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Star Wars: Rebels Review: The Force Is Strong with This One

Marshall Lemon | 4 Oct 2014 17:00
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Rebels is the latest entry into the Star Wars universe and it's off to a good start.

Like most Star Wars fans, I was pretty bummed out where the Expanded Universe was shut down by Lucasfilm. Sure, it had problems, but modern audiences grew up with those stories, and it was disappointing to see them suddenly brought to a close. But more importantly, it puts a huge focus on the New EU, especially the Star Wars: Rebels TV show. Outside of Episode VII itself, Rebels will set the tone for how Disney introduces Star Wars for a new generation, and a lot rides on getting it right.

Thankfully, the Spark of Rebellion premiere movie is a strong opening chapter. With a new cast of characters and impressive array of action sequences, Rebels is already proving itself a fun-filled adventure. The plot and character arcs are a little one-dimensional, but it lays several intriguing seeds for future episodes, and makes me look forward to what else Disney has in mind for the Star Wars franchise.

Haven't caught it yet? You can watch Spark of the Rebellion on iTunes and, after this feature-length premiere, new episodes will be airing on Disney XD starting on Monday, October 13. Read on for the rest of our review!

Star Wars: Rebels is set in-between Episode III and IV. The Jedi Council and Old Republic have fallen, and the Empire has fully established its supremacy across the galaxy. But as the Empire grows in strength, rebel cells spring up to protect civilians who cannot defend themselves. Rebels focuses specifically on the Ghost and its crew, who use their underworld contacts to find anyone in trouble and bring justice back to the galaxy.

Before we continue, can we acknowledge that it's very easy for the Rebel Alliance to look like villains without context? When the first major battle occurs in Rebels, the only thing we've seen the Empire do is arrest someone selling food without a license. Sure, they're a little dickish about it, but come on. Food safety is important. The Rebel forces, on the other hand, set off bombs in a populated city, steal Imperial cargo, and gleefully shoot down soldiers in the street. These aren't the underdog Rebels who fled a Star Destroyer; these guys start on the offensive, and prove to be a significant threat. It's no wonder Darth Vader is hunting them personally by the time Episode IV rolls around.

But don't worry, these Rebels are cartoonishly good-hearted freedom fighters, not terrorists. The Ghost's mercenary crew is motivated by pure intentions, and will do absolutely anything to help the common alien. Those cargo crates were filled with food the Empire kept from starving farmers who were evicted from prime real estate. Meanwhile, Stormtroopers openly use Wookies as slave labor, and anyone questioning Imperial policy is arrested for treason.

Sure, I get wanting the Empire to look bad, but that's pretty heavy-handed, even by cartoon standards. At one point a Stormtrooper stops fighting rebels so he can literally chase a terrified Wookie toddler for five minutes. The murders of Uncle Ben and Aunt Beru were more subtle than this, and it reduces everyone involved into one-dimensional archetypes. Thankfully, once we've established that yes, the Rebels are good and the Empire is unredeemably evil, we can start getting to the fun stuff.

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