We’ve been waiting a long time for Rebels. Ever since the end of The Clone Wars and, despite the announcement of the new movies, we’ve been waiting to see if it can live up to the legacy of Clone Wars – and the movies.
And, based on the double-bill opener dubbed Spark of Rebellion, the answer is that it absolutely can.
The pilot of Rebels is an resounding success. Introducing us to the crew of the new ship The Ghost, which producer Dave Filoni told us at Celebration Europe, is meant to be the new home of the cast, somewhere that both characters and audience feel happy and safe – like the Falcon in the Original Trilogy – including the captain Kanan Jarrus, pilot Hera Syndulla, muscle Zeb Orrelios, Mandalorian Sabine Wren, droid Chopper and newcomer Ezra Bridger.
The cast are all perfectly at home in the Star Wars canon and each seem to carry their baggage while remaining fun and accessible and there’s a lot to love here; Ezra is our access point, a reluctant passenger on The Ghost who is thrown aboard after a thrilling chase on the planet of Lothal… a glorious representation of the art of Ralph McQuarrie, loving brought to life, it’s pure goose bump fuel to watch.
Rebels opens confidently and with spectacle and style, with a chase that effortlessly moves from the street, to a massive alien road, to the skies above the planet – seeing Tie Fighters and Star Destroyers in atmosphere is a thrill and seems thrillingly new and comfortably familiar at the same time.
Mixed with Kevin Kiner’s score which channels John Williams’ classic themes more than he ever did with Clone Wars, Rebels is like stepping right back into the worlds of Star Wars. And it’s glorious.
I could go on all day about what I loved here – the performances are great, there are lines of suitably cheesy dialogue mixed in with some funny little throw aways and themes that George Lucas always loved to inject into his storytelling are present too, with Ezra coming full circle, but changed forever by the end. The magic of who the Jedi are/were is personified here by Kanan who is a reluctant hero and channels a little captain Solo, mixed with a fair dose of a younger Obi-Wan (and dare I say a little Captain Mal?).
What don’t I like? Well, the format could become infuriating, the pilot being two episodes, felt perfectly timed at 45 minutes, and at the 22minute mark allowed for each episode, I just hope it gives the weekly stories enough time to flourish; of course we had the same issue with Clone Wars but there was more than a few times that I felt the themes just weren’t given the time they deserved – let’s hope this is an ongoing arc more than a story of the week affair.
The animation too was a little clunky, but I feel this was the cost of it looking so beautiful… the backdrops are fantastic and there’s one scene at the end where The Ghost lands in a field of long grass and it’s the kind of image that demands to be frozen, framed and mounted on a wall.
Overall, Rebels impressed me in ways that took the Clone Wars a couple of seasons to; I love the look and feel of it, I liked the pacing and characterisation. It has the peril and the fun at every step that made the Original Trilogy the classics they are. Each character held his and her ground wonderfully with no-one in particular standing out, but this is not a bad thing but rather because they all were allowed to shine; oh, and Chopper will be this generation’s R2-D2, trust me.
I can’t wait to see what direction this goes in and to see more of Agent Kallus and the Inquistor; I already have a feeling that they both will become nice additions to the legacy of villains Star Wars has. And I can’t help but feel that this universe will be well populated with familiar faces over the coming weeks, months and probably years.
Star Wars is back folks, believe it. The Force is stronger than ever.
Now, where’s my copy of A New Dawn gone?
4 out of 5 Nerds – one shy of a top score only because I think there’s even better still to come.