Star Wars Rebels | Series review
Set just five years before the birth of the original 1977 movie, Star Wars Rebels takes place in a galaxy under Imperial rule and explores the birth the Rebel Alliance…
Ever since Revenge of the Sith aired in 2005, Star Wars fans have been wondering what went on in the 19 years between Episode III and Episode IV (the 1977 original). A lot can happen in 19 years, so it’s hardly a surprise that
- The next movie, Rogue One, takes place between the two movies.
- Of the eleven canon novels released so far, five of them occur between the two movies.
This brings us to the TV series Rebels, set towards the end of that 19 year period, approximately five years before A New Hope.
First things first, Rebels is an animated series. Whilst animation won’t appeal to everyone, don’t discount the series on this basis; at least hear me out. In fact, being animated in some ways actually helps the series rather than hinders it. And believe me when I say there are some genuine Star Wars gems in this series. Some spoilers ahead.
WHAT MAKES REBELS SO GOOD?
Just two and a half seasons in and already there have been so many great stories, each of which gives us a richer understanding of the Star Wars galaxy at a time when the Empire was at the peak of its reign. And don’t forget, everything that you see in the series is canon. This is quite important because it means we have actual answers to so many questions, like:
- How do people become Stormtroopers now that they’re no longer clones?
- How did the Empire hunt down the remaining Jedi? (give or take Yoda & Obi-Wan)
- How do Jedi get/construct their lightsabers?
- What were the “several battles” that C-3P0 mentioned when he first met Luke?
- Did Vader ever take on an apprentice? (I’m not saying he does!)
- And heaps of other questions that you’d never even considered.
And unlike The Phantom Menace that famously upset a lot of people by attempting to explain the Force, Rebels is more careful. It’s a credit to the writers really; they give you just enough information without trying to break it down to the microscopic level.
The series is also very funny, which you’d probably expect for a series that is ‘for all the family’. And there’s also some subtle adult humour in there as well which will go over the kids heads. In fact, for an animated series that airs at tea time, it can be pretty dark at times too. For example, one of the Sith characters uses the remains of a dead Jedi as a ploy to lure other Jedi’s out of hiding. The Sith knows that Jedi can still feel the Force within a dead body, so he uses it as a trap. Nasty.
So it’s canon, it’s well written, it’s funny, it’s dark and it has great stories. But what else? For me, the real key to the series, the thing that keeps me really invested are the characters of the show. And I’m pleased to tell you that there are no Jar Jar Binks type characters anywhere to be seen. Instead, we have some really well-crafted characters who are evolving as the series progresses.
MEET THE CREW
Kanan is a Jedi Padawan who lost his master following Order 66. Executive producer Dave Filoni describes the character as a "cowboy Jedi" and he’s based loosely on Clint Eastwood’s character from ‘Unforgiven’. He’s my favourite character of the main cast.
Hera Syndulla is a Twi'lek (like Jabba’s dancing girl and Bib Fortuna) who is the owner and pilot of the Ghost, the ship that our faithful crew occupy. She and Kanan share a strong connection / love interest.
Ezra is a 15-year-old human and when we meet him he’s a bit of a pick-pocketing, street dwelling con-artist. But, as we learn within the first few minutes, he has Force abilities. His parents were imprisoned by Imperial forces, so expect those issues to bubble to the surface.
Sabine is a Mandalorian (like Boba Fett). wEssentially she is everything I don’t want my daughter to become. She’s a 16-year-old, fast-tempered, Imperial Academy dropout, graffiti artist and a former bounty hunter. Major bad ass.
Zeb is the muscle and his species have all but been made extinct by the Empire. Understandably this has left him with a gruff demeanour, which is always entertaining. Fun fact, his appearance is based on Ralph McQuarrie's original conceptual artwork for Chewbacca.
C1-10P ("Chopper") is an irritable astromech droid, built and owned by Hera. Full of attitude (as is common with droids), he’s selfish and non-compliant. Dave Filoni summed it up best when he said "If R2-D2 is your favourite dog, Chopper is the cat".
HELLO, WHAT HAVE WE HERE?
In addition to the main cast, we are also treated to some familiar faces. And in some cases, some very familiar voices too. (More spoilers ahead)
Darth Vader (James Earl Jones)
The Dark Lord of the Sith himself shows up in a number of episodes, sometimes in dramatic fashion. And if that’s not enough, the legendary James Earl Jones once again voices Vader and trust me… the voice is immaculate. Vader appears often enough to add value, but not too often to give away too much of his characters history.
Yoda (Frank Oz)
Supremely voiced by the irreplaceable Frank Oz, you can expect to see Yoda and hear more pearls of wisdom from the wise Master of the Force.
Lando Carlrissian (Billy Dee-Williams)
It’s fantastic having the original Lando return to voice his character again, and this is yet another advantage of the series being animated as it immediately allows Billy Dee-Williams to play the part of a younger Lando.
R2-D2 & C3-P0 (Anthony Daniels)
Anthony Daniels has the amazing honour of being the only actor to appear in every single Star Wars film production that has ever aired. Great to see C-3P0 (and R2) show up too.
Given the timeframe of the series, and the role of the Empire, Tarkin was always likely to show up in Rebels. He does not disappoint and just like in A New Hope, he is as ruthless as you’d expect.
An interesting cameo and it has everyone asking the question…will we see Luke, Han or Chewie in the coming seasons.
Yes! A brief cameo from one of my all-time favourite characters. I want to know more about his exile on Tatooine!
And there’s more. Watch out for cameos from Emperor Palpatine, Wedge Antilles, Bail Organa, Darth Maul (yes, it’s a long story), Grand Admiral Thrawn and even Anakin Skywalker. Plus for fans of the Clone Wars series, Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex both show up and become regular characters. And finally, listen out for some great voice work along the way, including the likes of Tom Baker, Brent Spiner, Sarah Michelle-Gellar, Lars Mikkelsen and more.
To give you a taste of what to expect, check out the below trailer. If after the first 45 seconds you’re not drawn in, the series is probably not for you!
- The use of John Williams’ original music, the classic sounds (Stormtrooper blasters, TIE fighters, etc.) and the voices of some of the original cast makes Rebels feel undeniably “real”.
- It’s official, it’s canon and producer @dave_filoni has already talked about how Season 3 will connect in with Rogue One.
- Brilliant story arcs and some genuine ‘Star Wars moments’; the writing is really strong.
- Great humour throughout.
- It provides a really great backdrop to A New Hope and sets the scene for the original trilogy.
- Hondo Ohnaka, my favourite recurring character. Great voice!
- It’s not as ‘dark’ as it could be. In some ways this is also a positive because it means you can gather round the TV with the kids. The trade-off is that you don’t always get to see everything, for example when Governor Tarkin orders the death of two Imperial Officers, we don’t get to see the lightsaber beheading, we just get to see the reactions of those who witnessed it and hear the sound of the two heads hitting the deck.
Expect to see Rebels appear in my forthcoming 2016 #TopTenTV list.