Star Wars Rebels: Season 1 by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg & Greg WeismanStar Wars Rebels: Season 1 by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg & Greg Weisman

Star Wars Rebels: Season 1 by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg & Greg Weisman science fiction film reviews movie reviewsThis show has been on my radar for a while, and I’m glad I finally found the time to settle down and binge the first fifteen episodes of the first season. As a follow-up to The Clone Wars (2008 – 2014) and a bridge between the prequel and original trilogies, Star Wars Rebels also holds the distinction of being the first STAR WARS project to be released after Disney’s procurement of the franchise.

Would it match the maturity and relative darkness of the preceding animated series? Or would it be “Disneyfied” for the kiddies? Turns out, the project was in good hands: producers Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman are no strangers to serialized animated shows, and although it takes a couple of episodes to really hit its stride, Star Wars Rebels can boast compelling characters, intriguing plot-lines, fun world-building and a strong sense of continuity that not only runs across the season, but fits nicely within the greater STAR WARS mythos.

As with all the best STAR WARS stories, the show revolves around a rag-tag bunch of rebels who pit themselves against the greater might of the Galactic Empire. The crew of the Ghost are comprised of Captain Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek pilot and surrogate mother to the team, Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi Padawan whose training was cut short following the destruction of the Jedi Order, Garazeb Orrelios (or “Zeb”) an agile Lasat who serves as the crew’s muscle, Sabine Wren, a nimble Mandalorian solider and demolitions expert, and Chopper, the requisite astromech droid.

They’re a well-oiled machine when it comes to keeping Imperial soldiers on their toes, largely working from the planet of Lothal. It’s there they run across a young street-rat by the name of Ezra Bridger, with whom Kanan feels an immediate connection. It’s clear that he is strong in the ways of the Force, but the dangers surrounding the on-going hunt for the Jedi and Ezra’s own reluctance to stick his neck out for the rebels poses a few problems…

Every STAR WARS story needs a decent villain, and Rebels doesn’t stint on providing plenty of them. Foremost among them is Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo) and The Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs), tasked by Darth Vader himself to hunt down and destroy any Jedi that may have escaped the Purge. The latter in particular serves as the “big bad” of the season, with a unique lightsabre design and a deep connection to the Dark Side. And of course, you don’t have to wait long for appearances from Grand Moff Tarkin and Vader himself.

In fact, the show doesn’t waste any time in connecting itself to the greater Star Wars universe. In only the second episode we get cameo appearances from C3-PO and R2-D2, and there are even more appearances from well-known characters later on — not only from The Clone Wars (which necessitates a prior knowledge of that series) but also the original and prequel trilogies (often voiced by the original actors!) If you’re a long-time fan of STAR WARS, it’s a joy to see them appear; like meeting old friends after a long absence.

As good as the voice-acting is, especially from Jason Isaacs (the Inquisitor), Vanessa Marshall (Hera) and — surprisingly enough — Freddie Prinze Jr (Kanan) the show’s animation is a bit below-average. It was hard enough to get used to the block figures and plasticine-looking complexions of The Clone Wars, but here the budget seems to be even tighter (the hair on the Wookiees is downright awful), despite the imaginative design and beautiful colour-palette.

A part of me wishes the show had stuck with non-Force users as its main characters (focusing on the “ordinary guys” is the reason I enjoyed Rogue One so much) but there’s a certain poignancy in seeing Kanan as one of the very few remaining Jedi, and his desperate attempts to pass on as much Force-training as he can to Ezra against the backdrop of war. And in the greater context of the STAR WARS universe, they raise all sorts of tantalizing questions — namely, are either one going to even survive to the end of the show?

Another great storytelling choice is that though the show starts with our motley band of heroes doing little more than annoying the Empire, things gradually grow in scope and understanding. As each episode goes by we get hints and clues as to the larger rebellion that’s fermenting in the galaxy — one that’s inspired by the myriad of missions undertaken by our little team.

It’s a strong first season, told by people who know what they’re doing — both in terms of the larger STAR WARS context and in crafting Rebels on its own terms. Some of the supporting characters are a little underutilized in order to fully-establish Ezra’s coming-of-age narrative, but I’m sure they’ll be explored further in later seasons.

I’d say Star Wars Rebels captures the magic of the original trilogy: swashbuckling adventure meets frothy mysticism, with plenty of call-backs and in-jokes, original ideas and concepts, loveable characters and twisty plots throughout.

The DVD includes the fifteen episodes of the first season (with the extended cut of “Spark of Rebellion”) as well as “The Ultimate Guide” (a recap of season one from Kanan Jarrus), “A Look Ahead” (a preview of the second season hosted by Dave Filoni) and “Rebels Recon” (behind-the-scenes featurettes pertaining to each of the episodes of season one).


  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.