A Closer Look at Star Wars Rebels

I’ve just caught up with Star Wars Rebels.

I’ve been watching it off and on since it came out, but for the first time, I’m completely up to date.

I figure that’s as good a time as any to share my thoughts on it.

Bottom line? It’s fun.

Is it amazing, earth-shattering Star Wars?

No.

But it does grow on you, and there are a few things that it has going for it in a big way.

First, the music is fantastic. It’s pure Star Wars motifs, and there’s just no wrong there. And when you add in the sound effects, it feels like home. Nothing like the sound of twin ion engines to take you back.

Second, the creatures, vehicles, and droids (with two very big exceptions that I’ll talk about in a minute) are familiar enough to let you know you’re in the Star Wars universe, but different enough to remind you that you aren’t watching The Clone Wars or the original trilogy. Also, the rebels’ ship, The Ghost, feels like a home – something that has largely been missing in the ships of the Star Wars universe through the years. That’s nice.

Third, the animation is pretty. Honestly, I don’t watch many cartoons, so I may not be the best judge of this, but the animation here gets the job done just fine.

Fourth, though it took me some time, I like the characters. You’ve got Hera, the pilot; Zeb, the muscle; Kanan, the Jedi; Ezra, the Padawan; Sabine, the weapons expert; and Chopper, the astromech that time forgot. They’re all fun in their own way, but I especially like the fact that the two females on the ship are competent without being caricatures (the fifth episode, “Out of Darkness,” was especially nice for this) and that everyone seems to have some baggage, but that baggage is unique for each of the crew. Also, something is going on between Hera and Kanan. Not sure what it is yet, but it interests me quite a bit – especially with Kanan being a Jedi and living in the time of the monastic type of Jedi. Is he a Jedi a la carte? One who picks and chooses which of the Jedi principles he abides by? Methinks he might be, and moral ambiguity is always fun.

As with all things, though, there are cons to go along with those pros.

First up is those two pesky droids: R2-D2 and C-3PO. Look, I love them (especially Artoo) as much as the next Star Wars fan, but plunking them into the second episode felt forced. Like the powers that be wanted to make sure we knew we were watching Star Wars. It wasn’t needed. And if Rebels is to stand on its own feet and be an actual part of the Star Wars canon, it needs to, well, stand on its own feet. It shouldn’t rely on crutches of characters we already know. Or at least not much. I’m willing to let this one slide, because R2-D2 and C-3PO are basically the chorus for the play that is Star Wars, but I hope this was a one time deal. Passing references and brief cameos of the characters we know and love is alright, but to have them be the focus of an episode? Not so much.

Next, while the idea of a surviving Jedi training a new Padawan is exciting – and realistic, as there’s no way the Empire wiped them all out – it’s been done. In the original trilogy, in fact. Ezra and Kanan tarnish the uniqueness of Luke and Obi-Wan, and that just doesn’t sit right with me, even if it means we’re getting more toeing the line from Kanan, as Ezra is clearly too old to be a true Padawan already, and he’s training him anyway. It was hard for me to put this in the con section, as I love Jedi like I love breathing, but I had to. It feels like this is rehashing yet another Jedi origin story, and that’s old news.

And finally, that villain. He’s just weak. The Inquisitor feels like a General Grievous wanna-be, and since I couldn’t remember who Grievous was the other day (to be fair, I have only watched a small portion of The Clone Wars), well, that’s not so good for The Inquisitor, is it? He feels political and pawn-like, not scary. He doesn’t feel like he can carry the weight of being the big bad all on his own. Then again, he might not have to, if the opening scene of this series is anything to go on –not two minutes in we see he truly is a pawn – but see that point about R2 and 3PO above. Using an original trilogy villain here is cheating and doesn’t let Rebels stand on its own, so I see what they’re trying to do with The Inquisitor, but it’s not really working for me.

So, all that said, what’s my verdict?

Thumbs up. The pros outweigh the cons.

Remember, folks, this is a cartoon aimed at children. I know it’s hard to accept sometimes, but we thirty and forty-something-year-old Star Wars fans are not its intended audience. Thus, making it all about the Jedi (again) is appropriate. Having an over-the-top villain works, too. Kids like that. And honestly, it’s done just well enough that adults can enjoy this, too. Now, if you’re looking for a hard-core Star Wars experience, read the Thrawn trilogy again. But if you’re looking for an enjoyable way to spend twenty-two minutes when you don’t want to have to think too hard, load up some Rebels. The music will take you back, the characters are fun enough, and there’s a hint of a Firefly-eque quality to Kanan that just might prove to be really interesting in the long run. Plus, Hera’s awesome – and it’s her ship they’re flying around in, you know.

So I say again: thumbs up, and may the Force be with you.

GS Blogger: wabbit

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