The GeeksverseREVIEW | Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 1 (“Spark of Rebellion”)

REVIEW | Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 1 (“Spark of Rebellion”)
Published on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Disney bought LucasFilm and decided to do a new animated Star Wars series. How was it? Click through to read our (spoiler-free) opinion.

Series description (from the Disney Channel): An animated TV series set between the events of Episode III and IV, Star Wars Rebels takes place in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape.

Original airdate: 03 October 2014 (Disney Channel/Disney XD)

Production staff
  • Director: Steward Lee (part 1), Steven G. Lee (part 2)
  • Writer credits: Simon Kinberg (writer/creator), Dave Filoni (creator), Carrie Beck (creator)
  • Animation director: Jesse Yeh
  • Score: Kevin Kiner
  • Executive producers: Simon Kinberg, Greg Weisman, Dave Filoni
Cast
  • Taylor Gray as Ezra Bridger
  • Vanessa Marshall as Hera Syndulla
  • Freddie Prinze, Jr. as Kanan Jarrus
  • Tiya Sircar as Sabine Wren
  • Steve Blum as Zeb Orrelios/Alton Kastle/Stormtrooper
  • David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus
  • Keith Szarabajka as Cikatro Vizago/Transport Captain/Imperial Officer #1/Old Man
  • Liam O’Brien as Yogar Lyste/Morad Sumar/Vendor #1
  • David Shaughnessy as Aresko/Grint
  • Greg Ellis as Stormtrooper
  • Jason Isaacs as The Inquisitor
  • Greg Weisman as Stormtrooper Commander

Many Star Wars fans were disappointed when the Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended in 2013 after a successful five-year run. The digitally animated series detailed the events that occurred between Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It showed the war between the Galactic Republic and the Separatists, setting the stage for the eventual Imperial take over. Even though Star Wars fans knew going in what the eventual outcome would be, they still enjoyed seeing it all play out and they embraced the new characters the series introduced. Disney knew it had a good thing going when with a weekly animated Star Wars show when it bought LucasFilm in 2012, and development of the follow-up to The Clone Wars was already underway by the time Annie and Daytime Emmy-nominated animated series showrunner Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Young Justice) joined the production in May 2013. This new show, Star Wars Rebels, would air on The Disney Channel/Disney XD, and would be set in another time in the Star Wars timeline, the period between Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, shedding light on the origin of the Rebellion.

I never was able to really get into The Clone Wars, not because I wasn’t intrigued by it, but because of the character designs and the basic story premise. What happened between Episode II and Episode III is not something I really needed to see in detail—it was enough for me to know that a whole lot of fighting went on and stuff happened that helped push Anakin to the Dark Side. From what I’ve read, though, it seems like the team behind The Clone Wars managed to pull off some neat things within that framework and now I kind of wish I had watched the show during its original run.

Now the origin of the Rebellion, that’s something I actually want to see. Where did the symbol come from? What was the initial reason that made someone stand up and say “enough is enough” and take an armed stand against the Empire. How do entire planets join a rebellion? There are so many questions, and so many good stories to mine from the premise.

So I paid attention to Rebels when it was announced and everything that came up about the show. The first major positive development was the involvement of veteran showrunner Greg Weisman. Gargoyles was an amazing show—one of my top five all-time favorites—and Young Justice was great as well. Weisman taking on an executive producer role could only mean good things for the series. The previews I’d seen of the animation left me wary, however. The trailers they released were up and down—I’d like one and hate the other. So I really didn’t know what to expect when the show premiered last week. Having seen it, I can say that overall, it’s an interesting debut with enough nods to the original Trilogy that even the most jaded old fans will find something they will like, although how much of my interest in the show is simply because of how much I want to know about how the Rebellion’s origins and how much of it is because the two-part premiere has genuinely hooked me, I’m not sure. Whatever the case, I’ll be tuning in every week. It could stand to be better in a number of areas, though.

I didn’t like Kanan’s design the first time I saw it during the previews and that opinion didn’t change seeing the character this episode. And that dialogue was groan-inducing. Really groan inducing. Ezra and Zeb are pretty much in the same boat (landspeeder?) as Kanan: They’re pretty annoying and seem more like a collection of accents, attitudes, and quirks straight out of Central Casting, but I hope they’ll grow on me as the season progresses.

The rest of the crew—Hera, Sabine and Chopper—I really liked. There wasn’t that much chemistry between them but I think that will come with time. I’m interested in learning their stories, especially Sabine and how she has a set of Mandalorian armor.

I actually think that the overall visual design of the show is a step down from that of The Clone Wars. It’s like the designers tried to soften all the angles and hard edges of The Clone Wars—and they did succeed with that if that was indeed their goal—but the final result doesn’t represent an improvement. There’s a disappointing lack of detail and differentiating textures: Kanan’s hair looks painted on and Ezra’s is too chunky, and everything looks like it’s made from the same plastic/rubber material. As for the design of The Ghost, Kanan’s ship, I’m not really sure. At certain points I liked it but at other times it was a bit chunky. It’s no Millennium Falcon, that’s for sure. Hera, Sabine, and Chopper don’t suffer from the design issues too much, though, Chopper’s constantly gesticulating arms were fun, as was the waving of Hera’s head tentacles (Star Wars fans will kill me because I can’t remember what those are called). The different colors on Sabine’s hair and armor really stood out. I did like the new Imperial designs. The biker troopers were appropriately sinister-looking, as was Kallus.

The story was decent enough for a first episode. There was some really cheesy moments and the slapstick-style humor may turn some viewers off. Writer Simon Kinberg’s teleplay does a good job of showing what life is like under the Empire’s control, though, and the characters’ emotions, outsized and exaggerated as they are, ring true, especially for Ezra and Zeb. I was actually surprised at the level of violence and the relatively mature themes tackled in the show. Yes, it’s on at 9PM, and The Clone Wars apparently dealt with some harsh stuff, but I expected Disney to tone it down somewhat. Seeing Kallus kick an offending trooper into a gorge was enough to show that Disney isn’t going to skimp on the action.

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