Movie star Ewan McGregor lets fans armchair travel with him on his newest project, an Apple TV series called Long Way Up. But rather than relax in a comfortable chair himself, the screen’s iconic Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars franchise sits on a motorcycle and steers it some thirteen thousand miles from the tip of South America to Los Angeles. Not willing to settle for regular bikes — which offer a difficult enough journey on their own, McGregor and his riding partner Charley Boorman decide to break ground as the first guys to travel the route on electric vehicles.
That trick of going all electric adds a huge challenge to an already complicated journey, and part of the series’ fun comes from watching the planning and coordinating process. Inveterate travelers like me adore the advance aspect of our trips as we scheme on where to stay, what to pack, and other details, but McGregor’s adventure requires more complicated advance work — like finding electrical outlets in vast expanses of desert. Even before that, the electric trip involves lining up vehicles capable of going the distance — none of which existed as the Long Way Up team began their project. But Star Wars star stature steps in as a marketing tool, and two big companies risk providing prototypes.
This makes the project vastly different from the home-movie style pieces any Patagonia visitors like me put together after our journeys; for that matter, the ground-breaking goal distinguishes Long Way Up from its two predecessors, Long Way Down and Long Way Round, both released more than a decade ago. Technological advancements also mean enhanced camera work. Director and crew all get their moments showcasing their skills and conundrums as they follow McGregor and Boorman with top of the line equipment, including a drone and small cameras attached to the riders’ helmets.
As a result, Long Way Up features crisper and grander visual diversity than its predecessors. But it maintains its key distinction, the charm and rapport of its two lead riders, best friends who lift one another’s spirits and truly enjoy the thrill of a journey. It never hurts that one of them bears an incredibly recognizable face, but even without that familiarity, Long Way Up proves an entertaining ride. The 10-episode series rolls out in several segments during the next few weeks.
Robin Holabird is a former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office and a longtime KUNR entertainment reviewer. Catch her commentary Fridays during Fresh Air, between 2:37 and 2:47 p.m.
KUNR's Jayden Perez adapted this story for web.