(Warning: There are some slight spoilers in this review. Nothing too major, but if you are avoiding all spoilers, you may want to wait until after viewing the premiere of Star Wars Rebels before reading further)
Early on in Star Wars Rebels, there is a moment after the crew of the Ghost steals Imperial supplies on Lothal where the Imperials are still assessing the situation. It is night and a pair of Imperial AT-DPs are on patrol as stormtroopers march about. Everything about the shot was so perfect that I nearly gasped as I thought, “Star Wars is back.” The strange thing is, it’s never left for me. I’m a fan of the prequels and have religiously watched and rewatched Clone Wars through the years. Yet the creative team has created something with this show that is so keyed into the Star Wars of my childhood (the 1980s, yo!) that when seeing it presented in this new incarnation, it feels like a revelation.
I thoroughly enjoyed the premiere movie, Spark of Rebellion. The premise is pretty simple: Ezra Bridger is a teen living on his own on the planet Lothal, selling Imperial hardware on the black market to get by. He encounters the rebels Kanan Jarrus, Zeb, and Sabine Wren as they are in the process of hijacking Imperial goods. It’s not long before he’s forced into fleeing with them on-board their ship, the Ghost, along with their pilot, Hera, and her astromech droid, Chopper. They are all soon drawn into a plot that involves the Empire enslaving Wookiees, even while Imperial Security Bureau agent Kallus hunts them down.
The interplay between the characters is fantastic and feels natural. Kanan, Hera, Zeb, and Sabine already have a history together and one can sense the chemistry between them. Because of that, it’s easy to see the ripples caused by Ezra as he’s thrown into their mix, and they all deal with it in their own way. The character who really caught me off guard was Zeb and his interactions with Ezra. From the brief previews that Disney had revealed, it was apparent that there would be some antagonism on his part towards the kid, but I was shocked by some of his actions, and at one point, when he showed remorse for his behavior, I was floored. There were a lot of heavy emotions going on in the brief scene, which is a lot more than I had expected from what I’d presumed to be a kid-focused show.
The animation is also surprisingly good for this early on in the series. As much as I love Clone Wars, looking back at the first season, that show was a bit rough. Rebels doesn’t have that problem. It’s not yet at the level of later seasons of its predecessor series, but it’s starting off in a better place than that show did. The animation feels more cinematic than those early Clone Wars episodes, it’s rich and detailed, and there are a lot of great touches throughout that add to it (one of my favorites being the appearance of the warning sign from the deleted scene in The Empire Strikes Back that C-3PO tore off the door to a room full of trapped wampas).
The pacing of the episode is nice and deliberate. It isn’t afraid to have a quiet moment of contemplation followed up by a kinetic action sequence. The only part where I felt the episode seemed rushed was once Ezra gets taken on the Star Destroyer. It didn’t feel like much time passed before he was easily rescued and back on the Ghost. It threw me off as otherwise the show has a lot of emotional weight and the actions of the characters resonate in the story. I’d have liked to see it drawn out a bit more, but that’s just me.
A few other random thoughts:
— Kanan’s Jedi reveal is much more badass as presented in the episode than it was in the promotional material.
— I couldn’t help but think that the speech of holographic Obi-Wan Kenobi was meant for fans of the prequel era when he was talking about life at the Temple being in the past and the need for moving forward.
— “Is this the first Jedi you’ve encountered?” Made me laugh, then I thought, “Kallus straight up murdered that dude!”
— Wilhelm scream!
— The way composer Kevin Kiner weaves in and out of old John Williams’ Star Wars themes, incorporating them with new material, is just superb.
All in all, Spark of Rebellion is a great start to the series. In an early review following the San Diego Comic Con screening, Jason said that “…Star Wars Rebels has more heart than you can possibly imagine.” He’s absolutely right. The characters are there, their motivations are there, and the sense of fun and adventure of A New Hope is there too. I enjoyed following them around for forty-five minutes and very much look forward to further adventures with them. The Force is strong with this one. I expect great things in the future.
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion premieres Friday, October 3rd at 9:00 pm on the Disney Channel, with the series Star Wars Rebels beginning on Monday, October 13th at 9:00 on Disney XD.