Obi-Wan Kenobi is set to hit this galaxy in just two weeks, giving Star Wars fans one of their most desired projects in a decade. Joining Ewan McGregor in the series is fellow prequel trilogy alum Hayden Christensen, who will don the Darth Vader suit once more. The duo is poised to cross blades again in an intense confrontation that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has described as "the rematch of the century."
While some have reservations over a meeting between Obi-Wan and Vader that precedes A New Hope, there's been a collective outpour of enthusiasm for Christensen getting another crack at the role. The bulk of the Vader stories that have been told in canon are set either directly after Revenge of the Sith or during the original trilogy era, allowing Kenobi the opportunity to take a deeper dive into the mindset of the fallen Jedi who's more machine now than man.
Telling a story about Obi-Wan during his time in exile would be impossible without addressing the fate of Anakin Skywalker, making their long-awaited meeting a natural inclusion for the series. It wouldn't be a proper Star Wars tale of Jedi vs. Sith without lightsaber combat, and there's a strong expectation that the series' big duel matches or exceeds the climactic fight in Episode III. Fortunately, the Vader star has assured fans that they can look to see more from where the prequel trilogy's duels came from.
Hayden Christensen Talks Prequel-Style Fights and Vader
In an interview with Total Film via Naboo News, Hayden Christensen affirmed that the Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber fights will be in the form of the prequel trilogy:
"We’re more in line with the prequels than we are with how the fights are in the original trilogy. These characters have aged, but not that much yet."
The actor shared fond memories of his time working on the prequels with George Lucas, giving way to the excitement of reprising the Vader role:
“The experience of making the prequels was phenomenal. I mean, getting to work with George Lucas, and getting to play this character, I couldn’t have dreamed it up any better. I didn’t want it to end. It was a sad thing when it concluded. At the time, I thought that was that. I thought George had told his story, and my journey with the character was complete. After all of these years, to get to come back and to continue my journey extremely meaningful to me.”
For Kenobi, most of Christensen's preparation was physical to fill the frame of the Sith Lord's suit:
“Most of my work on this project was in preparation. The physical preparation was intense. I had to put on a decent amount of weight and size to fill up the suit.”
Darth Vader will be in his prime in the series, though Christensen noted the ever-present conflict that lingers within the villain:
“He is 100 percent a fully realised Vader. This is, in a lot of ways, Vader in his prime. But he’s a very complex character, and there’s an inherent struggle of identity that is always present – there’s inner conflict."
The tragic events of Anakin Skywalker's life are still raw for Vader, but Christensen emphasized the importance of recognizing the small element of the good man that remains:
"He’s always going to be struggling with the loss of Padmé. He’s got Anakin buried deep down inside. There always has to be that element of Anakin there, because he does eventually find redemption in the end – through the love of his son, no less. So there has to be that bit of him in there for Luke to be able to access. There’s a lot going on.”
2005 Called - It Wants Its Fights Back
Time has been kind to the prequel trilogy, though there are still many who meet the films with strong criticism. But one aspect of the projects that's been celebrated by nearly all fans since their respective releases has been the lightsaber duels. There are some who prefer the slower cadence to the emotional combat in the original trilogy, and others who find the baseball swings in the sequels to be preferable, but there's no denying the high-speed battles of the early 2000s are awe-inspiring.
It's usually a coin toss between Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes for the strongest duel in the series, both of which McGregor was a key participant in. For Revenge of the Sith, McGregor and Christensen practiced for hours a day over the span of several months, working to perfect the longest sword fight in cinematic history. The duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar is emotional and intense, holding the fate of the galaxy in the balance through intimate sequences, despite the massive set pieces.
A return to that style of fighting in Star Wars is a welcome one. Slower duels certainly have their place in the franchise, be it for the intention of focusing more on the characters or rivals simply being outmatched, but the faster and more intense prequel-style fights can accomplish everything necessary. The marketing for Obi-Wan Kenobi gives off a strong 2005 feeling, hearkening back to the days of Episode III; with the fights following that film's precedent, the new series should feel like a true continuation of events.
Vader's Inner Anakin
Something that will largely fly under the radar is Christensen's strong understanding of Anakin and Vader. It's fascinating to see an actor so in tune with the character he plays - especially 17 years after last performing the role. This is something the actor has demonstrated since the prequels released, shown in full force in "The Return of Darth Vader" featurette for Revenge of the Sith's DVD release. In addition to watching The Clone Wars and Rebels, Christensen's deeper connection to his character promises to yield an incredible performance.
Darth Vader is by far the most complex character in Star Wars. His life sucks. His pain becomes everyone else's. Every moment of his existence is spent in anguish, his being a constant reminder of everything he lost and all he threw away. Padmé naturally tops out on that list, alongside the child he believed died with her. Kenobi will naturally be centered on the titular character, but any opportunity to explore what's going on in Vader's head will allow for a nuanced portrayal by Christensen to build on the character's tragic struggle.
The physical duel between Vader and Obi-Wan will see the old friends attempt to resolve their differences, and what remains of Anakin Skywalker will be in conflict as well. Obi-Wan is a living representation of what Vader's life once was and can no longer be, something he seeks to destroy. Anakin is the internal struggle that tugs at Vader, though his former master won't be able to reach him... but showing the small glimmer of light adds to how his son Luke will.
Obi-Wan Kenobi debuts on Disney+ on May 27.