Viewfinder’s Andrew Allen weighs in on the first season of Star Wars: Rebels.
By Andrew Allen
Star Wars has returned to the animation sphere after Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars was cancelled due to the new leadership under Disney, with the remaining episodes distributed through Netflix. Disney’s unceremonious axing of Clone Wars is a cause of ongoing concern amongst many Star Wars fans (including myself) regarding a potential lack of respect for the franchise that they’ve been tasked to shepherd. Luckily, this new animated series is no casualty of said concern, undoubtedly in part to the ongoing leadership of Clone Wars alum Dave Filoni. Star Wars Rebels, now on Disney XD, is a more-than-worthy addition to the Star Wars legacy. While undoubtedly taking most of it’s style-cues from the Original Trilogy of films, specifically the concept art of the late Ralph McQuarrie, the story of Rebels is appropriately a child of both worlds. Original and Prequel sensibilities as well as story elements unite seamlessly throughout the show, and the results should appeal to Star Wars fans of any generation.
What makes Rebels particularly special amongst Star Wars media is the time period in which it is set. The nineteen-year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope has gone relatively ignored over the long history of Expanded Universe material. The plot points leading up to the events of Episode IV have been vague and oft-contested. How did the Rebel Alliance truly come to be? The details have been sketchy, but Rebels is seeking to shed light on the genesis of The Rebellion once and for all. While the storytelling potential for this era seems limited to say the least (some people got fed up and started to fight The Empire, right?), Rebels finds ways to make the story it’s telling feel fresh and engaging. The series isn’t afraid by any stretch to feature many of the film saga’s major players and by doing so avoids the potential pitfall of feeling irrelevant and disposable that expanded universe material of any franchise can often suffer from.
Rebels follows the adventures of a crew of smugglers who operate out of the planet Lothal in the Outer Rim. Using their talents for combat and smuggling, the crew of The Ghost (their starship) combat the growing reach of The Empire in and around Lothal, all while hiding their game-changing secret: their numbers include one of the surviving Jedi Knights of The Old Republic. It’s a familiar setup, one that clearly takes a lot of influence from the protagonists of the Original Trilogy and their base in the Millennium Falcon. Even so, writers Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg fill the cast with fresh faces and personalities. The crew; Ezra, Kanan, Hera, Zeb, Sabine and Chopper are, thankfully, more than empty homages to the devilish rogues of Star Wars past.
If there are any complaints to be had with Rebels, they’re largely done away with by the latter half of the first season. Flat, needlessly slapstick comedic relief from Ezra, Zeb and Chopper fades and disappears over time. The animation, which was a source of contention at the series’ start, improves and becomes more dynamic across the episodes. It still has yet to reach the level of surprising excellence that the later season the The Clone Wars were rife with, but the quality of the animation is still serviceable and accomplishes precisely what the series sets to accomplish. Just like Clone Wars before it, Rebels will surely grow and improve over time, and if this first season is any indicator, we have a new essential piece of the Star Wars canon on our hands.
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Andrew Allen is a television and film writer for Action A Go Go. He is an aspiring screenwriter and director who is currently studying at the University of Miami. You can check him out on Tumblr @andrewballen and follow him on Twitter @A_B_Allen.