Sunday, October 5, 2014


STAR WARS: REBELS, the new animated series from LucasFilm, premiered this past Friday on the Disney Channel with an hourlong event, after being first available through Disney's Disney XD app. The ongoing series will move to the Disney XD channel on October 13th.
I checked out the inaugural episode via the app last weekend and typed this up to coincide with the series premiere. But first let me note that I was an avowed fan of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, the series which, over its six seasons, showed us more of the STAR WARS universe than we had ever seen on screen in the preceding 35-plus years. CLONE WARS was visually gorgeous and evolved over time to feature some surprisingly mature writing; so REBELS has some big shoes to fill in my estimation.

That said, here are my first impressions of the series:
  • It looks very... simple. Like watching the earliest episodes of CLONE WARS, before that series had evolved to feature breathtakingly gorgeous textures and detailed character designs. I'm not sure why we're back at square one after this same animation team had six years to get CLONE WARS to the point where it was as beautiful as it became, but this show's look is a little disappointing so far.

  • The characters seem to fall into certain classic STAR WARS archetypes: the retired Jedi, the kid from the Outer Rim, the spunky girl, the surly alien, and the loudmouthed droid. The only departure is that we also have a mother figure, which is kind of cool.

    Overall I like the makeup of this group, and I like most of their character designs -- though the captain, Kanan, is a little plain-looking. My favorite character visually so far is the Mandalorian teenager, Sabine. The Imperial intelligence officer chasing them down is pretty nifty looking too, with his huge mutton chop sideburns.

  • The voices seem fine, if a little uninspired, though I'm unsure what I think of the accent from the alien, Zeb. But I can't help thinking everyone sounds a bit plain. The CLONE WARS series featured actors imitating the big screen characters, however, while this show does not, so that could be why. Plus these actors still need to get comfortable in their roles, so I'll withhold too much judgment for now.
  • The music is outstanding. For some unfathomable reason, composer Kevin Kiner was instructed on CLONE WARS to use as little of John Williams' score as possible. As a result, the show's music, while fine, just didn't sound like STAR WARS. REBELS does not have that problem, as Kiner quotes numerous pieces of Williams' score to rousing effect throughout the pilot episode. I'll put it this way: I never wanted a score album for CLONE WARS, and I've never been disappointed that we didn't get one (other than for the initial movie). But I would dearly love to have an original soundtrack for REBELS, and that desire is based solely on this premiere episode.

  • The show falls into the unfortunate trap of making every Imperial, from the highest-ranking officer to the lowliest troop, a scumbag. Granted, many of the Imperials we saw in the films came across as pure evil, but one thing CLONE WARS did wonderfully was show that not all the "bad guys" are evil (and, for that matter, not all the "good guys" are noble). Hopefully REBELS will get with the program and give us some more sympathetic Imperials as the series progresses.

  • Which brings us to my final note: I really hope this series isn't sweeping CLONE WARS under the rug. It seems, since Disney acquired STAR WARS, there's been a concerted effort to push the prequel era aside entirely and focus solely on the era and continuity of the original films. Personally, while I like the original trilogy better, I find the prequels' universe much more interesting, given how vast and populated it is. CLONE WARS was a weekly tour of the STAR WARS galaxy, bringing to the screen numerous planets and even some species we had only read about, heard about, or in some cases never knew about.

    I hope this series isn't hampered by some asinine directive to ignore the prequels or to pretend CLONE WARS never happened. I would love to see appearances by some of that series' recurring characters such as the pirate Hondo Ohnaka and bounty hunter Cad Bane, as well as resolutions to certain dangling CLONE WARS plots like the fates of Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano. At least with CLONE WARS showrunner Dave Filoni on REBELS as well, I can hold out some hope for these things to happen.

I doubt I'll be writing about REBELS on a regular basis, but I just needed to get the above out of my system after watching the pilot episode. I may have more to say about it after the first season concludes, or even as it progresses, however. In any case, I'll definitely be tuning in every week.

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