Out of all of the classic characters within the massive Star Wars universe, Obi-Wan Kenobi is certainly one of the most popular. He was first brought to life on the big screen by legendary actor Alec Guinness who played him in the original trilogy.
When the prequel trilogy came about, Ewan McGregor stepped into the famous role, a role he will soon be reprising in the highly anticipated Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+. While both Guinness and McGregor have been celebrated by fans for their versions of the character, at the end, which of these two made for the better Obi-Wan Kenobi?
The Forgotten Warrior
The image of Obi-Wan emerging in the desert with his robe on instantly cements him as a compelling character in this story. And he feels like he carries a long and interesting journey with him, but one that has been forgotten.
Guinness carries himself with the kind of gravitas and presence that makes the audience feel as though he truly could have been this great warrior in another lifetime. And the fact that those days are behind him yet he is pulled back into the war makes him a bold hero.
Given how much of an icon Obi-Wan became, it is easy to forget how brief his time in the first Star Wars was. But Guinness makes the most of his screen time and Obi-Wan gets to go out in an unforgettable way.
As he faces off with Darth Vader, Obi-Wan knows this is where his journey ends. But he faces it with complete bravery, achieving a mental victory over Vader and allowing Luke and the others to escape. Even without knowing his entire journey to that point, it is a powerful moment.
For the first act of A New Hope, the audience is very much like Luke Skywalker. They were teased with this grand adventure happening in this galaxy far, far away, but first, they have to get off this dull and sandy planet. Obi-Wan is that guide to the adventure.
He is the character that opens up the story to a whole lot of exciting elements. He begins telling Luke about his father, the legends of the Jedi, and the Clone Wars. He immediately becomes a character the audience wants to follow anywhere.
The Old Mentor
In the original trilogy, Obi-Wan perfectly fills the role of the old and wise mentor who guides the young hero on his journey. Guinness has the perfect sensibilities to carry a role like this as he stands out among the cast of young actors.
Having that older mentor character helps to make the journey of Luke Skywalker all the more impactful. Even when he comes back as a Force ghost, Obi-Wan brings that sense of wisdom and experience with him.
George Lucas was able to pull off a lot of different tones and feels in the original trilogy. With so many big concepts and colorful characters, Obi-Wan is really an essential piece of the puzzle that helps to ground the story a lot more.
Guinness brings a sense of sophistication to the role that really helps the audience understand the Jedi. In fact, it is Guinness’s great performance that really establishes how the Jedi will be depicted in the entire franchise.
The prequels do a fine job of exploring Obi-Wan’s downfall and what led to him living in isolation at the beginning of A New Hope. However, it almost seems unnecessary as Guinness’s performance in A New Hope really communicates that backstory quite effectively.
Guinness brings a world-weariness to his performance that works quite well. It’s easy to imagine that this man has been through so much and experienced incredible loss that led to his life of exile.
Obi-Wan And Darth Vader
Darth Vader is obviously one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, but a big part of why he is so effective is because of his relationship with Obi-Wan. The audience gets to learn more about this intimidating figure through Obi-Wan which makes Vader more interesting.
The confrontation between the two characters is even more interesting and really opens up the audience’s mind to this long and complex history between them. It is also such an interesting end to their relationship as Obi-Wan chooses to die by Vader’s hand.
As much as Guinness stood out as part of the ensemble in A New Hope, McGregor is the one who gets to be front and center in his own story. Fans have been waiting for an Obi-Wan solo story for a long time and it is clear there is so much more to explore about him.
Time will tell how worthwhile it will be to return to this character, but the fact that McGregor is the one who gets to evolve him in ways fans have never seen will only help to cement his status in the role.
Room For Growth
Seeing the old man Obi-Wan was in the original trilogy, it is quite impactful to be introduced to his younger self in The Phantom Menace. Though Anakin is seen as the central figure for the prequels, Obi-Wan’s journey is perhaps even more compelling.
Fans get to see a more reckless and untrained Jedi. But they also see how he became the powerful figure he was in A New Hope. Seeing him start as the apprentice and watching him grow makes everything that follows much more powerful.
While the showdown between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope is an iconic scene, few fans would argue that it is an exciting action sequence. The lightsaber duel is quite slow-moving and dull despite the impact of its outcome.
However, Obi-Wan really gets to prove why he was one of the most legendary Jedi in the prequels as he has plenty of impressive action sequences. The audience gets to see him in all his glory, fighting Darth Maul, Jango Fett, and Anakin Skywalker. McGregor really pulls off the action hero role nicely.
With the wisdom and experience Obi-Wan has in the original trilogy, he feels like a character who is always in control. Even when he gives his life, he does it with a smirk and suggests it all fit into his plan. So it is compelling to watch the younger Obi-Wan stumble in the prequels.
Seeing his young apprentice turn to the dark side is a very painful moment for him. While Obi-Wan’s interactions with Darth Vader in the later movies are filled with disappointment in how Anakin turned out, McGregor portrays him as someone filled with guilt for having failed his friend.
Most people would not have expected Obi-Wan to be one of the more comedic characters in the prequel trilogy but that turned out to be the case. McGregor’s more youthful take on the character gives him a cheeky sense of humor that works surprisingly well for the character.
While other comic relief characters like Jar Jar Binks felt forced, the humor that is infused in Obi-Wan’s character makes him more likable without ever robbing the character of his more serious qualities.
His Solo Missions
Following the death of Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan becomes a Jedi master and really steps into the forefront of the story. As Anakin looks after Padme and develops their romance, Obi-Wan goes on solo missions as a Jedi warrior.
These are some of the best and most fun aspects of the prequels. It is the audience’s first chance to see how Jedi are used to bring peace around the galaxy. In Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan plays detective, hunting down Jango Fett while he goes after General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith.
Obi-Wan And Anakin
After seeing that face-off between Obi-Wan and Vader, fans wanted to learn more about how these two got to that place. And that relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan is the most important one in the prequels and what makes those movies worthwhile.
It is a fascinating journey seeing these two meet in their youth, Obi-Wan training him by his side, and the eventual tragedy of them going against one another. The fact that the audience knows the dark ending this friendship has in store only makes it all the more interesting to watch unfold.
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