Howdy, folks! Duke here. Just finished my second day at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto (at the time when I started writing this, at least), and I got to see something pretty special today. No, I’m not talking about the Matt Smith panel (including special bonus wedding proposal by one of the fans to his ladyfriend), although that was pretty magical. But no, what I saw and wanted to talk about while it’s still fresh in my mind is Star Wars Rebels.
Star Wars Rebels is the next Star Wars animated series, using the same CGI animation as the previous (and very popular) series Clone Wars. But whereas that series focused on the Clone Wars (duh) and was set to take place between episodes two and three, the new Rebels series is set five years before A New Hope. It features the Galactic Empire at the very height of its power. The Jedi lay defeated, the emperor reigns supreme, and entire planets are at the mercy of the bad guys. This is before the rebels were really a thing, before they were organized and working together for a common cause of freeing the galaxy from the Empire’s clutches. This is before the loss of Alderaan, before Luke Skywalker takes up his father’s old lightsaber, and before the important Battle of Yavin. That last bit might not sound as impressive, but in the Star Wars universe, the timeline is generally measured in terms of BBY and ABY, respectively Before the Battle of Yavin and After the Battle of Yavin. It’s a big enough even that the ENTIRE timeline is measured by it, and here in Rebels it has yet to occur. For reference, Phantom Menace took place 32 years Before the Battle of Yavin, and Chewbacca dies 25 years After the Battle of Yavin. Or died, now that the expanded universe canon beyond the original trilogy has been considered wiped clean. And since it’s now been made officially not canon, I didn’t technically spoil it for anybody! Ha! But that is a whole separate, rambly discussion.
Okay, that may have sounded like a bunch of random words and ramblings, but what I’m really trying to say here is that this series is set in a very important time. It’s set right before the rebellion really kicks off, before Luke Skywalker becomes a total badass (and maybe kisses his sister a little on the way) and before the Death Star blows anything up. This is all leading up to A New Hope, which for most of us was (hopefully) our very first Star Wars film.
I was lucky enough to get into a preview screening of Star Wars Rebels today. I was in line for over an hour and a half, and apparently the line stretched all the way outside the building itself, so a lot of people didn’t get a chance to get in, since the theater room could only hold so many people. Thankfully, those people only have to wait a little over a month before the series itself will begin airing. But as I happened to see the preview today, which was more or less the contents of the first two episodes, both of which will be airing together in October, I wanted to give you my impressions of it now.
As you have probably gathered from this article so far, I’m a pretty big fan of the Star Wars series. I was super excited to hear about this project, and have been following it since the announcement, watching videos and introductions of some of the characters as they came up. So I was PSYCHED when I saw this on the schedule for today. This was the one thing for the entire convention that I absolutely could not miss. So let’s talk about it. I don’t have any pictures or videos or anything, as it was a preview screening and they were pretty serious about keeping it under wraps (lots of security guys around, not that I would have tried taking pictures or videos regardless), so you’ll just have to use your imagination for this one.
To be general about the screening, I loved it. The script had a good combination of action and humour, which melded together very well. It’s fairly similar to the Clone Wars series in that regard, which had a mix of heavy subject matter relating to military occupations and enormous battles, but seamlessly blended in humour (mostly relating to Anakin’s padawan trainee, Ahsoka). Rebels seems to use the same humour, but again mixed in against a backdrop of Imperial occupation (not much has changed, only who the bad guys are), abuse of authority, and the ever-present danger of being against a powerful enemy.
I won’t get into the plot of the show, as I don’t want to delve into spoiler territory, but for the first two episodes it’s pretty interesting. It goes into places and situations I didn’t expect it to, at least not yet. It has a good mix of action and comedy, while still getting the characters properly introduced. Some parts of the dialogue admittedly came off as a bit heavy-handed and cliche, but I’m willing to forgive that as it had a lot of characters and ideas to bring up, and only a limited time with which to do it, AND cram in as much awesome as they could.
And let’s talk about the characters for a minute. Right off the bat we have a good mix of characters. Three of them are seemingly human (although one is a Mandalorian, part of a warrior culture that accepts a multitude of different races), one is a Twi’lek, one is a Lasat (a fairly underutilized race in the Star Wars universe), and one is your standard quirky droid. These shows are pretty much required to have at least one quirky droid character. I think it might be in their contracts. I mean, even Clone Wars had a quirky droid character for a bit, voiced by David Tennant himself! It also had a lot of R2-D2 with his beeping and booping, but his quirkiness is a level all on its own. The droid bit can be easily overplayed to the point of being a bit irritating, but I feel they struck a good balance with this one. The Rebels droid is known as “C1-10P” or Chopper for short, and is an astromech droid (similar to R2-D2), but made up of spare parts. And he is adorable.
So that’s what KIND of characters we have in Rebels, but who are they? We’ll go into that next, with my personal feelings about them thus far, since I don’t want to go into any plot details.
Ezra Bridger, voiced by Taylor Gray, is an orphan who lives on an Outer Rim world known as Lothal. Fairly out of the way, the planet has still managed to attract the attention of the Empire by being rich in minerals needed for TIE Fighter production. It’s unclear what exactly happened to his parents, but it seems to imply that it had something to do with the Imperials. He manages to get by on his own by stealing what he needs to survive. Sort of a Space-Aladdin, but instead of a monkey, he seems to have rudimentary force sensitivity, not that he knows what it is or what to do with it. Ezra seems to be the main character in the show, as Ahsoka was to Clone Wars. He’s the odd man (or kid) out, the one just discovering the idea of the rebels and opposing the Empire, so we get to experience it all through him as he dives head first into a new and dangerous world. He also has some sort of energy slingshot on his wrist, which I know some people were a bit hesitant about. It could have easily become an irritating gimmick for the character, but over the two-part series premiere, I think I only saw him use the thing about three times. It was a load off my mind, as that could have gotten a bit tedious.
The next big character, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr. is Kanan Jarrus. A former Jedi and one of the few known survivors of Order 66, which wiped out the vast majority of the Jedi Order in one fell, treacherous swoop. He’s the leader of this little band of rebels, and he’s traded his lightsaber for a more subtle blaster, at least for now. He’s a smooth guy who is doing his part to put the hurt on the galactic organization that tore his world apart. Very, very interested in finding out a bit more of his back story and seeing what makes this character tick.
Here’s Zeb, looking like he’s ready to cause some trouble to any Imperials he happens to come across. That’s a large gun for a large man.
Next up is Zeb Orrelios, voiced by the always awesome Steve Blum. Blum was also present at the convention, and even helped introduce the preview screening. That man’s voice could melt carbonite. Zeb seems to be your standard muscle character, the sort of Chewbacca of the group. In fact, Zeb’s look was apparently inspired by the original concept art for Chewbacca. So that’s pretty cool. But unlike the Wookie, when Zeb talks, we can actually understand what he says. Zeb is a Lasat, a large and muscular race that has barely popped up in the Star Wars world. In fact, the only other notable Lasat I could find information on was a bounty hunter named “Puggles” that only appeared once, in a Star Wars Roleplaying adventure that was released in 1988. I have no doubt that Zeb will do better than Puggles, as he already seems like an interesting character with a bit of depth to him.
Hera getting her piloting on. Plus bonus Chopper!
This next character was my favourite from the initial list, and it’s Hera Syndulla, voiced by Vanessa Marshall. I will admit to being completely biased in my selection of her as my favourite, as I just love Twi’leks to death. Seriously, the two best races in all of the Star Wars world are the Twi’leks and the Chiss. Hera is the pilot of the rebel ship, and also seems to be the caring, matriarchal figure aboard the ship, keeping the crew in line with more kindness than discipline. There wasn’t TOO much of her in the screening, so I don’t have much else to say here, but I really want to see more Hera in the series. And not just because of her lekku.
Then there’s the droid that I mentioned, Chopper. Not too much to talk about here, since he didn’t have a major role in what I saw. He does, however, have little arms that come out of his head, which he uses to gesticulate wildly whenever something happens around him. Again, quirky droid character. But he seems fun, and it’s just foolish to fly a ship through space without an astromech droid aboard. And seriously, just think of all of the gifs that are going to pop up on the internet of his little robot arms flailing around wildly.
She is as colourful as she is dangerous. If you’re an Imperial, anyway.
Last up in the main characters (at least, the good guys), is Sabine Wren, voiced by Tiya Sircar. She’s the Mandalorian of the crew, which I mentioned earlier. For all intents and purposes, she’s human, but the Mandalorians are a clan-based society brought together by a culture of honor, pride, and beating people up. If you’re a Star Wars fan and if you’ve played just about any of the video games, there’s a VERY good chance that you’ve run into Mandalorians before. This one in particular likes flashy colours and explosions. I’m not sure which she likes more, to be frank. I liked this character as soon as I saw her, and not just because Mandalorian is pretty much synonymous with badass.
Then there’s the enemies, of course. Haven’t seen too many of them so far, aside from Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau. And he’s not even the big bad of the series (who is apparently voiced by Jason Isaacs). I mean, they’re going to be dealing with a former Jedi, after all. Gonna have to call in the big guns for that. Or big lightsabers.
Speaking of big guns, the wikipedia page indicates that we might be seeing (or hearing, at least) Anthony Daniels reprising his role of C-3PO, and Billy Dee Williams back as Lando Calrissian! Granted, not the most accurate source, but I’m going to hold out hope anyway.
That’s just about all I can go into here without dipping into spoiler territory, which I really want to avoid. Because I want you to experience this for yourself on October 3rd when the two-part premiere will be airing. If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re going to check it out. Which you definitely should. I know I’ll be watching it again!