‘Kenobi’ Finally Gave ‘Star Wars’ Fans What They Wanted

When Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader meet in A New Hope, the resulting battle was the first time the Star Wars creative team had ever depicted a lightsaber duel.

The duel is notably restrained, less fluid and flashy than later lightsaber battles in the franchise. As a result, some fans view it as a weak point of the film, expressing frustration with the technical limitations that hamper the fight between two fan-favorites – a much more heightened remake of the scene exists online, a glossy piece of fan fiction.

However, the New Hope duel is not nearly as underwhelming as some make it out to be; it’s as much about the conversation as it is the lightsabers. The simple exchange between the two tells the viewer everything we need to know about their history, their clash of values, while the duel itself feels tense, and painstakingly cautious.

It is a clash between two old masters who are both restraining themselves; neither unleash the full force of their lightsaber, and the fight ends abruptly, as Obi-Wan sacrifices himself to Vader.

Hence, the much-anticipated rematch between Obi-Wan and Vader during the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi delivers a more exciting battle, boasting the benefit of today’s digital effects, but also takes the time to delve into the history between the two, and to expose a glimmer of Vader’s humanity.

Aside from the excessive shaky cam, it’s a well-executed scene, one that gives Obi-Wan a horrifying look at Vader behind his mask, after the good Jedi manages to overpower his former apprentice, slicing through his breathing apparatus and helmet.

Fans seem to enjoy seeing Darth Vader at his most powerful and unhinged, such as tearing through a ship like tissue paper, slicing through soldiers in a hallway, or toying with Reva as though she were a ragdoll.

Refreshingly, something that stands out in the Kenobi duel is Vader’s terrible weakness, the tragedy of his very existence – this is the first time Obi-Wan has seen the ravaged face of the young man he left for dead, his greatest failure and source of guilt.

The crisp baritone of James Earl Jones’ Vader voice is blended with Hayden Christensen’s softer, uneven tone; the sputtering sound emphasizes how much of Vader’s intimidating presence relies on his suit, a fearsome mechanical shell that covers a broken man.

In response to Obi-Wan’s horror, Vader appears to comfort his former master, or perhaps, resents his pity. That distinctive Christensen smirk emerges from the shattered helmet, and Vader absolves Obi-Wan, taking full responsibility for his fall into the Dark Side.

On some level, it seems as though Vader is really speaking to himself, trying to make himself believe that his transformation was inevitable, that it had to be this way. Or perhaps, it was the final flicker of Vader’s humanity, before it is fully restored in Return of the Jedi.

It’s a great character moment, undoubtedly the best scene in this series, along with the practice duel between the two that takes place via flashbacks in the previous episode – both duels examine the dynamic between the two, the lightsaber action echoing their philosophical differences.

The tragic relationship between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan is one of the richest in Star Wars, and Kenobi, as uneven as it was, managed to deliver a truly satisfying scene between the two iconic characters.

Sometimes, fan service is good.

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