Star Wars Rebels Series Premiere Review: Spark of Rebellion

Memorable character moments bring the classic Star Wars feel to a pretty standard hero’s journey

The beginning of Star Wars: Rebels evokes the same joyous, meaningful sense of adventure as A New Hope. Disney brings Star Wars into the new era with the experienced writing trio of Dave Filoni (The Clone Wars), Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Young Justice) and Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), who have put together a fun story about a likable cast.

The show jokes about and references the Original Trilogy with energy and reverence, and explores what it means to live as a citizen of the Empire. Imperials don’t have to be blowing up planets – or stealing fruit from doe-eyed merchants – in order to show that the Empire’s oppression is manipulative and economically draining. A run-down “Tarkintown,” reminiscent of “Hoovervilles,” is a great, realistic setting.

The plot is pretty clear-cut so far: resourceful orphan Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) joins a Rebel crew led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall) to rescue helpless Wookiees from the evil Empire – but that exaggerated good vs. evil plot is part of what Star Wars is about.

The team-building is just finding its feet, though. While the rebel crew members all have organic-sounding dialogue and hints of their own backstories, at times they feel like action figures dropped into a playset. Sabine Wren particularly hasn’t quite established herself as more than another gun in the lineup, although she does have some great character moments where she applauds her own colorful explosions. Kanan and Hera communicate in easily understandable glances; one of the show’s strengths is not only what it does with its dialogue, but with its silence, especially when Ezra first goes into hyperspace.

Ad – content continues below

Ezra isn’t annoyingly precocious like some young adult heroes, or bland like Disney’s own Beck from Tron: Uprising. Ezra keeps the audience guessing at what he’s going to do next, but the show doesn’t bend over itself to try to bring him to the forefront. His connection with a baby Wookiee was clunky but would probably work for young children better than adults, as would his laser slingshot.

Muscle man Zeb Orelios (Steve Blum) is the most contradictory character, and therefore the most interesting. It would have been easy to make him a sidekick like Chewbacca or a tough-looking guy with a heart of gold, but Zeb is legitimately nasty to Ezra – which makes Ezra’s acceptance into the group by everyone, including Zeb, mean even more.

The Jedi and the Force also steal the show. Kanan has a thrilling moment when he lets the audience in on what was never really a secret. That secret has repercussions, though, and the show shines in the fight scenes, which have all the creativity and impact of the ones in The Clone Wars. Likewise Rebels’ treatment of the Force is indicated from Ezra’s perspective through musical cues instead of visual ones.

The beginning of Rebels brought pretty much what it said on the tin, characters who are plucky enough to hold two polished episodes, but whose lasting value is yet to be seen. Here’s hoping that it, like the writers’ other shows, dig deeper into the characters in a satisfying manner as the first season goes on.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!


4 out of 5