When I first heard about the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Rebels, I was pretty excited. An animated series which I could, in theory, watch with my kids and which spans the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope? What could be more completely awesome?
I’d watched the original 2003 Clones Wars series and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sure, it wasn’t a live-action Star Wars feature and it wasn’t gritty, adult animation, but it was Star Wars, it told a number of stories behind the movies and it wasn’t the Star Wars Holiday Special.
The 2008-2014 Clone Wars series came at a pretty bad time for me and television (3 kids between ’07 & ’11), so I have seen what would probably add up to around nine minutes of that series. Perhaps I’ll get back to it one day, but just the name “Cad Bane” makes me want to barf a little. Sorry, George, but you know you’ve made it when characters from your stories have their own section in the dictionary under “cliché”.
Now unlike many Star Wars fans, I wasn’t bitterly disappointed with Episodes I, II & III. I think they were flawed, certainly, as were Episodes IV, V & VI. I’m not a Hayden Christensen hater, I think his performances were as credible as Mark Hammill’s. I even understand the place of Jar Jar Binks in the overall story (ie. they needed an idiot in a senior senatorial position to propose the Chancellor’s increased executive powers), I just think they made him too much of an clownish idiot and not enough of an ambitious, politically-motivated idiot (one does not need to look far to find plenty of those in the real world). I do think the fall of Anakin Skywalker could have been better handled. I mean why not put Padme in some ACTUAL mortal danger and force Anakin to make a choice between doing something truly evil and letting Padme die? Scales – tipped; problem – solved. Alas.
Overall, I really enjoyed Episodes I, II & III. Episodes IV, V & VI still hold with me as better and more important, but mostly because they were ground-breaking in their time and because I was a kid when they came out (and kids just really know how to enjoy stuff in a life-long kind of manner).
Also unlike many Star Wars fans, I have seen the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney as a good thing. My theory is that Disney is likely to make a shitton of Star Wars films (as they have with Marvel), some will be good, some will be bad, some will be terrible and some (and here’s why I’m excited) will be extraordinary. I am more than willing to chew through the chaff in order to enjoy the cream. It’s all Star Wars.
So this brings us up-to-date on my opinion of Star Wars of Christmases past and future, let’s actually look at the Star Wars of Christmas present: Rebels. My first impression of the show has been a very common one and quite a lasting one: Ezra is Aladdin. He looks like Aladdin, he sounds like Aladdin, he even gets called “street rat” in Ep1. It’s not a co-incidence and it’s something the creators have done consciously, which kind of shits me. I really had believed that all of those memes with Mickey Mouse as a Jedi were a joke. Apparently not.
I’ve learned to live with Aladdin being the main character in Star Wars: Rebels, though, because for the most part, the show is really good. Sure, the crew of the Ghost is basically lifted as a job-lot from Firefly*, but this means that the characters are solid and the crew chemistry works well to create tension (even if it is a little forced). It’s also nice to have an atromech which is genuinely an arsehole instead of an omniscient, yet benevolent meddler in the affairs of the galaxy (like R2-D2) or an idiot (like every other astromech in the Star Wars universe so far). On the subject of astromechs, I was more than a little horrified during Episode 2 (Droids in Distress) when C3PO and R2 showed up. I was thinking “Oh NO! Can they not come up with some new way to do comic relief in Star Wars!?!”. Episode 1 marred by Aladdin, 2 by the Droids. Things were not off to a good start. Then Episode 2 ended with a rather nice handover and THAT was when I started to like this show.
Star Wars: Rebels is a kids cartoon pitched at probably 7 – 12 year olds. The storylines aren’t anything we haven’t seen before (I mean what is?), the characters aren’t (yet) anything we haven’t seen before and the violence is a bit much for under-7s, but not realistic enough to be considered gritty or realistic. The fleshing out of a bit more of the Star Wars universe is really nicely done and the situations the characters find themselves in remind me very much of the Jedi Knight PC games (which were super cool by the way). I think if you were watching these as an adult seeking grown-up storylines, characters and situations, you will be disappointed, but if, like me, you are looking to enjoy a bit of Srat warsy goodness with your 7+ year-old kids, then this show is going to make you and your kids very happy. 7yo and I are certainly really enjoying it.
*Ghost Crew = Firefly Crew:
- Captain with a gruff, unfriendly facade who is really a gentle soul
- Motherly, good-hearted second-in-command who is really in-command because she can manipulate the Captain & because she is always right
- Quiet, rebellious younger female with engineering/demolitions tendencies
- Not-very-bright muscle with questionable loyalty to the crew & a chaotic attitude
- Wildcard newcomer to the ship who has special powers
- Book died in Serenity, so they didn’t need to transplant him. What? I said **SPOILERS** at the top and if you haven’t seen Serenity yet, what the hell, man?