The Rebellion Begins
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The sort of sequel to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Rebels arrived amidst fan anger over the Disney merger, mixed with a fair amount of certainty. There was some serious concern that Rebels would be kid-friendly material. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, but with a property as beloved as Star Wars, the darkness is so firmly entrenched into the story that to see it become lighthearted fare would be disheartening. It’s a sort of apprehension that follows many Disney projects, but thankfully it doesn’t completely diminish the beginning of this new series. There are the familiar Disney notes, perhaps none more so than the character of Ezra feeling are more like Aladdin than he should. The action sequences are fun, even though some of them have the unfortunate nature of being truncated. The visuals are decent enough, even though they are definitely a step down from its predecessor. The character work is what really sells it, however. When Hera mentions that the crew of the Ghost is a family, by the end of the episodes, it feels like it. And that’s why this entire enterprise works.
The plot is largely nonexistent, the pilot largely functioning as an introductory sequence that skips from beat to beat to beat. I’m assuming that considering this will be a linear series and not necessarily an anthology one like The Clone Wars, that will slowly change and that’s fine. If there was a cohesive plot that was plotted out meticulously, I would have been quite happy. There isn’t one and I found that at least for this opening, I really didn’t care. They’re at least strung better together than The Clone Wars film. There are three major set pieces, taking place on Lothal, an Imperial Star Destroyer, and Kessel respectively and they’re thrilling to watch, even if some of them end far too quickly.
The animation is a tricky thing, here. While The Clone Wars at the onset had clunky animation whose characters’ movements sometimes became stiffer than C-3PO’s joints, it grew into one of the most beautifully animated shows of all time. I still recall Felucia at night and I get goosebumps from the sheer beauty of it. Rebels is not there yet. It’s a different style of animation and personally it was a bit difficult to become adjusted to, even though I have no doubts that the show will improve. The textures are fine and I absolutely love the Ralph McQuarrie art style incorporated to such an intricate degree. The Wookiees (as difficult as it is to get all that hair animated) look terrible, more like first draft animation rather than actual finished products in and of themselves. Where the visuals hit a snag are mostly small points that when noticed become an annoying nag. Ezra’s hair is incredibly annoying; it consistently feels as if the color palette was thrown overboard on that one. The clothing movements of the pants, which I know is nitpicky, feels extremely obtuse.
The dialogue certainly needs work. It is a true part of Star Wars, which is kind of odd considering how many great lines exist in this universe. The “Who is that?” refrain was cringe-inducing, as if the writers were inspired by every cliched line in existence. “I’m in space” I assume was supposed to sound as if Ezra was in aw of being away from space for the first time, but it felt stiff and kind of idiotic. The fruit vendors being picked on is really over the top, any stretch of subtlety all but thrown out into the winds. Naming isn’t one of the series’ strong suits, either. Kanan sounds too much like “cannon”, Agent Kallus’ name is an unfortunate homophone, and calling the capital of Lothal Capital City is just lazy. And character-wise I didn’t buy Zeb’s transformation completely. My biggest complaint may truly be how lazily the Imperial stormtroopers are portrayed. For heavens’s sake, this is the Empire whose ruler is a Sith Lord. Having two efficient Imperials in the first hour isn’t a good start.
The hour is filled with some truly incredible pieces. The introductory shot is very evocative of A New Hope, clearly the key film for inspiration here. The chase sequence on Lothal is mostly rad, set off by these seemingly teenage rebels killing off storm troopers. Tarkintowns are a neat addition and call back to the Hoovertowns of the Depression era (Sabine’s explanation of it seemed unnecessary, however). The action set piece aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer was a great one, capped by Zeb leaving Ezra behind and Sabine’s explosive paint. It was a little obvious that the crew would go back for Ezra, but I couldn’t help but grin widely when they did. The Spice Mines of Kessel was a nice visit and a great callback to the Original Trilogy, even if the visit was brief. Agent Kallus is an excellent villain that gets good dialogue, the sharpest of which is his line about snuffing out the spark. Ezra unknowingly unlocking the hologram with the Force was a wonderful moment, culminating with Obi-Wan’s hologram warning all the Jedi to stay away. It’s a sad, somber message executed to perfection (no pun intended). But the best moment easily in the premiere came from Kanan igniting his lightsaber for the first time. It’s a flawless scene that stays with you well past the end credits. I’ll be back next week for sure. May the Force Be With You!
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Sabine’s eye roll at Ezra’s atrocious wooing attempts
+Lothal is stunning at night
+“Who does that?”; “We do”
+They managed to work in a “It’s a trap”
+That wrist bomb watch looks cool
+“I might just kill you anyway.”
+Chopper is fantastic
+I really do love all of the characters and Hera just might be my favorite
+Exhaust vents again, some things are traditions
+Ezra trying to escape: “My uncle, the Emperor…”
+“What is the Force?”
Episode Title: Spark of Rebellion: Parts I & II
Writers: Simon Kinberg
Directors: Steward Lee (Part I) and Steven G. Lee (Part II)
Image Courtesy: Star Wars 7 News