Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion
This past weekend I had the luck to catch a screening of the upcoming Disney X D show, Star Wars Rebels. Like Clone Wars before it, the new series kicks off with a ‘movie,’ a collection of the first story arc before the show proper beings to air.
The cast of characters are diverse, half are alien, half are women and they each feel distinct from episode one. The crew consists of (in no particular order) astromech Chopper, alien Zeb who is based off the original Ralph McQuarrie concept art of Chewbacca, a punkish Mandolorian named Sabine, their explosive expert, Twi’Lek pilot Hera and the leader of the merry gang: Kanan the ‘Cowboy Jedi.’
The movie begins sans opening crawl instead the logo flashes in front of the cityscape locale of Lothal. Here we follow Ezra’s Aladdin-esque escapades as he sends off a group of Imperials so he can sneak some food. In watching his plan’s success he notices the crew up to something. Interrupting their heist, Ezra gets himself wrapped up in their mission, and the new show unfolds.
I have to say, I dug this a lot more than the first movie offering of Clone Wars. I think the target audience is a bit older at Disney X D and so a shot closer to myself. Perhaps I was just more enthused this go around, knowing we were getting towards the Original Trilogy and done with the Prequel era in which we (the Star Wars fanbase) have been wallowing for the past 15 years. I found there to be less childish humor or simple gags. Jokes that were family friendly of course but nothing that made me grimace outright. That said, I think this show benefits from following in the footsteps of that which came before it. There is a trail blazed by The Clone Wars that Rebels gets to tread safely for the time being. The creators of the show being Dave Filoni, director, producer and writer on Clone Wars as well with Simon Kinberg, writer on the X-Men movies amongst others and Carrie Beck.
The animation is by my estimate leagues above Clone Wars. The characters are less abstract, no longer are beards red blocks with lines through them, or bodies made of 75% legs and 25% torso/head. The stormtroopers look good and the entire Imperial branch such as the TIE fighters all benefit from having those classic sounds Ben Burtt gave them to bring them to life back in ‘77. The only complaint on this front is the wookiees. Eventually the crew of the Ghost get info on where they can save some wookiee slaves (because nothing screams Rebellion like freeing wookiee slaves, if it’s good enough for Han its good enough for me!) and when they show up…-eeesh. The wookiees look exceptionally plastic. I imagine the CG for characters made entirely of hair was a tricky design choice but I don’t think this one knocked it out of the park. Instead they look more like action figures than living, breathing characters.I can for certain say that was I 13 years old again this would be the Star Wars cartoon I’d always wanted. The characters have such a great adventurous feel to them. The villains are stormtroopers, not dopey battle droids. Ezra has some sort of yellow force slingshot (not Force force, but like an ion one) that he stuns enemies with while utilizing the Force in basic ways such as jumping or running. Kanan is the too cool for school Jedi with a pistol who looks like in the end must train Ezra in his Force potential but going off this movie alone, it doesn’t look like that will be the focus of the show. This is good.
This era of Star Wars mythos was never about the Jedi, sure Luke Skywalker is the ‘last’ of his kind and brings about victory, but the galaxy at war is about rebellion vs. tyranny. Don’t get me wrong, Jedi are cool and I will always want to be one, but a universe populated by more morally grey characters as opposed to white knights makes for a much more interesting story.
Post-screening they showed an extended trailer for the upcoming season. Boy does it look action packed. It looks like the show will hit that adventure feel the original trilogy had while playing to the underdog battle against the Empire using guerrilla tactics the Rebel fight necessitates. The movie airs on Disney X D 10/03/14 with the series beginning proper Oct 13th, airing Mondays at 9pm.
Final Thoughts: If you were a fan of Clone Wars, I think you’ll dig this direction. If you weren’t, well, still give it a shot, it might play to that classic trilogy feel you always loved. It has started off on a good note leaving me with high hopes. At the very least I will definitely turn my Star Wars loving nephew on to the show because it will no doubt be right up his alley. I suggest you do the same.