Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!
Ever since Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas, fans have been waiting to see how they would handle the franchise, specifically, whether they would rejuvenate it or completely run it into the ground. With the premier of STAR WARS: REBELS we get our first taste of what Disney has in store for the beloved Star Wars Universe, and I must say, they’ve captured my attention. The premier takes place several years before the battle of Yavin and centers on Ezra Bridger, an orphan and con artist from Lothal, who stumbles onto a group of rebels pulling a heist of Imperial goods. While trying to snag some of the goods for himself, Ezra encounters some Imperial entanglements and ends up on Ghost, the rebels’ ship. Due to a strict time table, the rebels are forced to keep Ezra around for a bit as they try to intercept a Wookiee slave shipment from the Empire. The altruistic actions of the rebels will force Ezra to re-examine his own life and choices, particularly whether he should keep looking out only for himself or if he should try and do some good for others.
The visual production of STAR WARS: REBELS is very reminiscent of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, but what makes REBELS stand apart is the terrific storytelling. With the original Star Wars trilogy being about the hero’s journey, it makes sense to start this series off with a young character beginning his own version of that journey; thankfully, Ezra is very different from Luke, making the show feel fun and new instead of a rehash. Besides utilizing a classic story archetype, the creators also throw in plenty of references and hallmarks that make the show feel like it is truly a part of the Star Wars universe, even going so far as to include the Wilhelm scream. Like The Clone Wars, Rebels’ intended audience is children, however, Rebels uses a far lighter touch when it comes to making things kid friendly. The most notable downplay is in the depiction of the Imperials, who feel far less threatening than in previous incarnations, and while I wish they were a bit more intimidating, at least they aren’t depicted as complete imbeciles. My only real annoyance was that, with the exception of the Wookiees, all the various species on the show spoke English instead of other languages, and while I can understand that this would make it more engrossing for young audience members, it just didn’t feel right to me.
One of the best parts of STAR WARS: REBELS is the colorful characters. Kanan Jarrus, voiced by Freddy Prinze Jr (TV’s 24), is the leader of the rebel cell. Kanan is a survivor of Order 66, but it seems apparent that these days he prefers a blaster to a light saber as he uses his heightened sense to try and keep the crew of Ghost one step ahead of the Empire. Hera Syndulla, voiced by Vanessa Marshall (TV’s YOUNG JUSTICE), is a Twi’lek and the pilot of Ghost. Hera has an accepting attitude and goes out of her way to help people, but her fierce side comes out whenever she comes up against the Empire, giving her a dualistic personality that is just plain fun. Sabine Wren, voiced by Tiya Sircar (THE INTERNSHIP), is a Mandalorian graffiti artist and weapons expert. Sabine sports Manalorian armor with a custom paint job and loves everything colorful, as well as blowing things up. She seems to be the happy go lucky member of the team, having a blast while causing them. Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, voiced by Steve Blum (TV’s ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN), is a Lasat who provides the muscle for the group. Zeb has fierce temper but not a great deal of forethought, so he seems to cause almost as much trouble as he prevents. Ezra Bridger, voiced by Taylor Gray (THUNDERSTRUCK), is a force sensitive orphan from Lothal. Ezra thinks and acts quickly, relying more on impulse than planning, but his cocky attitude and mischievousness make him a perfect fit for the crew of Ghost.
STAR WARS: REBELS realigns the animated Star Wars universe into something closer in line with the film universe. It has great characters from a wide spectrum of alien races and impressive storytelling that pays homage to the franchise while staking its own place in it. Disney has come out looking strong with Rebels, and I hope this is a sign of better things to come for Star Wars fans everywhere.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10