STAR WARS REBELS: Meet the REBELS

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Star Wars Rebels 101: “Spark of Rebellion”

[photos: Disney XD]

It’s a Post-Order 66 galaxy and life under the Galactic Empire is bleak, and the planet of Lathol is no exception.  Ezra Bridger is a young Force-sensitive street thief looking to profit from Imperial forces occupying the planet. After engaging in a less-than-altruistic rescue of a local merchant, he soon finds himself in the midst of an even more serious challenge to Imperial authority.

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On-the-run Jedi Kanan and his fellow rebels, purple-skinned Zeb and Mandalorian Sabine, attack Imperial forces so they can steal several supply crates.  Ezra involves himself in the theft on his own behalf and when confronted by a TIE fighter, is offered a way out by Kanan aboard his ship, the Ghost.

The Rebels find themselves in a firefight with several TIE fighters (giving us shades of the Millennium Falcon shooting down TIE fighters in Episode IV). The crew of the Ghost manages to shoot them down before escaping to deliver their crates. Their destination is “Tarkintown”, a backwater refugee community full of aliens forcibly dispossessed by the actions of Grand Moff Tarkin, governor of the Outer Rim. While at Tarkintown, Ezra finds Kanan’s lightsaber and a holocron, having been drawn to them by the Force.

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Back on Lathol, Imperial agent Kallus (voiced by David Oyelowo) arrives to investigate the theft, following a pattern of similar thefts from around the Outer Rim.

Before leaving “Tarkintown”, the rebels are given the location of several Wookiee prisoners held by the Empire. They intercept an Imperial transport but Agent Kallus arrives in a Star Destroyer, pulling both ships into its hangar bay. Ezra goes on the transport to let the rebels know it’s a trap and is captured in the process as the Ghost escapes.

Agent Kallus attempts to interrogate Ezra, taking most of his belongings except the holocron Ezra stole from Kanan.  Ezra accidentally activates it, and a message from Obi-Wan Kenobi plays. He escapes his detention cell while the Ghost returns for him. Ezra overhears the true location of the captured Wookiees — the spice mines of Kessel. The rebels escape a second time, this time with Ezra in tow, after Sabine detonates some of her trademark explosive graffiti.

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The rebels attack Kessel, and Kanan reveals himself as a Jedi to Kallus and his Imperial forces. The rebels successfully rescue the Wookiees and return to Lathol to drop Ezra off. Ezra steals Kanan’s lightsaber, so Kanan presents him with a choice: he can keep the lightsaber, remain on Lathol, and never know how to use the Force, or he can join the crew of the Ghost and be trained in the ways of the Jedi. Ezra obviously chooses the latter (as it would be a mightily boring TV show if he did otherwise).

In a closing scene, Agent Kallus reports to the Inquisitor (voiced by Jason Isaacs), a Pau’an Jedi hunter in service to the Empire, about his encounter with Kanan and his presumed apprentice, Ezra.

In HD, this series looks great.  It is crisp, clean, and bright. The animation is smooth and lively, while the facework of the characters is more exaggerated than what we got in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (does Ezra’s nose have to be that big?).

As it’s on Disney, it’s a simpler story here aimed at a younger audience.  In fact, it feels like watching A New Hope –– a disparate group of heroes band together, sometimes unwillingly, to fight against the Empire. I like the characters thus far, but we know next to nothing about any of them, where they’ve come from, or their motivations outside of very broad strokes.

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Tonally, this is closer to A New Hope than the Clone Wars – lighter and more fun, less gloom-and-inevitable-doom.  Our heroes actually win instead of fighting a prolonged losing battle before they are swept away by a force they can’t comprehend until the moment it does the sweeping.

One of the biggest gripes I had with Episodes 1-3 and Star Wars: The Clone Wars is that the Jedi and the Republic were reactionary in the extreme – they responded to everything but it always felt like someone else was in complete control of the situation and driving the narrative.  So in that respect, while they may have had lightsabers, they were myopic, unimaginative, delusional, and weak.  By the end of Revenge of the Sith, part of you can’t help but think they deserve everything they got coming to them.  You root against the force of justice and order in the universe, as odd as that sounds. But in Rebels, as with Episodes IV-VI, we have doers, heroes that make things happen and are active participants in the fight for their own fate.  We have been missing that since Return of the Jedi, and I welcome its return.

So to sum up, the feeling of grand adventure feels like it’s returning, and I like that.

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The creators went back to Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art in designing this series, the most obvious touch being the design of Zeb, who looks like a purple version of the original version of Chewbacca.  I look forward to see what other McQuarrie-inspired designs make it into production.

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If you’re already a fan of the new series, good news!  Just before it premiered this month, Star Wars Rebels was renewed for a second season. There are also intimations that plot points from this new series will be reflected in the new feature films starting in 2015.

While “Sparks of Rebellion” premiered on the Disney Channel, the series will air in the future on Disney XD.  If you can’t wait for more Rebels, the second episode, “Droids in Distress,” is already available for free through iTunes (at least as of this writing).  “Sparks of Rebellion” is also available as an exclusive same-day-as-premiere DVD release through Wal-mart.

Woodchuck sez, “Check it out.”

[Star Wars Rebels web site at StarWars.com]      [Previous Recap – “I Got Star Wars In My Shorts!”]

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