word on who’ll play the Jedi—it was Alec Guinness in the first three movies and Ewan McGregor in the prequels—but Billy Elliot’s Stephen Daldry is in talks to direct.
Chatter about a new Star Wars movie, especially a non-saga iteration, fires up the WIRED Culture Slack channel like lightsabers in the arena on Geonosis. And our writers Emma Grey Ellis, Brendan Nystedt, and Adam Rogers have particularly strong opinions. Nobody seems too afraid—fear leads to anger, anger to hate, etc. But … concerned? Perhaps. Nerdy? Definitely.
Adam Rogers: News of an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie makes me feel a little like the mid-1930s particle physicist who, when informed of the surprise discovery of the muon, said: Who ordered that? I love the Star Wars universe, but unless I’m forgetting a background player, Old Ben from beyond the Dune Sea is the only character to appear in all seven saga movies (if you count his voice wafting into Star Wars: The Force Awakens), both iterations of the Clone Wars cartoon, the Rebels cartoon (where he’s one side of the single best lightsaber fight in the entire canon), and at least two books. The point of the extended universe, I thought, was to explore places we haven’t yet seen. I’ve been from one end of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of Ben Kenobi. Who’s with me?
Emma Grey Ellis: I’m right there with you, Adam. This idea seems about as natural and necessary to the franchise as, well, all those “improvements” Lucasfilm made to the original trilogy. (Han shot first, and CGI Jabba is not my Jabba.) But I’m also willing to admit that I’m pretty hostile to the idea of Star Wars prequels in general. The eminently snoozy Attack of the Clones was the first Star Wars movie I got to see in theaters, and I’m still kind of salty about it. I can’t imagine how journeying back to Obi-Wan’s life as a mud hut hermit will feel any more urgent or compelling.
Rogers: We just know a lot about Kenobi already. We’ve seen him as a padawan, as a Jedi, as a general, as a silent guardian of Luke’s, and then a mentor, even as a Force ghost. I’m not saying I need something ultra-obscure, like delving into the early touring years of Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band. But … well, is there anything left to see here? What’s the plan?
Brendan Nystedt: Do I have to be the lone voice of support here? Ugh, alright! I think that Obi-Wan keeps coming back for one simple reason: He’s a deep, flawed, essential character. Without his mistakes, we have no Vader. Without his wisdom, where would Luke be? There are roughly 19 years of Ben’s life as a hermit on Tatooine that haven’t been explored yet. We’ve seen a little glimpse of it in Rebels, and it’s been discussed a tiny bit in the main Marvel title, but other than that I think it’s a time period still ripe for new stories.
Also, this movie doesn’t need to be an epic that ties into any of the other stories. I think there’s an idea with fandom that every film has to contribute to the larger story in some great way. But why not make a cool, fun swashbuckling adventure set in the desert starring Obi-Wan?
Another great reason to make this happen: Both Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton have expressed interest in coming back as Obi-Wan and Owen Lars. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this Prequel Opinion™, but McGregor was one of the best things in Episodes I-III. I’d relish the opportunity to see him light up the screen one more time.
Ellis: It’s a great universe, and Obi-Wan is a great character—period. With Ewan McGregor and the right writers, I’m sure it could be super entertaining. But my real gripe with this movie is that it feels reactionary. To me, making prequels indicates one of the following: a rich and under-explored back catalog, serious writers’ block, or a fanbase unhappy with where the original material ended up. I’d argue an Obi-Wan prequel feels more like a combination of the latter two options than the former. J.J. Abrams’ and Gareth Edwards’ Force Awakens and Rogue One casting choices—female leads and relatively diverse supporting players—sliced open a tauntaun full of bigotry. A prequel centering on a beloved (white, male) character is a great way for them to sop up any money they might have lost to the #boycotts.
Nystedt: I don’t know if this is any kind of a course-alteration for Lucasfilm. I think that especially with the recently-launched Forces of Destiny cartoon and toy line aimed at young girls, they’re still going to try to make the tent as big as possible. If anything, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy was proven right by TFA and RO—both films were international blockbusters that made a bundle of cash for Disney in spite of whiny internet manchildren.
Ellis: Absolutely! I just wonder if they aren’t considering how best to have their cake and eat it too. It’s starting to feel like they’re wooing a new generation of fans with Episode VII and onwards while also churning out prequels to smooth things over with the more traditionalist parts of the fanbase. I mean—to digress just a little—how inclusive is a Han Solo prequel really going to be? Can it be anything other than a literal orgy of smarmy machismo and gender politics native to the 1970s? I really hope so. And I hope this Obi-Wan movie proves me wrong, too. I’m just … an anxious nerd.
Rogers: Listen, it’s a good pitch, but I just don’t see Lucasfilm going for Han Solo and the Orgy of Smarmy Machismo as a title. Feels off-putting.
I will say, at least glancingly relatedly, one of the best parts of Comic-Con International in San Diego this year was the stream of kids dressed as Rey. That’s a tectonic shift in this universe’s signifiers. And casting Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the Han Solo movie could just as easily be an attempt to clean whatever taint of 1970s misogyny Han and Lando might still have left on them.
I think you’re right, though, that an Obi-Wan movie—whatever period of his life it’ll be set in—is more likely to be comfort food for the base. If the trends laid down by the existing anthology films hold, it’ll be even-younger Obi-Wan, and if I were pitching I’d maybe attempt a university-years story set at the Jedi Academy. Qui-Gon, Dooku, and Yoda can flitter by, and you can cast supporting pals. Harry Potter in Star Wars Land, my friends.
Nystedt: They can leave the machismo on the cutting room floor—I want the Han Solo movie to be an orgy of space capes!
As long as we have folks like Claudia Gray, Chuck Wendig, and Rian Johnson pushing the envelope and bringing us fresh Star Wars, I think there’s a time and a place for a bit of comfort food.
Ellis: I’ll give you that. As long as it doesn’t become the only thing on the menu—or divert too much money and talent away from the rest of the franchise. It’s not what I look to sci-fi for, but I can accept that some people like their future with a dash of the past.