TV Review: ‘Star Wars Rebels’

Star Wars Rebels TV Review Disney

Perhaps the “Star Wars” franchise’s worst-kept secret during the second-trilogy era is that its best screen depictions have come via TV animation. Inaugurating the Disney-synergy juggernaut before director J.J. Abrams can get there, “Star Wars Rebels” continues this trend, offering a sly, stylish offshoot — introducing a new lineup of characters very much in the “Clone Wars” tradition — with scads of action, beautiful animation and fidelity to the original’s spirit. Premiering on Disney Channel with a one-hour launch subtitled “Spark of Rebellion” before settling in as a series on boy-oriented Disney XD, the Force is indeed strong with this one.

Set during the period after “Revenge of the Sith” and prior to the original “Star Wars” (a.k.a. “A New Hope”), “Rebels” essentially reboots the first movie, albeit with a new small band of rebels leading an incipient fight against Imperial forces. That begins with their introduction to Ezra (voiced by Taylor Gray), an inordinately resourceful teenage thief, taken in by Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.), his alien pilot Hera (Vanessa Marshall), warrior Sabine (Tiya Sircar) and the powerful Zeb (Steve Blum), a Wookiee-like creature, except he can articulate his bad attitude, which includes taking pleasure in knocking Stormtroopers’ helmeted heads together.

Ezra combines elements of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, since he’s hostile to authority and risking his neck to help others, as well as young and hotheaded. The project also showcases a sensationally striking villain known as the Inquisitor, voiced with appropriate menace by Jason Isaacs.

Though not having access to many well-known “Star Wars” figures would seem to put “Rebels” at a disadvantage relative to “The Clone Wars” (also overseen by Dave Filoni, who shares exec producer credit with “X-Men” scribe Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman), it actually proves oddly liberating — or at least, less confining than knowing the best they can do is fight Count Dooku to a draw. Part of that has to do with the way these dense half-hours are driven by action, which in the premiere includes a way-cool fight sequence in zero gravity, as well as the expected narrow escapes and — for those who haven’t read up on the show — one very clever twist.

“Rebels” also exhibits some genuine wit, such as a second-episode rumination about Yoda-speak that should put a smile on the face of anyone who can quote freely from “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Disney, naturally, has been eager to wring value out of its Lucasfilm acquisition, which along with Marvel infuses a powerful boy- and teen-oriented element into its marketing and merchandising apparatus, complementing all those princesses and faeries. In that respect, the Disney Channel-to-Disney XD baton pass represents a shrewd way of helping establish the series, given all the mileage Cartoon Network got out of “Clone Wars.”

Viewed through the lens of the Disney empire, “Star Wars Rebels” offers a reassuring reminder that there’s plenty of room to operate within George Lucas’ far, far away galaxy. And in terms of succeeding creatively, they haven’t just tried; done it, they have.

TV Review: 'Star Wars Rebels'

(Series; Disney Channel, Fri. Oct. 3, 8 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Lucasfilm Animation.

Crew

Executive producers, Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, Greg Weisman; supervising director, Filoni; producers, Kiri Hart, Athena Yvette Portillo; director, Filoni; writer, Weisman; editor, Joe Elwood; music, Kevin Kiner; original theme by John Williams. 60 MIN.

Cast

Voice cast: Taylor Gray, Vanessa Marshall, Freddie Prinze Jr., Tiya Sircar, Steve Blum, David Oyelowo, Jason Isaacs

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 6

Leave a Reply

6 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. LANDO'S SON says:

    I have watch the premiere movie (Star Wars:Rebels-Spark of Rebellion twice already and I have agree with this reviewer and say “yeah,it was that good”. The show was “family friendly” but not “childish” as some Star Wars fans had feared and the action was very cinematic and fast paced in classic Star Wars fashion. I think this show will make up for some of the hurt we fans all felt when Star Wars:The Clone Wars was canceled,but it is good to finally see Disney/Lucasfilm getting the ball rolling on this new era in Star Wars visual media (t.v.shows and cinema) that we have all been anticipating since plans for the new sequel trilogy was announced back in 2012.

  2. Jedi Master says:

    What did Cartoon Network get out of Clone Wars outside of the ad dollars from Mattel to sell product? It was hyped to premiere on Friday nights. That didn’t last long as it was a ratings dog and moved to Saturday only. Clone Wars was far too serialized for the kids of today. I hope this version can make a civil war fun!

    The fan boys will love it, but I am on the fence if it will connect with the intended audience. Tween boys. Also, premiering on Disney Channel while it may have reach….it may further turn off boys as that channel is hands down primarily female.

    Let’s see what happens. I hope I am wrong and this one takes off with the intended audience.

  3. Prince Adamis says:

    Good review, I agree with it. Great start to a new era of Star Wars!!! Rebels was stunning! So much better than I anticipated.

  4. nerdrage says:

    I loved Clone Wars but let’s face it, other than Ahsoka’s story, there wasn’t much in the way of dramatic tension. I fully expect Snips to reappear as a grownup in Rebels, not right away of course, they’ll want to milk the PR value of her guest appearance to the max…in the meantime, the new characters look great.

  5. DREDD 2 says:

    watched it last night, it was fantastic! It really surprised me as those character shorts that were online kinda was offputting, but the actual episodes were brilliant. Not as much hammy acting as i thought, not too full of bad jokes forced humour. A bit maybe but i was surprised how serious a lot of it was. Great action, and i love the clean visuals. designs look simplistic but i like that. Especially in this day and age where everything is over designed and cluttered ie (transformers etc..) Great music score, and sounds design.
    After seeing the pilot, i’m already over the clone wars era. Loved that show, especially when it was great, and was gutted when it ended, however, Rebels both fills that space nicely and adds new stuff too. Maybe a few loose ends from clone wars may get tied up in rebels too.

    I’d give the pilot a good 8/10, woulda been higher if the wookiees were done better and I’m on the fence with the graffitti girl character at the mo.

More TV News from Variety

Loading