Stuff We Love: Star Wars Rebels DVD featurette deconstructs Obi-Wan vs. Maul

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Oct 5, 2017

When Obi-Wan Kenobi sliced Darth Maul cleanly in half, cutting down the Sith apprentice in reprisal for his own fallen master Qui-Gon Jinn, we thought we'd seen the last of the horn-headed menace with the double-sided lightsaber.

Instead, Maul was resurrected — as Sith apprentices so often are — now half man, half mechanical and with a thirst for revenge that bordered on the maniacal.

In the third season of Star Wars Rebels, Maul's all-consuming quest for tracking down his old foe sent him slouching through the sandy deserts of Tatooine, deliriously ranting beneath the blistering twin suns, before the two were finally reunited, in a piece of cinematic mastery that's easily the finest moment all season.

A special behind-the-scenes feature, "Apprentices to Outcasts: Kenobi and Maul," on the Blu-ray edition somehow makes the duel all the more poignant.

Full disclosure: I don't always watch every featurette or browse through concept art galleries hand-picked for home viewers. But I found this particular showdown so stunning that I was eager to take a deep dive into the creative process.

In this case, that means a peak at the storyboards while showrunner Dave Filoni waxes poetic about his inspiration pulled from the celluloid glory of Seventh Samurai. The delicate symmetry and the carefully paced shots imbue the scene with a rhythmic quality usually reserved for the dance floor.

The special feature shines a spotlight on the artists and designers who brought the moment to the screen, unpacking each precisely controlled movement, down to Kenobi's posture.

Surely, over those repeated viewings I had noticed Kenobi's stance, the way he mimed a favored form from his youth and drew himself up to match the wizened and disciplined Jedi master he became in A New Hope. But as he moves to fight Maul, he also evokes and pays homage to Qui-Gon himself as he stood, so many years before, ready to clash sabers for the last time.

Perhaps the best part — the feature includes glimpses inside the recording booth as Stephen Stanton, the voice of Kenobi, delivers a spot-on Alec Guinness and Sam Witwer, who has long embodied the sinister Maul, unleashes that shattering, animalistic howl that seemingly echoes into the wasteland.

Sure, it's an animated series fit for children. But pulling back the curtain serves as a reminder that Star Wars Rebels has plenty of masterful storytelling, cinematic callbacks, and carefully crafted moments to satisfy fans of any age. And as any Star Wars fan can attest, you can never really learn everything there is to know about the galaxy far, far away.