Obi-Wan Kenobi finished last week, and the finale was everything I’d hoped for. A spectacular duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan showed off the Jedi master’s fluid fighting style and the Sith Lord’s brutal strength. It was a phenomenal clash between former brothers and I’ll admit I had a little cry, but that may have been because I was hungover, and hangovers always make me more emotional than I already am.
Anyway, beyond some nostalgic tears, the main emotion I felt was excitement. Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi are back. Two of the greatest Force wielders to ever exist going toe-to-toe. The problem is that most of the Star Wars films and TV shows make the Force seem boring. It’s almost impressive when you think about it. There’s this magical, well, force, tethering everything together which allows people to shoot lightning from their fingertips and rip Imperial Star Destroyers out of orbit, but instead, it’s mostly used for cheap mind tricks and flinging small objects about.
Seeing Rey lose control and accidentally blast a transport to smithereens with lightning and watching as she and Kylo communicated over galactic distances like they were on a FaceTime call was wonderful, and gave me a new hope for the future of Star Wars on screen, but the first two episodes of Obi-Wan just contained more unimpressive tricks. A Jedi suspends a knife to stop it from hitting someone and Obi-Wan catches Leia as she falls. It’s all so plain. It’s probably by design, but that doesn’t stop the first two episodes being a drag.
Just like with the prequel trilogy, episode three is where things finally get interesting. Darth Vader walks through a settlement and shows us how he earned the reputation as the most frightening being in the galaxy. With just a flick of his wrist, he crushes people and snaps their necks – all without breaking his stride. It’s terrifying. You can see the fear and desperation on people’s faces as they fruitlessly struggle against the invisible hand that’s killing them.
He later uses the Force to extinguish fire – something we’ve not seen before. Water and earth are both toyed with as well, showing the elements are just mere playthings to Force sensitive individuals. Kenobi is able to move a crack along an underwater tunnel, making water burst through, drowning some Stormtroopers. Later, Vader puts his palm to the ground to rip it apart, causing a sinkhole to swallow Kenobi whole. Vader also wrestles an escaping transport to the ground as its engines sputter against the Force, dragging it back to the surface before he rips chunks out of the hull like it's made of tissue paper.
Something we also haven’t seen before is the Force being used to maneuver opponents during saber duels. When Vader fights with both Reva and Kenobi, we see him using hand gestures to throw them around and make them easier targets. Using the Force both offensively and defensively while swinging a lightsaber like a windmill is the kind of spectacle fans have clamored after for decades. In his fight against Reva he doesn’t even draw his own lightsaber, instead opting to use the Force to mockingly dodge and block her before snatching half of her own saber from her.
It’s a bit like that meme that questions why Jedi and Sith don’t spend all their battles using the Force to hit the off button on their opponent’s sabers while they duel. We’ve seen people throw objects or push enemies away during clashes, but nothing on the level of precision and delicate mastery Vader displays. Seeing two lightsabers crackle and hiss angrily as they lock against each other is electrifying, but seeing one strain and look like it’s about to bend as Vader uses nothing but his empty hand to keep a fatal swing at bay is another feeling entirely.
While I may mock the Jedi of old for throwing little droids and crates at their foes, it’s a perfectly useful combat strategy. In Obi-Wan, we see it done on a much bigger scale. Kenobi vs. Vader isn’t a fight between a Padawan and an old man, it’s a Jedi Master facing off against a Sith Lord. In the finale, Kenobi tries to flatten Vader with a huge boulder, and I sat stunned when Vader sent it flying away as if it weighed nothing. He then buries Kenobi under a cascade of stone, only for the Master to burst out of it and rain down a barrage of rocks on the cyborg before striking the defeating blow. It all shows off how truly powerful these old friends are.
The Force is really fucking cool, and I’m sick of nothing but the video games knowing it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the bounty hunters well enough, but there’s nothing quite like seeing a wizard and a cyborg use magic while swinging laser swords at each other. The Force is cool now, please don’t ruin it again, Disney.
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