Review: Star Wars Rebels

Okay. So. If you are a fan of Star Wars and aren’t watching Star Wars Rebels, then you really need to get with the program and watch it. I know the animation style is a turn-off for a lot of people, but the storytelling is amazing. I never thought I’d see the day where I would love Star Wars so much, and I can say that I largely owe it to this TV show. Even if you don’t especially love Star Wars, you need to be watching this show.

Star Wars Rebels begins on the planet of Lothal, an outer rim planet where the Empire has taken over and built huge factories. Their occupation includes the seizure of private property, forcing citizens into poverty, and other general evil/bad Empire stuff. Many people are forced to work into the factories to survive, where it is implied that working conditions are not particularly great. The main character of the show is Ezra Bridger, a fourteen-year-old Force-sensitive boy, who falls in with a group of rebels. The rebels are led by Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi Padawan who survived the Jedi purge. Kanan decides to take Ezra in and teach him the ways of the Force. The other main characters are no less interesting: Hera Syndulla, the merry band of rebels’ Twi’lek pilot, is sassy and in charge. Chopper (C1-10P) is Hera’s temperamental droid who is basically a psychotic version of R2D2. Garazeb Orrelios, or “Zeb,” as they call him, is a Lasat with a bad attitude, and he is the muscle of the group. Zeb is particularly unique, as his species was not introduced into the Star Wars canon until this show. Sabine Wren is a Mandalorian girl with a grudge against the Empire she won’t explain; all we know is that she used to be at the Imperial Academy. The main antagonists are Agent Kallus, an Imperial Security Bureau agent assigned to quashing the beginnings of a rebellion on Lothal, and the Grand Inquisitor, who works for Darth Vader by hunting down any trace of Jedi who may have survived the purge.

So what is it that makes Star Wars Rebels so great?

First of all, I think that it is visually beautiful. Even if the characters aren’t always the best designed (I’m thinking here about the Wookiees in the pilot episode), the backdrops are always spot on. The Imperial cruisers always look delightfully intimidating when they are on screen. The buildings are believable and have a certain weight to them that makes them feel real. I also love the design and layout of the Ghost. Even the characters have pretty good design—the animators do a good job of avoiding uncanny valley, which is crucial. I especially love Hera and Zeb’s designs. Ezra, as one of my friends pointed out, is basically 3D Aladdin, and well, she isn’t completely off the mark. But everyone else is cool and original.

Second, I love the characters. I love them all, but from the start my favorites have been Kanan and Zeb. I love that both of these characters have a significantly tragic history wherein they lost their entire people, more or less. For Kanan, he lost the entire Jedi Order, while the Empire committed horrific genocide on the Lasats, Zeb’s people. The show has great villains, too. I love Agent Kallus for so many reasons—he lives up to his name, that’s for sure. He is a great love-to-hate character all throughout seasons one and two. I will avoid any spoilers, but season three of Rebels has moved Kallus into the honored position of second favorite character (Zeb will always hold first place.) The Grand Inquisitor is especially great, too. Season three also introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn, the new canonized version of Thrawn from the Expanded Universe books. He’s so delightfully evil—I love to hate him, too.  The character development is always well done, even if they hold back a lot about certain characters’ histories—but it’s always for the sake of the overarching plot.

Third, I love how the show fits into the overall Star Wars meta-narrative. If you watched The Clone Wars, you’ll see some familiar faces pop up. There are all kinds of Easter eggs scattered throughout the show, if you know where to look for them. So if you love the vast expanse of Star Wars, you’ll probably love this show.

Fourth, I think that the show is surprisingly easy to get into, even for somebody whose basic knowledge of Star Wars is that you watched the original trilogy once or twice—maybe the prequels, too. Like I said, I went from being a “Meh, Star Wars is okay” person to an “I love Star Wars” person. I knew almost next to nothing about Star Wars going in, and loved the show. The characters are just that loveable.

It does have some issues, though. I often think that the half hour time slot is far too short. In certain episodes, the action is packed together too quickly and the storyline resolves just a little too fast for my taste. There are also a few episodes which feel extraneous, like annoying side quests. Fortunately, they always turn out to set up future episodes with important elements—so I guess I can’t complain too much. Plus, those side quest episodes always leave plenty of room for character development. Still, they annoy me. Also, if you have watched and loved The Clone Wars, then you may find that Rebels has a much, much more kid-friendly feel to it. I don’t mind kid-friendly shows—in fact, I like them a lot—but every now and then I want a little bit higher of a body count. (Does that make me a horrible person?) Really, though, those are the only flaws I can find with Star Wars Rebels. Except the Wookiees in the pilot episode. Seriously, guys. Those Wookiees are NOT well animated.

Since season three just ended, now is a great time to get caught up on the show so you will be ready for season four when it comes out. I went from being a Trekkie to a Star Wars fan just because of this show, so if you’re already a fan of Star Wars, I think you’ll like it, too.  Overall, I give it 4 stars.

Have you watched Star Wars Rebels? What do you think about it? Sound off in the comments! (Be sure to warn everyone if you have a spoiler in your comment.)

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 picture taken of my own personal copy of the DVD set, used for editorial/review purposes only.

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Why I Love Star Wars

I love Star Wars.

Unfortunately, I do not know if I have the right to say that I am a fan. I was actually raised a die-hard Trekkie, and my friends and I, at the tender age of 11, would argue fervently over which was better: Trek or Wars. Of course I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I enjoyed it a lot. However, I always maintained that Star Trek was more interesting. Then, the infamous Star Wars prequel trilogy came out—and I disliked all of them except Revenge of the Sith. This only reinforced my opinion that Trek was the better of the two. Because, you know, Captain Janeway kicks serious butt, and Anakin is a whiny space brat/creepy stalker dude.

But you see, love changed all of that. I met my knight in shining armor (actually, it was a Yankees t-shirt), and we fell in love after arguing about The Silmarillion for a good hour or so. It was the fun sort of argument where we talked about the Sons of Hurin and whether or not Turin was an idiot. Then, the true battle began. Stuff got real. My newly minted boyfriend was a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Shock. Horror. Drama.

My father, upon learning this, cautioned me that mixed religion marriages always fail. However, I disregarded him, and embarked on my mission to make my boyfriend see the light—the holy, mighty, Star Trek light.

It sort of backfired.

It took seven years of marriage, but slowly, my faith in Star Trek was eroded. Still, I tried to cling to my tenuous belief, trusting the Great Roddenberry in the sky to renew my spirit. But then came along the thing which finally ensnared my stumbling feet in the briers of Star Wars fandom: Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels. It was innocent enough at first, my dabbling in the false religion—a Saturday morning replay of  the episode “Empire Day.” I watched it and thought, “Interesting. I could watch more of this.” Of course, once something piques my interest, I have to pursue it, and pursue it I did. I had soon watched all of the Star Wars Rebels episodes available. I waited with giddy anticipation for each new episode, falling in love with each of the characters. The season one finale was amazing. I had seen the light—and it was awesome. I wanted more—but alas! There was no more. Season one was over, and we had to wait for season two. I was like a junkie in withdrawal.

So, my husband and I watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix. I was hooked on Star Wars even more. I actually liked Anakin, because the show gave him some decent character development. (He’s still a creepy stalker dude, though. I will maintain that for all time.) I started branching out. I read the Kanan comic books, and I read Star Wars: A New Dawn. (Though I am not sure if you can really call that branching out when they were about characters from my new obsession of Star Wars Rebels.) When Episode VII came out, I raced to the theater. When Rogue One came out, I sat in the theater, too excited to eat my Junior Mints. And I loved it. I loved it all.

Now, I will never be as much of a Star Wars fan as my husband is.  But I have come to the conclusion that I really, truly, love Star Wars. It’s for a simple reason: Star Wars is set in a deeply flawed universe.

I do not mean that the universe is full of plot holes or badly written. I mean the milieu is a galaxy filled with flaws. There is greed. There is political deception. There is a reflection of the true state of humanity that simply does not exist in Star Trek’s idealized Federation. So, because of all of these flaws, the stakes in the Star Wars milieu are much higher. In Star Trek, there are some high stakes now and then, but we are only ever given the viewpoint of the Federation. In the Star Wars universe, we are allowed to see both sides of things. The politics are more complex in Star Wars, too. The politics are interesting—I didn’t mind them so much in the prequels. (It was everything else that annoyed me.)

In short, while Star Trek has exciting episodes and great conflict and occasionally deep philosophy, the milieu is boring compared to Star Wars. Plus, I love the spiritual element of the Force and the more fantasy-oriented ways of the Jedi. There is no way to deny that laser swords are just plain cooler than a compression phaser rifle. I will always love both of these franchises, but I’m afraid (or happy) to say that Star Wars finally won. So, as I said, I am not sure if I truly get to call myself a fan. I’m more of a turncoat, really. A johnny-come-lately.

Nevertheless, I love Star Wars. And I am going to celebrate the month of May by featuring a review of something Star Wars related every Tuesday. I’ll also be posting original Science Fiction themed flash fiction stories on Fridays to keep things in the Sci-fi spirit.

So which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? Sound off your opinions in the comments.

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