Obi-Wan Kenobi Is So, So Bad At Disguises

C'mon Ben, stormtrooper helmets are right there!

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Ewan McGregor looks handsome in a beard and scruffy robes in Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney Plus.
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Ewan McGregor looks handsome in a beard and scruffy robes in Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney Plus.

This is Obi-Wan Kenobi's idea of a disguise.

Disney Plus

For a guy who spends his working life sneaking into heavily guarded enemy strongholds, Obi-Wan Kenobi is truly, truly terrible at disguises.

The Disney Plus miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi, streaming every Wednesday until June 22, opens with the beaten and broken former Jedi Knight in hiding. He's failed his protege, lost his closest friends and was unable to save the society to which he dedicated himself. Now the evil Empire has taken over, and all he can do is eke out a craven existence of menial labor for scraps amid the dunes of a barren planet.

Frankly, however, it's amazing he survived at all. That's how bad he is at concealing his identity. This incompetence for pretense begins with his refuge on Tatooine: Of all the myriad planets of the galaxy, he pitches up on one he's been to before. And does he get a haircut? Dye his beard? Start rocking a hat? No. He does none of those things. He says his name is "Ben" and then calls it a day.

When young Princess Leia is captured, he emerges from hiding to face the entire military apparatus of the galaxy (plus collaborating civilians), all of whom are on the lookout for Jedi. So how does he avoid being marked as a member of a group whose signature look, famous throughout the galaxy, was a brown robe and brown hood?

He puts on a brown robe and hood.

Now, I know this is a TV show, and obviously a bit of suspension of disbelief is required. I'm the last person who'd suggest covering up Ewan McGregor's swoonsome visage for even a second (sigh). But they could at least show "Ben" making some attempt at a disguise. Disguises can be a lot of fun (hello, Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible). Just look at that classic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones struggles to find a guise in his own size. And from A New Hope to Rogue One to Tala in the new series, Star Wars is full of exciting scenes of people dressing for the mission.

Indira Varma's Imperial officer in Obi-Wan Kenobi
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Indira Varma's Imperial officer in Obi-Wan Kenobi

Tala gets it.


At the height of his powers, the younger Obi-Wan could saunter into enemy bases with the confidence of a man who was taught how to kill people by Liam Neeson. In the Clone Wars cartoon he once had surgery to adopt the identity of a ruthless bounty hunter. But generally he seems to be guilty of complacency, one of the key failings of the Jedi. When you've got that ol' Jedi mind trick to fall back on, maybe you're content to just stay in your brown hooded comfies instead of having to struggle in and out of enemy uniforms every five minutes. In the original 1977 A New Hope, the older Alec Guinness version of Obi-Wan Kenobi handwaved his way through a checkpoint of stormtroopers like he was daring them to step to him. And when his comrades donned stormtrooper armor to infiltrate the Death Star, Obi-Wan was like, nah, I'm-a just tiptoe through the tulips, say something.

But Ben, this middle-aged Obi-Wan on Disney Plus, has been out of commission for 10 years. He's reluctant to use his lightsaber and struggles to even connect with the Force. This is a guy who needs to start any adventure with a trip to Supercuts and a new sweater in literally any color except brown, or he won't last five minutes. 

And yet... In a lucky break of truly galactic proportions, there is only one entity in the Star Wars galaxy that's worse at disguises than Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise

As bad as Obi-Wan Kenobi is at concealing himself, the Empire is truly awful at seeing through even the most-half-assed masquerade. Amid the hundreds of Imperial security guards in the Inquisitor fortress in episode 4, how did no one spot a dude limping for the exit in a weirdly lumpy coat with four feet sticking out the bottom? And how in the name of Tatooine's twin suns did those stormtroopers in episode 3 not clock him instantly? Troopers who, I might add, were looking for him specifically, but didn't recognize the guy literally riding in the back of a truck with them.

Even when alerted to something fishy by the treacherous trucker Freck (booooo!), the Imperials had to summon a droid to scan his face. Don't they have photographs in Star Wars? Put out a damn APB!

Not only that, but stormtroopers provide any enemies of the Empire with, deadass, the best disguise ever. Every Imperial base is crammed with dudes wearing identical outfits with their faces completely covered! Get your hands on one of those crisp white ensembles, and you can strut around like you own the place -- it's the evil equivalent of a high-visibility vest and a clipboard.

Which makes it completely inexplicable that when sneaking into the Inquisitor fortress, Obi-Wan knocks out a stormtrooper and then just... leaves the body behind. Hey Ben, have you forgotten your cool trooper armor from the Clone Wars? That was a look! Put the damn helmet on and go liberate Leia! 

Speaking of Leia, the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries has been criticized because its placement in the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope further strains the already tortured continuity between movies. Specifically, shouldn't Leia be more affected by Obi-Wan's death in A New Hope if she knows him from her childhood? But I'd argue the series establishes one huge piece of continuity: After seeing Obi-Wan's laughable camouflage, Leia really understands the value of a solid disguise. When it comes time to rescue her popsicle poppa Han Solo, she doesn't walk into Jabba's Palace wearing her own clothes like Luke or throw on a hat and have done with it like Lando. Oh no: Leia not only puts on a helmet, she comes up with a whole damn backstory.

There's clearly no disguising how much this is bugging me. Don't get me wrong, I think Obi-Wan Kenobi is a great show. But it's clearly too much to ask that McGregor's Obi-Wan will ever don a decent disguise, because if you've got a big movie star in your TV show you want to get your money's worth. No one at Lucasfilm would make a TV show where you can't see the lead character's face because he's wearing a helmet the whole time.

That would be crazy!

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