Last night Star Wars fans were probably celebrating. After a lot of speculation and wishful thinking, reports claim that Disney and Lucasfilm are actively developing a solo film for everyone's favourite Jedi master: Obi-Wan Kenobi. It's something fans have been pestering Ewan McGregor and Lucasfilm about since Disney revived the franchise, and now it looks like it's finally happening.
The only problem is that the best story the film could have told was already done on animated spin-off Star Wars: Rebels. Turn away now if you haven't seen the 22nd episode of the 3rd season, and are stupid enough to think I won't discuss what happens.
The episode, titled Twin Suns, features the showdown that Star Wars fans had been waiting for since it was revealed Maul had survived the end of the Clone Wars and the subsequent purge of active force users.
In previous episodes both Ezra and Maul completed in a ritual they had seen earlier in the series, using two holocrons to discover how to defeat the Sith. This revealed to them that Obi-Wan Kenobi was alive, and knew of the means to defeat the Sith (Luke). In Twin Suns a holocron message informs Ezra that he needs to go to Tatooine to save Obi-Wan from Maul. After crashing a stolen ship on the desert planet he falls unconscious, later waking to find that he had been rescued by old-man Obi-Wan. After Maul finds them both Obi-Wan sends Ezra to safety and faces Maul for one last fight.
Naturally he won, but the whole thing was very anti-climatic. See for yourself.
There's a build-up of tension and Obi-Wan ends the fight with three swings of his lightsaber. It really was not the kind of epic fight people were hoping for. Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni has defended the fight, saying that it showcases the differences between Obi-Wan and Maul. Obi-Wan is older, wiser, and more calculated that any of the times he faced Maul in the past, while Maul has remained exactly the same. He even used the same move that killed Qui-Gon Jin in this fight, which Obi-Wan anticipated and used as an opportunity to end the fight quickly and decisively.
Darth Maul was the highlight of the Phantom Menace, and the final lightsaber battle was without a doubt the best part of the film. While the logic behind the Rebels duel is sound, Darth Maul really needed a better send off. The Obi-Wan film would have been a great place to do this, spending another two hours with not only Ewan McGregor (hopefully) but also the most fearsome Star Wars villain that isn't Vader.
Plus fans love lightsaber battles, and they are arguably the only parts of the prequels that were actually worth a damn. Any opportunity for Lucasfilm to add some epic lightsaber duels to the silver screen should be taken without hesitation, because having Obi-Wan use his lightsaber on people with guns just isn't as interesting. Unless he went full Darth-Vader-in-Rogue-One, but would a Jedi go on a rampage like that? Not likely.
There are probably good reasons behind why the Maul/Obi-Wan finale was done on TV - even though it's the kind of thing fans would have loved to have seen on the big screen. For starters Star Wars films have mass market appeal, while the TV series do not. Especially not since those TV series are primarily aimed at children, which is why they aired on Cartoon Network and DisneyXD respectively. Most people won't want to watch something they deem a 'kid's show', and while the serious fans will watch and enjoy
While Disney has revamped the expanded Star Wars canon since the acquisition, filmmakers still have to approach the films as though the audience is totally ignorant of everything that isn't an existing Star Wars film.
Herein lies the problem, because according to the Star Wars films Darth Maul is dead. Chopped in half at the end of The Phantom Menace and dropped down a very deep hole. His return took place on The Clone Wars, progressing his story beyond what we supposedly saw in the film and eventually bringing him into Rebels. Having Maul in another film would need to explain all that without detracting from the new story being told. It would be an incredibly difficult feat, and it doesn't feel realistic that Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy could release a statement telling people to go and watch the cartoons to figure out what's going on.
It's not like the films completely ignore the TV series, the presence of Saw Gerrera in Rogue One is proof of that, but his inclusion barely needed any explanation. He was described as a rebel extremist, and that's all anyone needed to know - regardless of whether they saw his Clone Wars debut or not.
But then again, I suppose it's a good thing that a Star Wars spin-ff isn't predictable. Rogue One focused on an event we all knew the ending of, and Han Solo has already been confirmed to focus on key points of Han's pre-rebellion life (like getting the Millennium Falcon and befriending Chewbacca). What can the Obi-Wan movie include? It can't be Darth Maul, so I am completely stumped.
There's a 19 year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, and Disney has barely scratched the surface of what happened to Obi-Wan and the wider Star Wars universe during that time. Obviously we've seen his brief appearance on Rebels, and a few fragments of his journal in Marvel's ongoing Star Wars series, but that's it. 19 years is a very long time, and who's to say what Obi-Wan got up to.
One obvious story people might speculate about is all dependent on revelations in December's The Last Jedi. We know that we'll learn more about Rey's parentage in the film, and one popular fan theory is that she's Obi-Wan's granddaughter (she's too young to be his regular daughter). It's probably wishful thinking that her heritage ties in with previous films so neatly, but if it turns out to be true (and it might not) then the story of how Obi-Wan ended up with a child might be the way to go. Jedi are, after all, supposed to be celibate.
McGregor in Season 3 of Fargo
The time period is also going to be an issue to resolve. Mainly because Ewan McGregor looks nothing like Alec Guinness did in A New Hope. While a 2020 release date would be 19 years after the release of Revenge of the Sith, I'm pretty sure he isn't going to morph into an old man before then. It doesn't help that he'll be 49 in 2020, whereas Alex Guinness was in his 60s when he made the first Star Wars film.
Living on a desert planet can't be good for your skin, which could account for the rapid ageing, but it does mean setting the whole film immediately before A New Hope is out of the question. Particularly since Wookieepeedia says Twin Suns, which features full-on Alec Guinness Obi-Wan, is set two years before the film. CGI is an option, but that's going to be problematic - particularly since Guinness wasn't a big fan of the franchise in the first place. In contrast Tarkin actor Peter Cushing apparently was, making his recent CGI resurrection less unethical.
But there's always the route of ageing up McGregor with make-up and CGI, and just ignoring the physical differences between the two actors. They did a decent job of it in Fargo.
Whatever ends up happening, it's highly unlikely Lucafilm would risking screwing things up. Star Wars basically prints money for them and Disney, so it'll do its damnedest to make sure they do Obi-Wan Kenobi justice. It's a huge shame that that story can't include Darth Maul, because that would have been an incredible spectacle to see, but for now I'm just happy that there's a very good chance that this film will actually get made.