Tuesday 14 October 2014

First Impressions: Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars Rebels is a new animated show set in a galaxy far, far away. It's the first Star Wars property to d├ębut since Disney famously bought Star Wars a few years back, and (hopefully) sets the precedent for what kind of things we're going to see later down the track.

The pilot episode, 'Spark of Rebellion', aired here in Australia over the weekend. So, what did I think? Is Rebels just a cash-grab from the Mouse House, or an impressive (re)starting point for the most famous of film franchises? These are my first impressions...

The show follows a band of rebel misfits on their helter-skelter adventures as they attempt to usurp the dastardly Empire and their troops - set 15 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi Order is all but extinct, and the galaxy is at war. Under the iron fist of the Empire, the first embers of a rebel uprising are growing, building towards what we know as the Rebel Alliance in A New Hope - Leia, Tantine IV and all that stuff.

The show's protagonist is Ezra, a fourteen-year-old street rat who is powerful in the Force. Through a chance encounter, Ezra meets the crew of 'the Ghost', a slick Rebel spaceship populated by loveable misfits. There's Kanan Jarrus, a natural leader who harbours a dangerous secret, Zeb, a gruff and brutish muscle man, Sabine, a colourful Mandalorian solider, Hera, a green alien who pilots the ship and Chopper, a rusty astromech droid.

From the pilot episode alone, we can see that these eclectic characters have been assembled to make the show as fun and friendly as possible. After all, the primary audience is kids. With the gang being full of loveable roguish types, Rebels is almost like a kiddy-frendly Firefly-lite, which I take to be a positive thing.

In 'Spark of Rebellion', two characters primarily stood out among the cast - Hera, as the caring, motherly figure of the group, and Kanan (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jnr) who is a mixture of Han Solo and Obi Wan Kenobi. I thought that Ezra was a bit too closely modelled on Anakin at first, but I'm sure he'll grow on me.

The villainous characters were a weak point, with David Oyelowo's Imperial Agent Kallus not being particularly imposing. That is surely set to change, with an ending that set-up the show's actual baddie (Jason Isaacs' as The Inquisitor). Other than that, it was pretty cool to see the Imperials in full swing, with Stormtroopers still being as useless and aimless as usual.

Right from the opening titles, Star Wars Rebels strives to hark back to good 'ol days of the Original Trilogy - within the first five minutes we have Star Destroyers, Stormtroopers and speeder bikes. It's all here, and from this first episode I can confidently say this - they nail it. This is Star Wars.

It was so much fun to sit back and bathe in the pitch perfect Star Wars vibe, from the iconic scream of a TIE Fighter to to pew-pew-pew of Kanan's laser pistol. There's even a cheeky little Wilhelm Scream thrown in for good measure. Right down to the score, the sound effects and the settings, everything about 'Spark of Rebellion' screams vintage Lucas - maybe that's just the show intentionally tugging at the right heart strings, but this really captured the essence of a Star Wars adventure.

Sure, the tone is aimed squarely kids (the dialogue is sort of simplistic, the characters easily convertible in LEGO), but Rebels understands what it takes to win over long-term fans of the franchise as well.

'Spark of Rebellion' feels like a first-draft break-neck speed version of A New Hope. It doesn't get as dark as that (no burning Aunt Beru corpses here), but the whimsy and space opera aura is present and correct.

Based on the pilot alone, Star Wars Rebels could potentially be the best thing to happen to the franchise since...well, since Return of the Jedi. It has all the ingredients of being a superb, long-running show with wide appeal to kids and fans of the series alike. The animation is great, the characters are fun and, on the whole, the first episode was a triumphant starting point. Essentially, Rebels is the new hope we've been waiting for.


  1. So I know you posted this quite a while ago but I finally started watching this with my other half, and oh my goodness. After how Star Wars went down in the last 15 or so years I expected Rebels to be meh at best, especially as it is aimed at children. Needless to say all my concerns were flat out wrong. The show was clearly written with original trilogy fans in mind, sometimes making fun of it too and I have been enjoying the series immensely. If Force Awakens turns out like this I will not be disappointed.

    1. Completely agree Julien! It's pretty cool, especially the visual design which appeals directly to fans of the original trilogy. Thanks for commenting! :)



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