The Ewan McGregor-led Star Wars series' finale showcased the much-awaited rematch between Hayden Christensen's Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi, which came roughly 10 years chronologically after their last duel on Mustafar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
The two former friends engaged in an intense clash where Kenobi managed to defeat Vader once more before their final confrontation in 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope.
How George Lucas Influenced Obi-Wan Kenobi's Darth Vader Battle
In an interview with Variety, Matthew Wood, Obi-Wan Kenobi's supervising sound editor, talked about the development of the sound design for the series' rematch between the titular Jedi and Darth Vader in the finale.
Wood confirmed that Star Wars creator George Lucas was the one who organized the sound team for Kenobi and Darth Vader's rematch, noting that he had the whole team "be involved in the project from a very early time:"
"One of the things that we have here at Skywalker Sound is the legacy of working with George Lucas. He really had us be involved in the project from a very early time. So we knew that there was going to be a confrontation between two Legacy characters."
Obi-Wan Kenobi's supervising sound editor continued by saying that they made sure to honor Ben Burt's legacy at Skywalker Sound:
"We want to make sure we honor, what’s come before us, you know, in the legacy of Ben Burt and what he’s created here at Skywalker Sound and everyone is very respectful of that material."
During the much-discussed rematch, there was a moment when Darth Vader's mask was shattered by Kenobi.
According to Wood, the sound crew spent "an extra set of time" working on that specific scene since it was the first time that fans saw Hayden Christensen's face through the mask:
"We did leave an extra set of time just to work on this one scene because it’s a moment where you know you’re seeing the face of Hayden Christensen through the mask for the first time other than when it was put on in ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ That battle between friends that we finally get to see from the prequel era when we saw them as friends and then we see Anakin on the side of a lava flow. And that’s the last time Obi-Wan sees him. So this was a moment for them to have some humanity."
Wood explained how the scene managed to perfectly blend the performances of Christensen and original Darth Vader voice actor James Earl Jones:
"We really wanted to make sure that Hayden Christensen’s performance came through from the day. So we had that very fragile intimate scene there. But then in the meantime, we also had the voice of James Earl Jones to come through and so we tried a really nice blend of those two moments. We found the great moments where you can start the sentence with Hayden and end it with James."
The series supervising sound editor then talked about how the team tried to "make the cracked mask sound scary" in the scene:
"The mask which keeps him alive is broken so his health is failing at the same time, but he’s driven by anger. We really tried to make the cracked mask sound scary, like it was starting to malfunction to the point where his body is not going to be able to function anymore and so Obi-Wan’s effectively leaving him for dead again on this planet."
Wood reflected on Christensen's own reaction to seeing his performance, noting that he was "very happy to hear" what he did during that pivotal sequence:
"And Hayden [Christensen,] I know personally. I saw him after we aired it and he was very happy to hear that, like his performance was there. We wanted to preserve that humanity and that was something that was done in the mix."
Wood also reflected on making the moment "very special:"
"So, we just really set aside this moment to be very special, and reverent to these two Legacy amazing characters and let their drama come through at the same time as all the fun sound effects and the amazing music that John Williams had made their to all come through. That was the job of the mixer, which was fantastic there."
In the duel, Kenobi was buried by rocks when Vader unleashed his Force powers on his former Master. Despite that, Kenobi managed to power through, using flashes of his memories with Luke and Leia as his anchor.
Wood explained how the combined efforts of the sound and picture crew helped showcase the "right moments" during that sequence:
"We wanted to feel Obi-Wan when he gets buried by rocks there. We wanted to feel his shutdown and then his resurgence. A lot of that was sort of mapped out by Kelly Dixon and Josh Earl in the Picture Department coming up with a moment where we’re almost hearing flashbacks that are happening inside Obi-Wan’s head. We had a lot of material there to work with, Legacy material, and we just wanted to showcase the right moments that show his acceleration of, ‘I’m going to bust out of here and continue.’"
The sound supervisor also acknowledged Obi-Wan's strong Force powers and how the right dynamics and balancing helped navigate the character's newfound strengths:
"You see Obi-Wan do some things that we’ve never seen before as far as his strengths are concerned. He’s picking up giant rocks and spitting them around and all that. So that’s just the dynamics of that mix and that balancing of that to feature those moments."
Meanwhile, Bonnie Wild, one of Obi-Wan Kenobi's re-recording mixers, revealed that there was "trial and error" in trying out different rock sounds for the duel, noting that "some of that is legacy and some of that's new design:"
"Scott had particular ideas of the rock sounds. And so there’s trial and error. So John Borland, the designer, and Mike Levine, one of the sound effects editors were trying out different rock sounds. Some of that is legacy and some of that’s new design and just things like that because when you get the music as well, it’s figuring out what is going to work as well. You discover new challenges when you’re putting it all together."
Why George Lucas' Presence in Star Wars Projects is Important
Although Star Wars ushered in a new era, George Lucas still has a consistent presence behind the scenes.
The reveal of Lucas' deep involvement in organizing Obi-Wan Kenobi's sound team cemented the fact that the filmmaker still has a passion for Star Wars.
Based on Matthew Wood and Bonnie Wild's comments, Lucas' work also allowed the sound team to experiment with blending legacy sounds from Skywalker Sound to new ones in order to enhance fans' audio experience.
Hopefully, as more Star Wars projects are released on Disney+, Lucas could collaborate more behind the camera to improve them.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is streaming on Disney+.