Rebels are Rising-A review of Star Wars Rebels
2015 is the year where many of us anticipate a re-awakening. A re-awakening of that thing called STAR WARS! Today I review one of the first things to come out of the Disney acquisition, the animated series: Star Wars Rebels, produced by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Greg Weisman (The Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice) and Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
Episode 1 & 2-Spark of Rebellion
The pilot episode starts us off on the planet Lothal 15 years after the events of Star Wars Episode II: Revenge of the Sith, where we meet our Luke Skywalker-esque character Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray). He is initially portrayed as a young thief, almost like Aladdin in more ways than one that is until he meets the crew of the ship known as The Ghost, consisting of Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a gun-slinging Jedi who survived Order 66, pilot and crew den-mother Hera (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine (Tiya Sircar), a teenage Mandalorian girl, Zeb (Steven Blum), the team’s resident muscle and their astromech droid, Chopper. From this, Ezra learns of a greater purpose and destiny for him in the galaxy much like Luke Skywalker as he embarks on an adventure saving the day from the evil Empire particularly Agent Kallus(David Oyelowo).
Overall, this episode was a nice throwback to everything you would like about the Original Star Wars Trilogy from the character development of the central protagonist all the way to the entertaining fast-paced action sequences with John Williams-esque music in the background. It definitely worked as a pilot to bring in the viewers. However, the animation could be improved, especially for those Wookies.
Episode 3-Droids in Distress
“Droids in Distress” involves a mission whereby the crew of the Ghost must intercept and steal vital weapons intended for the Galactic Empire in their tyranny. This episode also features a cameo by legendary characters C-3PO and R2-D2 as well as Alderaanian senator Bail Organa who is the adoptive father of Leia Organa.
This was a decent step forward from the pilot and continues the positive aspects of it. We see an intertwining of lighthearted fun moments like the dynamic between R2 and the crew to great Star Wars action in the climax and just like the pilot, emotional tension particularly in Zeb’s arc which expands on his complex backstory.
Episode 4-Fighter Flight
“Fighter Flight” focuses on Zeb and Ezra as they go on an errand to buy fruit for the crew. During their little venture, it was found that the Empire’s forces on Lothal were also after the same fruit and decided to steal from them. Later their heist eventually becomes a rescue mission.
This episode was not as enjoyable as the others unless you find the idea of throwing fruit at Stormtroopers funny. The whole episode read like a children’s tie-in book. Although, it was rather nice showing what kind of oppression The Empire does on a small scale level.
Episode 5-Rise of the Old Masters
“Rise of the Old Masters” continues Ezra’s Jedi Training arc presented. The first scene depicts Kanan trying to teach Ezra the ways of the force. It was rather interesting in seeing Kanan’s flaws as he never completed his training thus adding some depth and long term character struggle. The plot of the episode advances and reveals that an old Jedi Master could be still alive and the Rebels embark on a rescue mission.
This episode also marks the first appearance of The Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs), the overarching villain that is assuming the Darth Vader role by hunting down these rebels and killing them. Isaacs effortlessly slides into the role of an unpleasant villain, drawing from previous experience such as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films. I only wish for more character development from him as he could have the potential to be an interesting villain to join the ranks of other Star Wars villains throughout the years.
In the end, this adventure was a real character building episode for both Kanan and Ezra as they face one of their first challenges as Master and Apprentice. They ultimately realise they both need each other in a Galaxy facing the dark times especially when forces such as The Inquisitor are after them.
Episode 6-Breaking Ranks
“Breaking Ranks” involves a secret mission whereby Ezra infiltrates an Imperial training facility as a Stormtrooper cadet in order to retrieve information on the Kyber Crystal, a powerful Macguffin that the Empire could use for sinister means aka The Death Star? Along the way, he meets new cadets who also share no love for the Empire’s intentions and the mission to gather intel becomes an extraction mission.
The episode offered some interesting insight into the Empire, particularly in the credo of victory over friendship. It was also rather amusing to notice that the cadets are better shots than the actual Stormtroopers in the movies. As usual, it was also nice to see great action sequences worthy of Star Wars from the space battle to the climatic rebel escape. It is also worth noting that Zare Leonis’s arc is one worth watching out for.
Episode 7-Out of Darkness
“Out of Darkness” is a standalone episode revolving around Sabine and Hera undertaking a mission to an old asteroid base, where they intend to meet an anti-Imperial informant named “Fulcrum” and to pick up crates of supplies. In this episode, Sabine faces trust issues which she later overcomes by fighting alongside Hera when a pack of creatures interrupt their operation.
This episode is a far better standalone episode than “Fighter Flight”. Here you have an authentic character interaction between Hera and Sabine rather than the kid-friendly entertainment from the Ezra/Zeb/Chopper squabbling. It’s sort of reminiscent of a parent to child relationship. It develops Sabine as a character as you explore her distrust being kept in the dark stemming from her past as an Imperial cadet where she “followed orders blindly and it was a nightmare”. The action scenes from the opening dogfight to the climactic battle against the creatures nicely expanded upon both Sabine and Hera both reinforcing their relevance.
Episode 8-Empire Day
“Empire Day” is the first part of a two part episode arc whereby the Rebels must carry out a mission which has larger ramifications in the grand scheme of things for the Empire. It is the 15th anniversary of the Empire’s conception in the events of Star Wars Episode II: Revenge of the Sith. The Rebels encounter a Rodian by the name of Tseebo who has close ties to Ezra’s past and has vital information regarding the Empire. The Rebels then need to smuggle him safely off Lothal to strike a large blow to the Empire.
This episode keeps the ball rolling with the great Star Wars action as we see some really neat chase scenes and covert action that is once again harkening back to the original trilogy. The steady building of suspense through the escalating action and the revelation of Tseebo knowing the fate of Ezra’s parents right up until the cliffhanger would leave viewers on the edge of their seat. It was also worth noting that some humour can be found in the use of the classic Imperial theme music.
Episode 9-Gathering Forces
“Gathering Forces” picks up where “Empire Day” left off. The Rebels are locked in a dogfight in order to escort Tseebo to Fulcrum. Kanan and Ezra must distract incoming Imperial forces from the Rebels by moving the fight to another location, that is, the abandoned base found in the episode “Out of Darkness”. Here our resident force users take the fight towards the Inquisitor.
The episode did not have any sort of disconnect with the previous episode. The action at all did not fall short. It will be interesting to observe Ezra’s character arc moving forward from this as he was truly confronted with the Dark Side of the Force through his fears experienced. I personally cannot wait to see what happens next.
Episode 10-Path of the Jedi
Here we find Kanan and Ezra travelling to a Jedi Temple found on the planet of Lothal so that Ezra can face further trials in order to test his readiness to become a Jedi much like others before him. It’s sort of similar to Luke’s personal tests on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. Frank Oz reprises his role as the wise Master Yoda and guides both Jedi to overcome their inadequacies.
“Path of the Jedi” was a neat nostalgic throwback to the Jedi trials seen in both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Here Ezra’s character develops forward from where we were left off from “Gathering Forces” where he confronts his fears through visions on a spiritual mystical plane of existence. The John Williams-esque music composed by Kevin Kiner as well as Frank Oz’s timeless voice portrayal really strikes those emotional chords for Star Wars fans.
Episode 11-Idiot’s Array
“Idiot’s Array” is another stand-alone episode whereby Zeb plays a gamble, only to lose their droid Chopper and are forced to go through a Smuggler’s scheme to con an alien crime lord in order to get their droid back as well as other materials needed. Guest starring in this episode was none other than Lando Calrissian himself voiced by the ever so smooth Billy Dee Williams.
Having Lando’s character interacting with our Rebels creates much of the pleasing aspects of the episode. His presence creates a humourous dynamic that would leave audiences both young and old laughing from Ezra’s jealousy to shamelessly flirting with both Hera and Sabine. Billy Dee Williams effortlessly slides back into his role like riding a bike again.
In the end, while I’m thankful for some standalone episodes, I hope they get back into the main fight against the Empire.
Review by Thanura Ravindra