Movies

It’s Weird How Bad Ben Kenobi Screwed Up Everything At Mos Eisley

As you read this, it is probably the year 2020. (If you come from the future, randomly finding this post in, say, 2024, you can ignore that first sentence — also, if you are reading this in 2024, it’s nice to know at least some part of the world still has working electricity.) Anyway, my point is that 2020 will be the first calendar year without a Star Wars movie since 2014. Now, we will get a second season of The Mandalorian, which is great because that show is awesome. But on the movie side, yes, it’s time for a break. The end of 2019 — with both The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker, and everyone watching the original movies on Disney+ (Maclunkey!) — felt like an onslaught of Star Wars. So much so that, right now it feels quiet. Maybe too quiet. But, during that onslaught, while rewatching the original Star Wars, something really stood out this time (other than Maclunkey) — boy, Ben Kenobi is a terrible negotiator and could not have handled the whole sequence at Mos Eisley worse.

So, as you probably remember, Ben and Luke both wanted off Tatooine but neither of them owned a starship, so they had to hire someone to help them. Ben had to get to Alderaan to deliver the stolen Death Star plans. And Luke’s aunt and uncle had just been burned to death and, well, he’d been wanting to leave for awhile anyway so this seemed like a good time to go. (I want to pause for a second to point out how deliberately paced a plot point this really is. Could you imagine a sequence today where two characters in Star Wars need to go to another planet but just can’t because they don’t own a vehicle? And it actually takes them awhile to figure it out? I miss stuff like this.) So, Ben and Luke and the droids go to Mos Eisley, a spaceport where Ben thinks he can find a pilot for hire who will take them to Alderaan.

Now, the goal here is to keep a low profile, negotiate a good deal, and get out of town before the Empire figures out where they are. So, of course, the first thing Ben Kenobi does inside the cantina is kill a guy with his lightsaber. Now, there is so much that’s pretty hilarious about that. First of all, again, Ben and Luke are trying to keep a low profile and the first thing Ben does is MURDER someone with an ancient weapon from a group that’s not supposed to exist anymore. Okay, yes, Doctor Evazan and Ponda Baba (Walrus Man!) did start the altercation with Luke. And Ben did try to diffuse the whole thing with a free drink, but that escalated from zero to sixty pretty quickly. Look, we just saw Ben use a Jedi mind trick on some Stormtroopers a few minutes before all this. Maybe, if your goal is to keep a low profile, try that again before dismembering someone?

So now Ben and Luke, freshly minted murderers, head on over to Han and Chewbacca’s table. (As an aside, I always love when we see Ben and Chewbacca talking at the bar in the background. I wonder if they realize they both know Yoda?) So here we go! The big negotiation! Here’s where Ben finds out what it’s going to cost to get to Alderaan. Of course, that price probably already just went up as Han watched Ben kill a guy with a lightsaber.

So as the negotiation starts, Han kind of screws up first and offers Ben a pretty easy out: Han asks Ben if he and Luke are involved in some sort of “local trouble.” Now, Ben, right there, should have just said, “Yes. That’s it. Local trouble. This kid and I are always getting in trouble, locally. For certain we aren’t in any kind of trouble beyond our local community.” But, instead, Ben kind of gets this sly look on his face and says, “Let’s just say we’d like to avoid any Imperial entanglements.” It’s weird, he almost says this as some sort of pun, but basically tells Han in no uncertain terms, “Oh no, it’s not local trouble, we are wanted by the government and we are pretty desperate. I mean, you just saw I killed a guy, right?” So then Han, wisely, asks for a small fortune in surge pricing for what’s essentially a space Uber ride. (The lesson here is, in the future, when calling an Uber, when the option for “local trouble” pops up, just select that.)

In the next scene, Ben tells Luke that Luke will have to sell his speeder to cover the costs for this trip. Ben should have added, “You’ll have to sell your speeder, because instead of just hiring a pilot, I, instead, went in there and killed a guy, then openly admitted to this stranger that we are wanted by the government, and they haven’t even tacked on the charges for the the guy I killed yet” And then to top it all off, the pilot Ben hires immediately kills a guy himself. This small group leaving for Alderaan — who, again, more than anything want to keep a low profile — is responsible for two murders in that cantina over the course of maybe 10 minutes.

To defend Ben just a bit, it’s likely Han would have figured out this wasn’t “local trouble” as soon a squad of Stormtroopers showed up at the docking bay and opened fire. I’m imagining Han just saying, “What the hell? I thought this was local trouble? Yeah, they didn’t pay me enough for this. Hello, Stormtroopers, they are up there. Be my guest.“ But what were the odds that would happen? Anyway, the lesson of all this is, Obi-Wan Kenobi may have been a great man and a great warrior, but he’s a terrible negotiator. (Another lesson is there’s not a ton to write about in the entertainment world during the first week of January. But, here you go anyway.)

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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