Star Wars Rebels: A Spark of Rebellion
By Cape Rust
Last night I got a real treat and it isn’t even Halloween yet. Last night I got to watch the premier of the new animated series Rebels. I have been excited about this series from the first moment I heard about it. Like many other fans of Star Wars, I was worried about what the mouse and his minions might do with the beloved movies that helped shape my young life.
The animated series The Clone Wars proved that this kind of series could work and was a huge success, not only in the eyes of the fans but from a marketing standpoint. That series alone was responsible for a huge interest by a much younger crowd in Star Wars and Star Wars related toys. Yes it was a bit more juvenile than many adult Star Wars fans would have liked, but even while its creators reached out to that young, fresh crowd, they still managed to include solid plot lines that kept the interest of those members of the old guard who remembered waiting in line to see the original trilogy. With the retconning of the EU and the impending release of the next Star Wars movie, this animated series and the products that will be associated with it should continue to gather new fans for Star Wars as well as keep the old guards at their posts.
This series takes place five years before A New Hope. It chronicles the very beginnings of the rebellion and some of the characters who will have a lasting influence on the new Star Wars. I was worried about the opening sequence; it seemed like a Star Wars furturized version of Aladdin. Ezra, the street smart boy, looks like and even sounds like Aladdin; at one point later on in the episode he was actually called street-rat. Normally that alone would cause me to turn off the show and write it off, but rather than shying away from the similarities, I think the creators of the show embraced it and let’s face it they all belong to the mouse now, so why not cross reference between franchises? With the quickness of a savvy street-rat we soon see that Ezra isn’t quite as noble as his Arabian forefather. Ezra does a noble deed to free a fruit vendor from the clutches of the Empire, but heads right back to the vendor and takes more than his fair share of that vendor’s fruit as recompose, and when the vendor objects, Ezra reminds him that he was the one who saved the guy and that a guy’s got to eat. Following that there is no doe eyed orphan to share his spoils with. I think this was an important separation from the Aladdin type-casting Ezra was falling into. When this happened I took my finger away from the remote sat back and was able to enjoy the rest of the show.
After the Aladdin introduction, things quickly went full on Star Wars; like the kind of Star wars that young and old can get into. Kanan and his crew show up to steal some crates from nearby imperials and predictably Ezra gets caught up in the action. It was nice to see that Ezra chose to get in the action rather than being a victim of circumstance; in fact, it was greed that motivated him rather than a sense of right and wrong. This rerouting of imperial goods leads to some serious gunfire and a really fun speeder bike chase. Yes, serious gun fighting in a cartoon. Storm Troopers get shot and they don’t get up, Kanan and crew don’t shoot to wound, they shoot to kill. Disney was smart to simply have the troopers fall and not get back up rather than showing the blaster damage that caused the troopers untimely demise. At one point in the multifunction chase, TIE fighters get involved and things really get interesting; because this happens at the beginning of the show you won’t be surprised to learn that the chase ends with the entire crew of the ship Ghost plus Ezra rocketing off into space to escape.
Ezra’s greed keeps rearing its ugly head and for a few minutes he slips back into Aladdin mode as he laments that there is no way that people would go out of their way to help other people or even a person like him.
While Ezra is the “growth” character in this series, the rest of the crew is even more interesting and will really round out the series. Kanan is the resident Jedi, which we all know is not a safe thing to be five years before A New Hope. Hera, the pilot, is really the heart of the group, the Ghost is her ship and she takes owning and flying it very seriously. As important as the ship is to her, the people on board are what matter most. She is savvy and doesn’t try too hard to be a strong female character, she just is. Zeb is the big guy of the group, the strong arm, the muscle. He is not a big fan of Ezra and really enjoys his role. I was happy to see that while instinctual, he wasn’t portrayed as an oaf. I’m sure that there will be one or two episodes dedicated to him and his back story. Sabine is described on the Star Wars website as an explosives artist and based on her performance in the first episode, I couldn’t think of a better title for her. She had the fewest lines of the crew members, but was fun as hell to watch. She wears pieces of Mandolorian armor including the helmet which made me think of the most famous wearer of Mando armor, Bobba Fett. I’m sure I’ll get over that feeling, but it will take time. Finally we have chopper the angry astromech droid. Based on his appearance, I think inspiration for chopper was taken from the Disney classic The Black Hole movie. There is no doubt he is an astromech droid, but I saw some Black Hole throwback in his design. Any Star Wars fan knows that astromech droids are the un-sung heroes of the galaxy and chopper is no exception; he didn’t play a huge role in this first episode, but his role was vital.
On the imperial side, the main antagonist is Imperial Security Bureau agent Kallus. Kallus is interesting as he doesn’t play out like your typical bumbling Imperial. He is competent and aggressive, but seems to get overpowered by the audacity of the crew of the Ghost. There were several times when he looked shocked to see what Kanan and crew were attempting. He is a lead from the front sort of guy and far from being a mook. I think he will be a worthy opponent for this crew of misfit insurgents.
The series has already been picked up for a second season and if the first show was any indicator of the quality of this show, then a second season is no surprise. I will be following Rebels closely to see if it can maintain the high quality pace that it has set. Time will tell. Star Wars Rebels airs on Disney XD on Monday nights.