There has never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. With Episode VII coming next year, it seems like everyone’s favorite galaxy has received a major adrenaline shot, and Star Wars Rebels feels like a direct result of that. It’s an energetic, exciting, and undeniably classic take on Star Wars that manages to brilliantly bridge the gap of the Prequel and Original Trilogies in a much needed way.
With the creative talents of Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman all working behind-the-scenes, Star Wars Rebels is literally dripping with potential, and it thankfully delivers on almost every ounce of it. The hour-long premiere episode, appropriately titled Spark of the Rebellion, hit almost every right note for me and made it very clear that this is one adventure you’re definitely going to want to be a part of.
Spark of the Rebellion wastes no time in getting started, and immediately introduces us to Ezra, a fourteen-year old boy who has been forced to fend for himself on the backwater planet of Lothal, which has recently come under the tyrannical rule of the Galactic Empire. Headstrong and self-confident, Ezra isn’t afraid to play the odds in his favor, but when he gets in over his head, he finds himself in desperate need of some friends.
While many fans, myself included, have been wary of Ezra’s character, he thankfully stays away from the ‘annoying-teenager’ stereotype and seems to be a far more developed and thoughtful character than I initially expected him to be. Sure, he’s not the most likable of protagonists right off the bat, but his clever wit and sarcastic sense of humor have already started to grow on me after just one episode.
Even if Ezra doesn’t immediately capture your attention, Star Wars Rebels is full of charismatic and likable characters that are all enjoyable in their own special ways. After a very fun and riotous opening action sequence, Ezra finds himself aboard a spaceship called the Ghost, where he, along with the audience, is quickly introduced to the rest of our characters, the colorful crew of the Ghost.
Their leader, Hera Syndulla, is an ambitious and empathetic Twi’lek pilot who owns and flies the Ghost. She’s clever, smart, and full of heart, and thanks to the fantastic voice-work of Vanessa Marshal, is an immediately likable character who has some tremendous chemistry with all of her crew, especially with her copilot, Kanan Jarrus, who she shares some great banter with.
Kanan, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., is one of the standouts of the show based on his backstory alone. As one of the only surviving Jedi from the Clone Wars, Kanan has tried to keep his history behind him by working as a smuggler alongside Hera for the past couple years. As you can imagine, however, it doesn’t take long for him to be faced with either keeping his identity a secret, or risking the safety of his friends.
Along with Kanan and Hera, the crew of the Ghost consists of Sabine, a Mandalorian explosives expert with a flair for art and color, Chopper, a stubborn astromech droid with a lot of attitude, and Zeb, whose large size, impressive strength, and penchant for sarcasm make him one of the standouts of the crew, especially in his scenes with Ezra, who he has some really great, antagonistic chemistry with.
Every character is given their own defining moment in Spark of the Rebellion, and while some had more of a spotlight than others, the framework for these characters is so great that I am beyond excited to delve into their respective backstories and personalities in future episodes. These characters have a ton of heart, and I absolutely believe that it’s going to be their relationships that will drive the series forward.
If you’ve read anything about this show, or have even watched a simple trailer, then you should know that Star Wars Rebels is openly and publicly embracing the tone and style of the Original Trilogy of Star Wars films, and in many ways, this is the show’s greatest strength. However, it could also become a real distraction as well if it isn’t regulated in the future.
Everything about the visuals, dialogue, and especially the soundtrack feels like it was taken right out of a Ralph McQurarrie painting, and it gives the show a lively and familiar tone that feels like a nostalgic hug from your childhood. However, I felt like Kevin Kiner’s score was a bit to obvious, and there were a couple times where the show felt like it was simply rehashing scenes from A New Hope rather than doing something new and original.
I noticed a similar trend with some of the show’s dialogue, which felt a bit forceful at times, as it insisted on repeatedly reminding us of what’s to come in the Original Trilogy of films. A little more subtlety here would’ve made the show even better, and I hope to see it let up on the excessive references soon so the show can really stand on its own.
With that said, the appeal of seeing a a show that’s so obviously channeling the art style of Ralph McQurarrie in its animation is very real, and I was consistently surprised by just how breathtaking some of the visuals were. The environments and action sequences were especially great, with gorgeous landscapes and a fantastic sense of movement each contributing to the already impressive animation.
Even though Star Wars Rebels is geared towards a slightly younger audience than The Clone Wars was in its final seasons, the show still doesn’t shy away from going all-out in its action scenes. In this episode alone, we repeatedly saw the characters shoot down their enemies, some of them at point-blank range, without a second thought, and more than a couple stormtroopers met their end from a series of dazzling, fiery explosions.
That’s not to say the show is dark, because it isn’t, but it has managed to strike a near perfect balance between lighthearted entertainment and intense action sequences. Even though the stormtroopers themselves, which look great visually, are a bit too incompetent for my taste, it was the primary antagonist of the piece, Agent Kallus, who made up for it.
Kallus, voiced by David Oyelowo, is a cold and fearless leader who’s willing to do whatever is necesarry to fulfill the orders of his Empire, and thanks to Oyelowo’s voice-work, he energized nearly every scene he walked into. I greatly look forward to watching him evolve throughout the rest of the season, especially once he starts working alongside the Inquisitor, a cold-blooded Jedi hunter who we briefly glimpsed in the episode’s final moments.
Overall, I could not be more pleased with Star Wars Rebels‘ first episode. While some of the dialogue could’ve used a bit more subtlety, there is an outstanding amount of potential here for a show that will enchant and excite fans of every generation and background. This is Star Wars in one of its purest forms, and I have a strong feeling that we’re going to be in for quite the adventure.