by Coop Cooper
There hasn’t been any new “Star Wars” content in awhile besides the excellent, animated “The Clone Wars” series on the Cartoon Network/Netflix that was cancelled earlier this year. While this new series, “Star Wars: Rebels” on the Disney XD Channel isn’t of the same quality as “Clone Wars”, it is a sign of larger things to come.
The story takes place fourteen years after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire (between episodes III and IV). A crafty, teen street urchin named Ezra inadvertently helps a team of mercenaries hijack a shipment of hand blasters from the Empire. Kanan, the leader of the mercenaries sees potential in Ezra who tags along as they deliver the weapons and food to a planet full of refugees whose homes were destroyed by the Empire. It soon becomes clear to Ezra that these team members are no mere mercenaries but rebels acting against the Empire. During a raid to free a group of enslaved Wookies, Kanan is forced to reveal a secret he has been hiding since the fall of the Republic, a secret which may also have a connection to Ezra.
It’s basically a reworking of the original “Star Wars” film formula. You have Ezra who is the Luke Skywalker of the group. Kanan pulls double duty as both Han Solo and Obi Wan Kenobi. There is a Chewbacca-like alien tough guy with a bad temper named Zeb and a Boba Fett-like female warrior named Sabine who shows shades of Princess Leia as well. There is even an R2-D2 type droid they call ‘Chopper’ and a female alien pilot named Hera who flies a ship that looks much like the Millennium Falcon. Since the story takes place right before the original trilogy, there is more than a chance that a few favorite characters might show up. Darth Vader could easily make an appearance and I noticed that Lando Calrissian is slated to show up in a later episode.
The tone of “Star Wars: Rebels” is light and carefree much like the original “Star Wars”. “The Clone Wars” had a similar animation style, but developed a darker tone in later seasons as Anakin Skywalker began to descend further into the dark side and thus, the show became much more interesting. Plus it focused on familiar characters fans had become emotionally invested in. “Rebels” has none of these things… yet. It feels like its geared toward a less mature crowd which might serve it in the beginning, but if it doesn’t evolve and grow like “The Clone Wars” did, it will begin to feel hollow and uninspired. It will expand on the “Star Wars” mythology which is always valued by the fans, even if they don’t particularly like the end result.
The show isn’t quite as important as what it has initiated. This is the first “Star Wars” property released since Disney acquired the rights from George Lucas. Lucas was notoriously stingy in producing “Star Wars” films and shows due to his desire to micromanage them all. Disney plans to do the exact opposite and not only produce a new “Star Wars” trilogy, but also spin-off films, cartoons, live-action TV shows and video games. They plan to quickly flood the market and “Star Wars: Rebels” is the first of these efforts.
Shooting has now begun on the next “Star Wars” film set to take place after “Return of Jedi” and will feature most of the original cast as well as new main characters. Production was delayed for a couple of months when Harrison Ford tripped and broke his ankle on the Millennium Falcon set but shooting has resumed and the film is scheduled to premiere in December of 2015. Spin-off films focusing on Yoda, Boba Fett and a young Han Solo are planned for the near future. All of this “Star Wars” exposure could cause fan burnout for the lucrative property. You can bet Disney has no plans to sit on it for years at a time like Lucas did.
“Star Wars: Rebels” premieres today (October 3rd) and the first episode is also available to watch online at the Disney XD website.
Rating: 3 out of 5