Rebels Review: Spark of Rebellion

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It is a time of unrest in the galaxy. The Clone Wars is over (at least as a TV show) and the Star Wars franchise is under new management. A new age has begun and the future of Star Wars is uncertain. With Episode VII and a slew of other movies on the horizon, the Walt Disney Company is producing a new show to get the kiddies excited about what’s to come. Could this be a new hope for the franchise or will it cause a rebellion among Star Wars fans? Being the Rebel Bloggers, we took it upon ourselves to review this new show titled Star Wars Rebels. Read on to find out what we thought about the double-length pilot episode, Spark of Rebellion.

What did you think of the Plot?
Oky: Honestly, I was not too impressed with the story of this series premiere. The plot is as generic as it gets for Star Wars. An orphan boy who lives on a backwater planet meets a Jedi mentor and joins a group of rebels to fight against the Empire. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, I guess, although a bit more variation would have been nice. It just felt like we have seen this story many times before and there were some plot holes too, like why didn’t Kanan just ask Ezra to try to open the holocron rather than let him steal it and figure out how to open it later, or why was it so important to rescue those Wookiees (and ONLY the Wookiees) from those slave mines that it was worth risking their lives and causing Kanan to reveal himself to be a Jedi. Their only explanation was that the Wookiees wouldn’t survive the mines because they grew up in forrests, but that doesn’t really make sense to me since I thought Wookiees are supposed to be tougher than most people, not weaker.
BEAVeR: I had hoped that Rebels would start on the same level as the Clone Wars ended. This was true for most aspects, but sadly not for the plot. It all felt quite generic, and the only real thing to tie the whole story together was Ezra’s character development. Beyond that, the plot felt quite fragmented. Especially in the beginning, we jump from one piece of action to the next. The pretty pointless action gets more attention than the creation of the atmosphere that will define the show. Sure, there are some moments where the Imperials are being the bad guys, but in a sketchy, non-menacing way. All in all, it didn’t really felt like I was dropped in the middle of a universe, but that everything was orchestrated to make the beginning easy. The rescue mission of the Wookies, for instance, felt only like a device to ‘turn’ Ezra. I didn’t get the impression it was something of big importance the crew had long been wanting to do. So in the end, it was as if we only needed to care about those Wookies because… Wookies! So to wrap it up, I think they could have done a better job in really dropping us in the middle of an existing universe, just like the sudden beginning of A New Hope, instead of taking us on an easy but artificial ride.
Doc: I really liked the start that the episode got off to. Sure, the cold opening without any iconic zooming logos or blue introductory text was a bit odd, but it’s got a Star Destroyer flyover leading straight into the action with a high speed chase and a dogfight. That’s what we want to see in Star Wars. The plot as a whole seemed somewhat choppy. We jump into this sequence of stealing the crates full of blasters and food, and they’re given to the poor and oppressed. Great, that’s the perfect way to introduce what the Empire stands for during this era of the saga. Then we run off to go rescue the Wookiees…why? The transition was very abrupt with very little explanation — it definitely felt like two separate episodes rather than one double-length series premiere episode.

What are your thoughts on the Characters?Posted Image
Oky: The characters all seemed about as generic as the plot. The protagonist, Ezra, has a very Aladdin-esque vibe to him, being a dark-haired street rat and all. Kanan is a generic Jedi, Zeb is the tough guy with a heart of gold, Sabine is a rebel in the sense of a teenage punk girl, and Hera is the brave pilot and seems to mainly serve the purpose of giving Kanan somebody to talk to. However, these are just the first two episodes and these are a lot of characters to introduce in under an hour, so the show actually did a pretty good job of establishing the personality of each one of them right from the start. The only that had any character development so far is Ezra, so I hope the rest of the crew will be developed more in episodes to come.
As for the Imperials, they are laughably incompetent. Not only do they fail to hit anything they’re aiming at (which was to be expected) but they get outsmarted by a little kid multiple times in one day. This makes them look very non-menacing and makes you question how they even got to this level of power. The character designs are very similar to those of Clone Wars, but look fine for the most part. The only ones I didn’t like were the Wookiees with their odd body shapes and big puppy eyes. They had perfectly good Wookiee designs in TCW, so I don’t know why they didn’t just use those.
BEAVeR: The disadvantage of this series, is that we don’t know the protagonists in advance. And in two episodes, it is hard to build up a new and complex character from the ground. So yes, most of the characters came out as rather generic, but I would have been very surprised otherwise. At the end, Hera seemed to me the least interesting character, without much nuance, just plain good. All of the others, on the contrary, have some interesting aspects about them. The bully/big borther attitude of Zeb for instance is both hilarious as food for more episodes. It will be interesting to know how Kanan lived all that time in exile, and I hope there is a good explanation for his sudden reveal, that now felt a bit unmotivated. The motivations of Sabine are interesting as well: is this act of defiance really a wish to do good, or does it just come from a desire to oppose? I was actually most pleased by how Chopper’s character turned out. He isn’t really very present in this episode, but that might be a good thing, as they didn’t need to make his character obvious. I like how silently defiant he is (did no one wonder how Ezra got past him so easily?), and his being pro the ‘adoption’ of Ezra was a nice surprise. I like to see more of him, although I fear that soon he will be turned into a stereotype droid. But I can hope! Finally, Ezra. Although he got the most character development here, I think it all went too quickly. The entire shift could have been more subtle. Right now, I have the feeling they won’t have any development left for the future!
And as for the Imperials: I dislike how the troopers are way less menacing than in the movies. I’m already glad that they aren’t quite as idiotic as the battle droids, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Agent Kallus, on the contrary, seemed quite promising to me, but they ruined that in the end. I’m still giving the Imperials a chance, though.
Doc: I think the show tried to introduce characters much too quickly in this one episode. Who is this episode and this show supposed to be about? Ezra? Kanan? Agent Kallus? Someone else? These characters clearly fall into the roles of the heroes from Star Wars, but that movie introduces its protagonists one or two at a time, and it takes a little less than an hour and half to set some of them up before getting them all together aboard the Death Star. This episode could’ve been just backstory for Ezra, context setup for the timeline placement of this show, and the meeting of the young hero figure with the older teacher figure. For example, Ezra uses that wrist-mounted energy slingshot a couple times. There is absolutely no explanation provided for his possession of this weapon that I’ve never seen anywhere else in Star Wars before.

What is your opinion of the vehicles and locations?
Posted ImageOky: The Clone Wars was always good at depicting beautiful locations and that strength carries over into Rebels. The creators have stated that they wanted the show to look like a 3D Ralph McQuarrie painting, and in some instances, I’d say they have succeeded, such as the opening shot of the Imperial Star Destroyer hovering over Lothal. The planet of Lothal isn’t too exciting as it is basically just another backwater farming planet, but at least it looks a little different than Tatooine. The spice mines of Kessel on the other hand just looked like a slightly more dreary version of Utapau.
As for vehicles, the most notable one is the Ghost, which is obviously designed to be the Millennium Falcon of this show, and as such, it’s doing a decent job, both visually and practically, much better than the Twilight ever did. We also got a brief glimpse of the AT-DP and the Wookiee Gunship that are coming out as Lego sets next year. The AT-DP kind of looks like somebody put the head of an AT-AT on an AT-ST, but in a good way.
Posted ImageBEAVeR: The designers on the show did a really great job on making everything feel OT, while keeping it fresh. The Ghost is a good example, as it is way more than a cheap rip-off of the Falcon. The AT-DP still succeeds in being a new walker, looking quite agile. They might even begin to run one day. I was pleasantly surprised by the prisoner transport ship, that looked very Imperial without directly screaming on what it was inspired. It felt like a genuinly new and fitting ship, and is quite beautiful as well. I hope to see more of this goodness, on the screen and in bricks!
There wasn’t really anything new about the planets, but I liked the emptiness of Lothal and the filthiness of the spice mines. I like the choice for these dirty, low profile planets in the beginning of the series, as they leave some room to breath, and slowly begin to paint the atmosphere. The disturbances of the Empire is really visible on them, without being abundant. The Star Destroyer casting its shadow over the planes of Lothal is a good example of this. All of this promises a nice buildup to face the true cruelties and decadencies of the Empire, and will give us new angles for the characters.
Doc: It was just one really quick shot, but did they depict Kessel as a generic brownish planet?! With clouds and an atmosphere?! I understand that everything we know about Kessel, other than its name, its spice mines, and its smuggling route as mentioned by Threepio and Han, is now non-canon, but would it really have hurt to stick with Kessel as an asteroid near a cluster of black holes? That’s an intriguing, unique location. Now Kessel is just another Outer Rim planet, and I found that very disappointing. The vehicles looked great. I was a little worried that this show might start introducing a lot of new intermediate vehicles to bridge two movies’ vehicles, the way TCW did, so I’m glad that they decided to just use a good ol’ Imperial-class instead of some other new type of Star Destroyer. The Joe Johnston scout walkers still look great. And that TIE carrier fit in very nicely with the Star Wars aesthetic — it reminds me a lot of the Arc Hammer — so that was pleasing as well.

Oky’s Rating: 3/5 – Overall, this two-parter was a serviceable start to the series, but not much beyond that. It was certainly more watchable than the Clone Wars movie, but that’s not saying much. It had a decent amount of humor and action, but it felt like we’ve seen it all before. It also had a very lighthearted tone which felt a bit out of place for such a dark time in the galaxy, but this is a show that airs on Disney Channel, so I don’t expect it to ever be as dark as TCW sometimes got. It’s clear that the creators tried to recreate the feel of the OT, from the story and characters down to the music and outdated-looking visual effects, which I don’t mind as it does give a sense of nostalgia. Now that the stage has been set, I’m curious to see where they will take this show.
BEAVeR’s rating: 3/5 – While the show brought a lot of good elements from the Clone Wars, especially on the design and visual terrain, it didn’t feel like the stories and characters were as rich. I hope this will improve once we can move from the pressure of introducing the characters, and get to actual story and depth. Let’s wait and give it a chance to become more than just another kid’s show, but only with Star Wars in it. Let’s hope the show can watch beyond what’s ‘cool’ and give us something for people of all ages to cherish.
Doc’s Rating: 3/5 I think this is a very promising start that looks pretty great visually and aesthetically. That being said, I definitely think that its writers tried to do too much in this one episode. Introducing fewer characters and having one mission instead of two would’ve provided time for better character development, plus more establishment of the Empire as the big bad and how this show fits into the saga.

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