No doubt many have seen much of the pre-release material for Disney’s “Star Wars: Rebels” over the last year – including sneak previews. Not to mention the ever-churning rumor mill.
Naturally, I have not, for reasons similar to what I wrote some weeks back regarding my attitude for the new films. I’ve seen nothing but some promotional artwork. When I fired up my DVR the other day after it had recorded the Rebels “movie” (really just an hour-long pilot), I was going in blind.
I was also going in with a little trepidation. I knew Dave Filoni would do well, but the grief of “Clone Wars”’ untimely end was still too near. Greg Wiseman had already created two shows that are amongst my favorites of all time, and yet he (supposedly unwittingly) retweeted anti-prequel sentiments. But I’m here constantly preaching that one should not judge without giving it a chance, so I had to put my money where my mouth was. I took a deep breath, and pushed play.
Potential spoilers from this point forward, so consider yourselves warned.
Right off the bat, it had that same feel as Clone Wars. The character design is slightly softer, but it’s clearly the same artistic style. As for how Star-Warsy it felt, well, again I feel it’s the same as Clone Wars: Mostly perfect with a couple of weird deviations. It should be commended for truly feeling like its time period; the world of Revenge of the Sith is dying away as the world of A New Hope is forming.
As I’m sure everyone’s aware by now, this series doesn’t follow any characters from the film, although Tarkin is namedropped and there’s a great cameo by the hologram of Obi-Wan Kenobi leaving his recalibrated message to surviving Jedi. Our cast is instead a ragtag crew of freedom fighters who may or may not be affiliated with the official Rebel Alliance (I’m sure whatever connections or non-connections will be explored later in the series).
Our main character is Aladdin. No, seriously, I don’t care if they keep calling him “Ezra,” it’s Aladdin. The hair, the face, the attitude, the background of living in the streets as a thief until he gets swept up in the adventure…hell, they even call him a “street rat” more than once!
So Al…ugh, fine, EZRA…meets the crew when he tries to snag an Imperial shipment that the titular Rebels were also trying to nab. They end up together due to a chase sequence, and captain Kanan thinks the boy might be Force-sensitive…because Kanan’s a Jedi in hiding…
And here’s where my feelings are incredibly mixed. Now, the EU has had many Jedi actually escape Order 66, and we always hope it’s more than just Yoda and Obi. But making it so blatantly canon sort of diminishes the effect for me, and it’s clearly been done. On the other hand, Star Wars without lightsabers is hardly worth it. I dunno, I’ll just see where they go with it. The ominous Sith-like “Inquisitor” who comes in at the end doesn’t help matters, but again we’ll see.
So the rest of the characters read very much like “the other guys” – like almost but not quite the characters we know and love. Which in itself is not a bad thing, and they make themselves interesting enough. But we have an astromech droid (though he seems more of an R5), a hotshot pilot (who’s a female Twi’Lek), someone with Mandalorian armor and toys (who is also a woman), and a big furry guy. Actually, the alien Zeb got me excited because he looks like a tuskless Kaleesh, but research is telling he’s something called a Lasat and is based more upon a McQuarrie concept for Han/Chewie – you all know the one.
It eventually turns out they’re trying to free Wookiee slaves, everyone proves themselves to one another, and Kanan takes Ezra as a padawan but why they can’t just say that I’ll never know. It’s definitely more IV-VI centric on references, but it does acknowledge the entire Saga, mostly through music (I may have squealed when some Podrace beats were used in the opening speeder chase). Only time will tell how much that acknowledgement will grow.
UPDATE: So I've read a few more reviews since I wrote this, and noticed a lot of people complaining how bumbling the Stormtroopers are. To me, yeah it's annoying, but I hated it when they did it to the Battle Droids in Clone Wars too so it didn't strike me as out of the ordinary for this team. I do hope they go into how the Clone Troopers evolved into the Stormtroopers at some point, though.