In the months following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, the swift cancelation of Star Wars: Clone Wars left a million voices crying out in terror, but were suddenly silenced by the announcement of a new Star Wars animated series.
Ok, so that isn’t true many diehard Clone Wars fans are still up in arms about the cancelation and Star Wars fans have been waiting with bated breath at what will ultimately be a new direction for the Star Wars franchise between Disney’s animated shows and the forthcoming live action films. On the animation front, however, the wait is over and on Friday Oct. 3rd, the Disney Channel will be showing Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion a one-hour TV movie, which will precede a half hour weekly series making its debut on Oct 13th, at 9/8c on Disney XD.
With the premiere of Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion we have been given a look at Disney’s future for Star Wars and its expanded universe- and it looks, well a lot like Star Wars.
Within the first 30 seconds the viewer is lulled into a sense of familiarity with the foreboding yet dulcet tones of an Imperial March variation reminding us that although things change, and properties change hands this is still the Star Wars you know and love. Or is it?
Right off the bat the most striking difference between previous Star Wars cartoons and its current incarnation is the animation style. Gone are the stylish peaks and valleys of Clone Wars, which defined both its 2D and 3D versions, instead the animation of Star Wars Rebels is pure Disney, round and toy like.
More so, it isn’t too much of a leap to make an association between Rebel’s animation style and the current animation of Disney’s Disney Infinity game franchise (perhaps lending some confirmation to the rumor that DI’s 3.0 with be Star Wars based).
This lack of edges is carried over to its storytelling- gone of the dark, dark days of Star Wars. Disney is instead offering a lighter, brighter more youth oriented story, so if you are looking for a Star Wars that is tough as nails and full of grit, then sorry this probably isn’t the show for you. This isn’t to say that Rebels suffers for its new tone what it lack’s in darkness it makes up for in teen angst- not unlike Star Wars: A New Hope
The story takes place about fifteen years of Revenge of the Sith but five years shy of A New Hope and follows a teen orphan/ thief named Ezra (voiced by Taylor Gray) who happens across a group of rogues currently in the process of stealing a cache from Imperial Stormtroopers, seizing an opportunity, Ezra decides to intercept the stolen cargo which end with him as a passenger on the rogues ship the Ghost. Surprise, the ship is captained by one of the last surviving Jedi named Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) who quickly begins to notice Ezra’s burgeoning Jedi abilities. With the rest of his crew Zeb (Steve Blum), Hera (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine (Tiya Sircar), and the droid Chopper, Kanan and his chums are looking to strike a blow against the Empire and aid those crushed by Imperial oppression. A cause quickly adopted by potential Jedi Ezra.
Ezra and the crew of the Ghost, through a series of events, are tasked with saving a band of Wookies from the spice mines of Kessel (alas it is never mentioned) There are explosions, there is over the top lightsaber battles, and some of the most laughably animated wookies to be put on screen to date. It is all very dramatic.
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What Did I Think:
So, where does Star Wars: Rebels stand? The most distracting part of this show for me was the lead character Ezra who could be the space clone of Aladdin, from his background; to his characterization, the writer’s didn’t seem to look to far past Disney’s own antihero catalog when developing their lead and yet this is easily forgiven by the addition of an entertaining group dynamic reminiscent of shows like Firefly or, you know, Star Wars. Beyond that Star Wars: Rebels never really seems to find it own voice in the Star Wars universe instead relying on the same played out story (young rebellious orphan learns he is a Jedi and is taught honor and sacrifice through the force) making it feel more like an homage to Star Wars then the real deal. BUT! (You hear me, BUT) this is only an initial offering and the story has so much potential to progress forward uniquely once into no longer has to rely on the initial story comforts to draw its audience.
Besides this repetition doesn’t make it unwatchable, quite the opposite, it is a bit like going home where things are familiar and I am often reminded that I have had a long and winding road with Star Wars from youthful enjoyment, to full on teen obsession, to adult acceptance Star Wars has put me through the ringer over the years. This show offers the opportunity to take a step back and try to see it through the eyes of a child again.
Yet, I can’t help but feel there will not be as big an adult fan base for Rebels as Clone Wars, its just too much of the same. Kids will love Rebels and despite its narrative repetition I doubt watching a young Jedi find its path will ever stop being interesting. Star Wars: Rebels has a lot of potential to get better as the story progresses and Ezra goes down his path towards the light or dark side and offers the opportunity to bring younger viewers to the way of the force. All and all that sounds like a win to me.