OBI WAN KENOBI
As I write this I am 34 years old and the year is 2012. I grew up on Star Wars. I was born in 1978, Star Wars was released in 1977, Empire in 1980 and Jedi in 1983. Not to mention the 2 Ewok movie spin-offs from 1984 and 1985. Back then stop-motion was still used on a regular basis to create creature effects in the movies. I was fascinated by the Kraken in the original Clash of the Titans and I loved the Tauntauns and the Rancor from the Star Wars movies. Star Wars seemed light years ahead of everything else coming out at the time and yet it was still full of extras in bad rubber masks. Werewolves and Praying Mantis’s trying to pass for aliens. These old film making techniques were part of the films charm and some of those rubber masked extras became some of my favorite action figures. I know I’m being nostalgic but I loved those old films. I wonder if I would have the same connection with Star Wars had I been a teenager when they first came out. I’m sure I would’ve still enjoyed them but it’s unlikely that I would’ve had the bed sheets(well Doug did), curtains and beach towels. For a few years as a kid, before G.I. Joe and Transformers really blew up, I was all about Star Wars.
As I got older I would watch the films every couple of years and I always enjoyed them. It had gotten to the point where I could recite the dialogue along with all the characters. They were great films, revisited more often than most other films from my childhood but for a good decade there they weren’t all that relevant. But then George Lucas announced that he would be re-releasing the original films with new footage and added effects in preparation for the release of a brand new trilogy of prequel films. This was huge news and my interest in the brand was rekindled. I started buying up all the new “Power of the Force” figures, characters that I had owned as a kid but had since given away. The year that Episode I hit theatres, 1999,
I was studying computer animation at McKenzie College. My entire school was full of animation nerds who had grown up on Star Wars, that’s why most of us were there in the first place. I was excited about the film anyway but being surrounded by my animation classmates all day everyday fed my excitement. Anticipation had built to a fever pitch as the release date loomed closer. The whole lot of us ended up going to the midnight screening on opening night, a few people dressed for the occasion. I remember Mark all painted up as Darth Maul. He looked great but it’s odd to think that no one knew anything about the character at the time other than the fact that he had a double sided lightsaber in the trailer. When the Lucas film logo appeared on screen the theater thundered with cheers and applause. Even more so when the title “STAR WARS” began scrolling up the screen. This was an event of intergalactic proportions. Sadly we were very quickly brought back down to Earth when in the opening scene we’re introduced to Nute Gungray. A green dude with a bad Asian accent and a goofy rubber mask whose mouth didn’t match up with the dialogue. Very quickly I realized that there was a possibility that this film may not live up to my expectations.
And it didn’t. I liked lots of things about it but it was not the masterpiece I had built up in my mind. Lucas had 15 years to work on this and he gives us Jar-Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd who can’t act for s**t as young Darth Vader, piss poor dialogue, inept Battle Droids, Midi-chlorians, and plenty more to complain about. All the senate talk and trade disputes were boring. Plus you introduced maybe the coolest character ever into the Star Wars mythos and then you cut him in half at the end. WTF! But I did enjoy it. Despite all those things I just mentioned it was still a new Star Wars film and it did have some high points as well. One thing I liked was the inclusion of A-list talent. You’d never know it from the awkward dialogue they were given to speak but there were some real thespians on that film. Natalie Portman, Sam Jackson, Liam Neeson..like hello. And then of course there was Ewan McGregor who first won me over as a toilet diving junkie in Trainspotting, who would be playing a young Obi Wan Kenobi. I actually think he did a pretty good job. As I was watching him I was thinking “can I see this guy growing up to be Alec Guiness?” and I could.
Like the movie itself, the Episode I action figures came with a lot of hype. My favorite toy publication (R.I.P. Toyfare) had filled their pages with Star Wars propaganda for months leading up to their release. Many toy stores actually held midnight events for the release of the toys. The stroke of twelve brought me to my local Walmart where I bought up probably 10 figures that first night. I bought the rest soon enough. I quickly acquired a massive collection of Phantom Menace toys. I bought a decent amount of toys based on Episode II when they came out but by Episode III I had Star Wars fatigue and didn’t buy any. One of the figures I got that first night was this one, young Obi Wan. Star Wars figures weren’t known for their detail at the time as is evident here. It’s not a bad figure and even the likeness to Mr. McGregor is passable but he still looks rather flat. There may be sculpted creases in his robe but it still looks like hard plastic. His face has no personality, the whole thing just seems sterile to me. Star Wars figures today are much better but this guy here seems closer to the old 80s toys than to the well sculpted and articulated modern figures. He’s alright though and god knows I was excited to get him at the time. 5 out of 10.