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Do We Know Too Much About Obi-Wan Kenobi for a Stand-Alone Movie About Him to Be Good?

The best ‘Star Wars’ stories have explored new ground. That’ll be tough to do in a movie about the universe’s most-present character.

Lucasfilm/Ringer illustration

News from Coruscant: The director and subject of the latest Star Wars film have been revealed. Stephen Daldry, director of Billy Elliot, The Hours, and four episodes of Netflix’s The Crown, will direct a stand-alone film about Obi-Wan Kenobi, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.

It’s a good fit—Daldry’s oeuvre is heavy on serious, sad British people and Obi-Wan is by far the most serious and British of the franchise’s heroes. It’s also, thanks to Sir Alec Guinness, the only role in eight Star Wars films so far to have generated an Academy Award nomination for acting.

There’s no script, and therefore no lead actor attached to the role. Since Disney took over Star Wars, having a script hasn’t meant what it used to as the stories for the films have been negotiable pretty much up until the night of the premiere, as original The Force Awakens screenwriter Michael Arndt, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, and Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the original directors of the untitled Han Solo film in production, can attest. Unlike Disney’s current cavalcade of Star Wars directors—J.J. Abrams, Edwards, Miller and Lord, Tony Gilroy, Colin Trevorrow, and Ron Howard—Daldry is not known as a director of action movies, and while an Obi-Wan movie would necessarily be more introspective than a Han Solo movie, any Star Wars film has to have its share of gunplay and space battles. Though you can’t imagine that Disney is too worried about that: If Daldry can’t hack it, the studio can always fire him midway through production and bring in—[throws dart at list of directors]—Matt Reeves to finish the job.

But the real troubling part is that we’re going back to Obi-Wan Kenobi. One of the best things about Star Wars is the literal galaxy of characters, cultures, and pieces of folklore that’s out there to be mined. In terms of world-building, Star Wars makes Game of Thrones look like a one-act play staged in a black box theater. And yet, the most only creatively interesting Star Wars film since the original trilogy was Rogue One, which has one thing in common with the best parts of the now-disowned Expanded Universe: It isn’t about Luke Skywalker. It introduced us to untold stories, new characters, and new worlds. Instead of continuing to do that, we’re putting on Mickey Mouse ears and throwing toy lightsabers at the stage while screaming, “PLAY THE HITS!”

Daldry will have his work cut out for him in finding new ground to cultivate with Obi-Wan, whose life story might be the most thoroughly told of any Star Wars hero. We see him, whether in episodes I through IV or in The Clone Wars animated series, from the moment he becomes a Jedi to the moment he dies, except for the 18 years he spends in a cave on Tatooine learning how to play the bouzouki while Luke grows up.

The Obi-Wan movie will probably be good, and we’ll learn what Taron Egerton or Aaron Taylor-Johnson or some other hunky British guy looks like in a beard and a cloak. But it probably won’t be interesting, and we won’t learn about the world even a couple of miles off the path we’ve already beaten.