Friday, May 1, 2015

Star Wars: Rebels: Season One review

    For those who want my reaction to the pilot, Star Wars: Rebels: Spark of Rebellion, then I suggest they go to this link here.

    The premise of Star Wars: Rebels is it is fifteen years after Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope. The Empire has solidified its hold on the galaxy and started squeezing, abusing the Outer Rim territories worst. On the planet Lothal, a small band of resistance fighters works to liberate the world from Imperial oppression. They are aided by Kanan, a Jedi Knight, and his new apprentice Ezra. Opposing them is the erudite and evil Inquisitor along with his ISB henchman Kallus.

    Star Wars: Rebels is a lot of fun. It reminds me strongly of my old West End Games Star Wars roleplaying-game campaigns. Much like Dungeons and Dragons, they were about ragtag collections of misfits traveling around the galaxy fighting the Empire. While the travel part is missing, all of the characters are fun and well-rounded. Despite having only thirteen episodes, it manages to give all of them something to do. Kanan the former Jedi and Ezra get the majority of attention but they make the most of it.

The crew has an excellent dynamic.
    Rebels does a good job of recapturing the Original Trilogy feel. While there's no direct analogues for Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, Obi-Wan, and the Droids, they manage to feel like the same sort of characters. The characters are also at their most enjoyable when they demonstrate how different they are from the Millennium Falcon's crew. For example, Kanan should be the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the group but he is brash and impulsive. Ezra should be the Luke Skywalker of the group but his interest is less in being a Jedi than helping others. Chopper the Droid is, by contrast to R2-D2, gleefully psychotic.

    I'm particularly fond of the characters of Sabine and Hera. Star Wars made a strong mark on American culture by creating the character of Princess Leia but has often floundered in trying to make strong female protagonists since. Both Sabine and Hera impressed me with their strength of character as well as intelligence. The fact numerous episodes passed the Bechdel Test is fairly rare in Star Wars spin-offs. I also like the fact neither Sabine or Ezra are Caucasian, showing the franchise  is moving to diversify itself.

The Inquisitor has an impressive presence throughout.
    The Empire's depiction is also enjoyable: highlighting how brutal and authoritarian it is the common people as opposed to just hunting the heroes or building superweapons. The majority of Stormtroopers get treated like jokes, unable to hit anything or survive the heroes running rings around them, but that's always been the case. I also like seeing the heroes win victory after victory over the Empire. The Inquisitor, Kallus, and Tarkin also make up for the somewhat comical treatment the regular troops get.

    A character I really warmed to was Minister Tua, who is the highest-ranking Imperial on Lothal but clearly the one who has the least knowledge about how the Empire is really run. A cheerful promoter of the Empire and its values, its clear she's unaware of just how bad it really is. Tua has a lot of really funny moments with my favorite being how honored she is by being chosen to host Empire Day (Imperial 4th of July) despite the fact it's obviously something no one else wanted to bother with.

Minister Tua is just an awesome character.
   The Inquisitor is a character I actually felt was somewhat underused. Voiced by Jason Isaacs and played with a cold, calculating relish--I wanted to see him as a major villain. Sadly, while he has focus in several episodes, he gets overshadowed by the appearance of Grand Moff Tarkin toward the end of the first season. We also never get any backstory for the Inquisitor, only getting his title for instance. Still, I enjoyed the confrontation between him and Kanan in the season finale.

    Suitably epic.

    The first season has a mixture of good and not-so-good episodes. My favroites being "Rise of the Old Masters", "Empire Day", "Path of the Jedi", and "Vision of Hope." I'm less fond of the guest-star episodes where the main characters take a backseat to ones from the OT. "Droids in Distress" misuses R2-D2 and C3PO while "Idiots Array" has a wholly unnecessary appearance by Lando Calrissian. Billy Dee Williams does an excellent job in the latter but I couldn't help think this was to the deterrent of the main characters. I also wasn't a fan of "Fighter Flight" and "Breaking Ranks."

Ezra's Jedi training is surprisingly evocative.
    I think the show is being marketed to a slightly younger age group than The Clone Wars, which is both a blessing and a shame. It's good to give the next generation a show they can really latch upon but I think they could have been slightly more mature. Stormtroopers and rebels get killed by the bucket-load in A New Hope without traumatizing me. I was like four when I first watched that movie too.

    Would I prefer there to be a bit more insight into the character's backstory and the Empire to be a bit tougher? Yes, I would. However, that's not really what Rebels is all about. It's a breezy, fun, adventure serial and I don't see any need for it to be beyond that. Besides, the show surprised me on a number of occasions by being darker than I expected. These moments are a welcome addition to the story and further enhance the OT relationship.

    In conclusion, I really liked this season and I recommend Rebels to any and all Star Wars fans. It may be a bit too immature for some jaded cynical types but it is good fun for the whole family. Which is, really, what makes Star Wars candy for all ages. As Tom Baker said, "there's a difference between a children's show and a childish show." This is most definitely the former and my inner child can appreciate it.


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