First Look: Star Wars: Rebels

If you’ve been following my blog, then you might know about my rocky relationship with the Star Wars saga. As something so rooted in my childhood, I love it and yet expect the best from it, and with the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, I’ve had many new hopes for the franchise.

On that count, Star Wars Rebels delivers.

Copyright © 2014 by the Disney Channel
Copyright © 2014 by the Disney Channel

Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rebels is an animated series centered on a group of unlikely heroes who take the fight to the Empire on the distant planet Lothal. When young Erza Bridger gets recruited into their ranks, he discovers his own connection to the Force, which leads him into the path of Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.), a fugitive Jedi who survived the Emperor’s purge. With the help of a fugitive Jedi, an elite Lasat warrior, a Mandalorian teenager, a Twi’lek ace pilot, and their plucky astromech droid, Ezra finds himself on a path toward rebellion and conflict with some of the worst Imperials in the galaxy.

I think a lot of people had the same reaction as me: “So it’s Star Wars meets Firefly.” The two-part pilot, however, feels a lot like the original Star Wars trilogy. In the span of 43 minutes, we get a young hero with raw talent being drawn into a larger world with the help of seasoned fighters on an awesome starship and leaving his world behind to stop an urgent threat against an innocent species. The pilot does an excellent job of setting up Ezra’s cynical worldview, only to knock it down by the end with the help of a fellow cynic Karrus, who shows him a glimpse of the power of the Force.

So what does this show have exactly?

  • Animation. Brilliant facial expressions and very fluid motion make for some amazing split-second action sequences and physical comedy, especially with big guy Zeb and local artist Sabine.
  • Voice acting. Freddie Prinze, Jr. can sound convincing as both a cynical fugitive and a heroic Jedi when he needs to. I also love the fact that we get back Vanessa Marshall (the voice of Jan Ors herself) as Hera Syndulla. And nothing in animation could go wrong with Steve Blum as Zeb and an assortment of other voices.
  • Atmosphere. It’s nice that this show gives every environment a chance to breathe and show off just how big it is, whether it’s a shot of the Ghost flying through space or Ezra jumping across rooftops and dodging a squad of stormtroopers.
  • Continuity. Lucasfilm released a lot of stories set between the prequels and the original Star Wars trilogy, but in my mind, few have formed such a solid connection between the two series as this show has. We get the dark transition of life under the Empire, the loss of the Jedi Order, and a glimpse of the rough-and-tumble days with the future Rebellion.

I have many hopes riding on this show, not only because of its premise and wonderful cast, and not only because of the involvement of Greg Weisman as a first-season producer, but because of the sheer joy I get from watching it. Rebels can be the spark that gets us excited about Star Wars again after the whole prequel and Clone War mess and just in time for the upcoming sequel trilogy.

Star Wars Rebels is available through Disney X.D. New episodes air on Mondays.

Bibliography: Star Wars Rebels. Created by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Carrie Beck. Produced by Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni, Greg Weisman, and Athena Yvetta Portillo. Lucasfilm, Lucasfilm Animation. Disney X.D., Disney Channel. Original broadcast: October 3, 2014 – present.


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