We have been waiting for you, Obi-Wan.
We’ve watched you twirl, we’ve watched you die, we’ve watched you sit in a gigantic soup ladle and maintain a pleasant expression while learning of colossal, badly-aiming clone armies.
Now we anticipate “Life Lessons With Obi-Wan, Episode III Edition.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi — mentor, mentee, master of all things wonderfully dour — stands at the dawn of his day in the Tatooine suns.
Sex symbolThe “Star Wars” prequels plunge into several aspects of character development, among them the deeply vital information that Obi-Wan Kenobi was, in his youth, fully hot. If the ladies are lovin’ us some Obi-Wan, it is perhaps because we have no one else’s brown robes to cling to, here in this galaxy where behemoth spaceships have hyperdrives but, apparently, no bathrooms.
There simply aren’t a lot of men to lust after in the “Star Wars” universe. Han Solo is taken. Luke Skywalker is a sister-kissing feeb until the last 15 seconds of “Return of the Jedi.” Everybody else is consumed by evil, quick to be exploded or a curious shade of green.
Yes, we have much to treasure in this chrysalis form of young, hot Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, as portrayed in “Episode I,” has been waved aside as a tight-braided, lightsaber-up-his-butt sort, devoting a disproportionate percentage of his life to standing very still and occasionally declaring “Yes, Master.” It is an intergalactic tour de force of Sideshow Bobism.
It is also a grand-slam exploration of the vast emotional range lying within “Yes, Master.” Anger, thoughtfulness, disapproval, slight nausea: Obi-Wan has a “Yes, Master” for all seasons. For the bulk of the film, Kenobi barely cracks a smile, instead allowing his occasionally furrowed brow and his cha-cha lightsaber twirls to do the talking. And when he does break down, when the pain of losing a loved one overwhelms his careful training as his mentor dies in his arms, it is with one... final… sobbing… “Yes, Master.” The man has consistency, if not a thesaurus.
He speaks for all of usA beacon of skepticism and frowning, the Obi-Wan of “Episode I” glided through the film as the hushed conscience of the now clearly deranged George Lucas. Within his nicely muscled bod, Obi-Wan carried purely flanneled Original George — the George of real live midgets in real live robot costumes. Every time Obi-Wan scowled at a Gungan, an echoey, primordial form of George Lucas cried from deep within: “What hath I wrought?”
Kenobi seemed to realize, for instance, that things were not going to go well when young Anakin and his L.L. Bean backpack first skipped into the Jedi Temple. “That boy is dangerous,” he snapped. He knew — he knew — that the child would grow up to be the type of person who used “Sand is rough” as a pickup line, a person who Kenobi actually had to remind that use of one’s Jedi powers to feed fruit to one’s girlfriend qualifies as an outrageous case of Force abuse.
And when presented with Jar Jar Binks, Obi-Wan seconded the reaction of the Earth section of the universe. We recoiled into our jumbo-sized boxes of Junior Mints: What is this … thing?
Only one man knew, and he immediately attempted to usher it from our lives. That was no comic relief … that was a ragingly misguided attempt to flog officially licensed party hats.
“Why do I get the feeling we’ve just picked up another useless life form?” Kenobi asked on behalf of all mankind. He was so right that I wanted to hug him, to throw myself against his haughtily crossed arms with a sobbing, “You tried, young, hot Obi-Wan. You tried.”
“Episode II” Obi-Wan is a study in hard-edged maturity, a measured and stately Jedi Master intensely at one with the Force. We knew this because he had a beard.
Kenobi knows best?
What we did not know is where Kenobi went so horribly awry in the training of young Skywalker, which is a fairly major facet of the films’ narrative arc in the sense that the entire saga pretty much wouldn’t exist without a Vader to stomp about, billowing his cape and lethally pointing at bureaucrats.
It is indeed mysterious, as Obi-Wan offered himself as a highly responsible role model in “Episode II.” He didn’t like reckless driving; he disapproved of being chained to a big pillar as large animals with pincers approached; he just said no to deathsticks.
Where did he go wrong? Did he not give Anakin enough "Super Job!" reward stickers on his seatwork? Was he too strict? Too soft? Was it the way he shoved his apprentice into a flaming lava pit and left him for dead? What happened?
All we are sure of is that just as Kenobi reached an age when he was on the brink of going AARP-raving mad, his former student whacked him in half, at which point Obi-Wan completely vanished, leaving nothing behind but his faboo robe, his lightsaber and a damp sense of “Well, that can’t have been fun.” Obi-Wan Kenobi was, if nothing else, a man who cleaned up after himself.
“This will be a day long remembered,” intoned Darth Vader in “A New Hope.” “It has seen the end of Kenobi; it will soon see the end of the rebellion.”
Boy, did Darth enjoy a good intoning. He also loved to intone with a great degree of inaccuracy. Rather than accepting a forced-by-death retirement with dignity and a mobile home in Tampa, Kenobi then took to popping up every now and then in a translucent manner to issue incidental asides to Luke, gently revealing, for instance, the fact that the lad recently stuck his tongue down the throat of his own twin sister.
But in “Episode III,” we will indeed see the end of Kenobi. The next time we behold Obi-Wan, he will stride out of a sand dune in order to pinch Luke in the face. There are worse ways to pass one’s golden years.
All hail Kenobi and his massive, near-galaxy-ending screw up! For there is no “Star Wars” without him. Fare thee well, sweet, sweet Obi-Wan. Whenever we needed a shot of sanity and a good strong brow-furrow, you really were our only hope.
Freelance writer Mary Beth Ellis publishes , where she recently referred to the Popemobile as “B-16's new hoopty.”