I wanted to talk about Star Wars: Rebels for quite some time now. It’s a show that initially received heavy criticism, undeserved to some extent. Much like The Clone Wars, Rebels started off somewhat slow, with the first few episodes appearing to be of little consequence to the overall plot. Early reactions, even to the trailers and character shorts, were mixed at best. But with the show’s season finale, “A Fire Across the Galaxy,” having aired only several weeks ago, Rebels has not only been able to prove it could deliver an entertaining and well-paced storyline, but also give Star Wars fans another reason to be excited for the future of the franchise.
Though having to wade through a gauntlet of negativity and skepticism, Rebels’ creative team and showrunner, Dave Filoni, were adamant that their second Star Wars project (their first being The Clone Wars) would honor and embrace the tenets of the much beloved original trilogy. Using everything from legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie’s original Star Wars concept art to John William’s classic score, Rebels was on a mission to reignite a sense of nostalgia in older Star Wars fans and introduce a younger generation as to what made the original films so special. Even classic sounds such as the Tie Fighter and speeder-bike’s iconic hums have been incorporated into the series.
For many however, using original concept art, music and sounds is all just nostalgic window dressing. The real meat of Rebels needs to be its characters and stories. Filoni and his writers most likely decided that following a small diverse cast of passionate insurgents was far better than trying to follow dozens of characters like they did with The Clone Wars. The cast in question does feel slightly reminiscent of A New Hope’s classic team of a scoundrel, farm boy and princess, but the characters still manage to differentiate themselves with their unique quirks and personalities.
Following rogue Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and his seemingly suicidal mission against the Empire, is the teenage thief Ezra (Taylor Gray), who is coming to grips with the fact that he can use the Force; Sabine (Tiya Sircar), a Mandalorian warrior with a love of explosives and art; Hera (Vanessa Marshall), the pilot and owner of the Ghost, the team’s personal starship; Zeb (Steve Blum), the group’s sarcastic muscle; and Chopper, a moody R5-astromech droid tasked with the responsibility of repairing the Ghost. Though the group fancies themselves rebels, they often participate in illicit activities including smuggling and grand theft auto (ship/speeder). The credits they earn for their more questionable work finances their small guerilla war against the Empire on the planet Lothal, a backwater world which the Empire is stripping for resources to continue its expansion across the Outer Rim.
The stand-outs among the cast are Prinze’s Kanan and Marshall’s Hera. Prinze, who has increasingly shown himself to be a talent in the voice-acting world, gives viewers a Jedi that is neither an all-knowing master like Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi nor a petulant brat like Anakin Skywalker in the prequel films. If anything, Kanan is a Jedi that is at an impasse. Not being able to fully complete his training, the young leader shoulders and overwhelming amount of responsibility that he struggles to accept at all times. He realizes that he is one of the last few Jedi in existence, but recognizes that his relative inexperience makes him someone that is perhaps not adequate to train other force-sensitive individuals such as Ezra.
Hera compliments Kanan’s uncertainty with unwavering confidence. A green-skinned Twi’lek, Hera not only acts as the crew’s chief-pilot, but also co-leader and mother-figure. It’s Hera that often receives intel from mysterious sources to plan heists and other jobs that keep the crew working. Though only hinted at, it is implied that Kanan and Hera were or still are lovers. Their possible romantic relationship is extremely subtle and doesn’t feel forced in the slightest. If anything, their dynamic with each other is one of the show’s strongest aspects and only further proves that Filoni and his writers are incorporating mature themes into the series.
Of course, with the introduction of new heroes, you also need to introduce a suitably intimidating cast of villains. Thankfully, Rebels found it with the Sith warrior known only as The Inquisitor (Jason Issacs), a dark-Jedi tasked with finding force-sensitive individuals, and the re-introduction of Grand Moff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), originally played by the late Peter Cushing in A New Hope. Both the Inquisitor and Tarkin compliment one other throughout the series. The Inquisitor is the fist of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, a fine crafted instrument to be used in matters that require unrelenting force. Tarkin however, is different in many ways. Though just as cold-hearted as The Inquisitor, Tarkin is a shrewd military genius, able to demand respect from his thin-lipped scowl. Though they work together to further increase the dominion of the Empire, Tarkin makes it well-known that the Inquisitor is nothing but a subordinate to him. Other more recognizable Star Wars villains appear, including one who suffers from severe asthma.
To those who might have been turned-off by Rebels’ supposed “kiddy” appearance need not worry. The series, though a cartoon intended for a young audience, is exactly what the Star Wars franchise needs right now. It not only captures the feel and tone of the original trilogy, but it further expands on the lore of Star Wars. Unlike the prequels, Star Wars: Rebels gives viewers a look into the early formation of the Rebellion from the perspective of a small group and allows characters who only appeared briefly in the films to play a larger and more intricate role in the franchise itself. With Filoni promising a longer second season, introducing new and old characters and giving viewers a more expansive view of the Star Wars galaxy, Rebels will hopefully continue to reinvigorate the Star Wars brand.
Oh, in case you need more convincing, Bill Dee Williams voices Lando Calrissian in the series. Billy Dee, baby!
What about you reader? Have you been watching Star Wars: Rebels? Let us know in the comments below!
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