I know, I know, crazy, right? Obi-Wan is a-ma-zing. Who wouldn’t want to see him get his own film? He’s the mentor/father we always wanted: he’s smooth, unflinchingly noble, can influence people with a wave of his hand, and he knows exactly what to say to inspire Luke to find his own greatness…
And that’s precisely the problem. He’s too good, too powerful, too… perfect. He is the magic helper of the old fairy tales. He is the voice of destiny.
Which would make him a terrible main character.
Unless you’re a sociopath or complete cynic, it’s human nature to want to see the underdog triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. As viewers (or readers), we subconsciously take on the persona of the main character as we experience the story. The wider the power differential between the protagonist and antagonist, the more satisfying the win feels to us. Which means the stronger you make your main character, the stronger you must make your antagonist – and if we’re talking main characters on the level of gods, then you risk the problem of the antagonists becoming cartoonish and ultimately un-relatable. This “takes us out” of the story, creating an emotional separation between the viewer and the tale instead of feeling like we’re vicariously living through the events of the story ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, I am hungry wanting to know what happened to Obi-Wan after the events of Revenge of the Sith that led him to becoming the wise and hermited protector we find in A New Hope…
But don’t actually show me.
Leave me to my sense of wonder. Because it’s in this unknown space that the awe that is Obi-Wan blooms.
Magic helpers exist to play support, to provide the hero with tools (physical, emotional, spiritual), and to encourage the hero to push themselves to places they would otherwise never go physically or emotionally.
There’s a reason Tolkien limited Gandalf’s presence in the LotR books. He is simply too powerful. If he were to save his friends from every scrape on their adventure, they would never struggle or suffer – and therefore would never grow into the heroes they are meant to become. Don’t show me how Willy Wonka became a mad candy scientist.
Seeing behind their curtains ruins these mysterious icons for me and reduces them to human. And I don’t want them to be human.
Of course, if you’re convinced your main character must be a god, there are ways to mitigate the problem. You could strip them of everything that makes them a god and follow their journey as they get it all back again.
But the truth is that I’m a romantic, and still a kid at heart. I want to believe in magic, if only for the length of a story.