Since the Star Wars franchise was acquired by Disney, one thing seems to be apparent with regard to the tone and feel: make it feel more like the original trilogy. That’s certainly apparent in what little we’ve seen from the set of the new film, wherein spacecrafts have been built and sets have been created that look old, dirty and weathered. Apparently, this memo made it all the way down to the department that is producing the new television show, Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD). They’ve eschewed all of the things that have bogged down the prequel trilogy and its own accompanying cartoon series, The Clone Wars, including entirely non-organic enemies, boring politics, and a lack of mystery surrounding the Force and the Jedi. These things have been replaced by some snappy story-telling, old-fashioned swashbuckling, exciting chases, and people (actual people.. not droids) getting shot!
The pilot episode “Spark of Rebellion,” at worst, tries to do a whole lot, but nearly all of it will please those fans tho found the prequels to be rather stale. In short, it truly “feels” like Star Wars of old is back. Since this is a show targeted to children and families, it’s not quite as foreboding as it maybe should be when a Star Destroyer is cruising overhead, but the story, the characters, and the sense of fun that were so much a part of the original films can all be found here. Of particular note is how the writers have once again made the Force a bit more mysterious (no mention of midichlorians here) and the Jedi feel, once again, like the great warriors of legend rather than stiff bureaucratic pawns. This show is a treat to all those that found Attack of Clones to be a snooze-fest (which probably includes everyone).
The story itself is one that, at the most basic level, is one that doesn’t stray too far from the original film. Here, on a planet governed tightly by the Empire, our young hero Ezra, contemplates his place in the world. He’s kind of a like Aladdin in the early scenes from the classic Disney film, a quick-thinking thief who knows how to get cause a stir and get out unnoticed. However, at the start of this episode, his own exploits cross paths with the a small group of outlines who have bigger goals. Kanan and his team aren’t to happy when their plan to weapons from some of the Empire’s shipping crates is compromised by Ezra, and in the opening fifteen minutes, we are treated to some exciting action that features many of the best elements from the original films: speeder bikes, exchanges of blaster fire, TIE fighters, and even a Star Destroyer. Of course, Ezra becomes a reluctant part of the group later as they undertake a mission to rescue a group of wookies, which includes getting caught in a trap set by the Empire and then making their way to the Spice Mines of Kessell (notably mentioned in the first film), and Kanan must reveal himself as the Jedi he is in order to save the group. In the episode’s coda, the story confirms what we already suspected, that Ezra could become a Jedi himself. The writers of the episode take a remarkably old-fashioned approach to this revelation by giving it a destiny and potential while avoiding hokey phrases like “Force-sensitive” that would be found aplenty in the prequel films.
The minor characters that comprise the crew all have potential and are each given multiple moments to shine in this episode, and with Hera (The Twi’lek pilot who could be called the galaxy’s best “get-away driver) and Sabine (who looks to have been a former Mandalorian soldier who likes to have fun with explosives), it will be good to see some female characters get a chance to do some fighting, and then there’s Zeb, who’s the brawn of the group (the most ardent fans will love a scene with Zeb that was inspired by the original drawings of Ralph McQuarrie), yet the most interesting character is Kanan himself Cynical yet restrained, he is an amalgam of Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and and his age and world-weariness will help to temper the over-zealousness of his younger allies.
There’s a whole lot to take in with the “Spark of Rebellion” two-parter, and the episode doesn’t seem to have time to breathe, but the producers have given us an adventure that feels much like Sta Wars. Star Wars, as a whole, might draw upon various tropes found in other sci-fi fantasy story-telling while using character archetypes that date back to when storytelling itself was young, but perhaps what makes the franchise unique is that feel, that certain tone that is unlike anything else. It’s a world where advanced technology can co-exist with elements of magic. It’s one where heroes can’t flee without being bombarded with blaster-fire, and a setting a simple trap might actually work exactly as intended before it’s apparent that the enemy has set a simple trap of their own. in the best Star Wars stories, the heroes and villains are clearly defined and the action set-pieces have a mood all of their own. The series pilot is bold and bombastic, and will thrill the kids while bringing back that sense of adventure that once defined the franchise.
My rating 4.5/5