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REVIEWING FIRST 7 MINUTES OF STAR WARS REBELS SNEAK PEEK

TheStarWarsSaga.com’s initial review of the first seven-minute preview of STAR WARS REBELS, as it debuted on Disney XD tonight:

REVIEW

Overall this short introduction to STAR WARS REBELS was involving considering the limited character introductions, quite stocked with suspense and action, and well animated, ending in a cliffhanger moment that left us wanting to know what happens next — so we’ll consider it a successful sneak preview of the upcoming series.

It’s clear from the opening frames that the planet Lothal is already suffering hard times under Imperial domination and exploitation of its resources. The introductory scene setting the tone of the Imperials’ superior attitude and power-bullying tactics with the local population seem a bit forced and heavy handed — but then again this is a young Galactic Empire we’re witnessing in action. Their officers haven’t had time to build up their dehumanized demeanor to the levels we first saw from the likes of Governor Tarkin and his Imperial ilk in the original STAR WARS popular films. Note how different the two Imperial officers look and talk by comparison: one is more effete and snobbish in his tone yet relying on the troopers around him for strength to back up his orders, whir the big brute speaks in a much “lower class” dialect and his actions speak of his longtime standing as a bully who is never the brains of the operation. By the time we see Imperial officers in the EPISODE IV era, such diversity of individual personalities and appearances have been swept away in the Imperials’ attempt to rebuild the galaxy in their own, uniform and dehumanized fashion.

Contrast this to the brief introduction this preview gives us of the rebellious crew of The Ghost — Kanan, Sabine and Zeb — and this a rag tag group of collected individuals in all sizes, shapes and species fits the typical Rebel profile perfectly. So STAR WARS REBELS should provide an unseen glimpse into this uneasy transition period for the Empire as it extends its grasp to control star systems and planets like Lothal, but hasn’t yet perfected its ruthless, deadly efficiency of operations and control just yet. Likewise Ezra will end up joining his allies aboard The Ghost at a time when the Rebellion is in its own precarious, unorganized phase of existence as a widespread movement countering the Empire in the galaxy.

CHARACTERS

Let’s take a look at what we learned tonight about the main characters introduced in this preview:

The questions is asked a few times: who is that kid? Ezra fits the street-wise hustler and con artist mold, an outer space Aladdin if you will, fooling and stealing from his marks by using his cunning, clever mind as much as his athletic abilities to elude his pursuers. I enjoyed the very interesting touch that he seems to meet up with Kanan though Ezra’s own glimmering sense of the Force, to the point that Ezra instinctually ducks from view just before Kanan can spot him on the rooftop. It’s difficult to tell if Kanan can sense any Force ability in Ezra yet, though he’s obviously surprised by Ezra’s daring abilities on the speeder bike. Kanan’s intrigue about Ezra is evident, to the point that his short confrontation with the boy gains his attention enough to distract him from sensing the TIE fighter closing in on their position. One aspect worth wanting to see more of this episode is definitely answer such questions about Kanan and Ezra’s early connection through the Force will play out.

Unfortunately we learn much less from our introduction to Sabine the lithe Mandalorian female and Zeb Orrelios, the enforcing muscle of The Ghost‘s crew. This preview sequence focused mainly on Kanan and Ezra, so I’m sure we’ll see Sabine and Zeb developed much more fully and soon in the series’ debut this October, but I’d expected them to get a little more airtime than they did. Sabine exhibits her gymnastic physical prowess when jumping off the roof to land on the crates Ezra is stealing via the speeder bike, yet she also demonstrates a sense of fair play as she steals back only on of the crates for their mission, leaving Ezra with half his stolen prize instead of nothing. Zeb seems more annoyed at Ezra’s thievery and disruption of their mission more than anything else, and this troublesome introduction will be a sticking point in any future reconciliation they achieve as crew mates for certain.

Kanan takes aim at Imperial Stormtroopers during a speeder bike chase through a Lothal city in the seven-minute preivew of STAR WARS REBELS. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Clearly with exchanges of hand signals and pre-arranged placement in the market, this crew of Rebels establish themselves as a well organized, strategically minded unit on a mission, contrasting Ezra who obviously works well on his own yet for himself alone. Note how Ezra takes a few of the food items out of the vendor’s basket as ‘payment’ for his distraction of the Imperials, which implies the dynamic that while Ezra may have a good heart and dislike for the Empire’s bullying occupation of Lothal, the boy’s own survival supersedes all other priorities. Ezra’s moral code realizes that a heroic rescue of a downtrodden victim is worth doing, but he’s not entirely altruistic either and charges a price for his efforts — a bit of Han Solo characteristics, to be sure. There is no doubt that, like Han, Ezra will learn the lessons and values of teamwork, trust and cooperation as his introduction into the Rebel group proceeds in future episodes.

Though we’ve seen pilot Hera Syndulla in action during previous REBELS clips, it was disappointing that she was excluded from this preview but we already like what we’ve seen of her character and know we’ll get plenty of time to know Hera once the series if off and flying. Meanwhile we liked everything we heard from REBELS’ talented voice cast including Taylor Gray (Ezra), Freddie Prinze Jr. (Kanan), Tiya Sircar (Sabine) and Steve Blum (Zeb) in this extended preview, and can’t wait to hear Vanessa Marshall (Hera), David Oyelowo (Agent Kallus) and Jason Isaccs (The Inquisitor) in action this Fall.

ACTION

The action in this short preview was quiet solid for only a seven-minute clip, showing what we can hope will be the series’ imaginative and expansive visual style. The street market skirmish with the Imperials and the speeder bike chase are typical STAR WARS action setups, yet I enjoyed the punctuation offered by the high overhead shot of Ezra piloting his speeder bike through the fields of grain as the TIE dove in for the chase. This shot choice struck an important tonal note in the series as it quickly illustrated some prominent themes of the Empire’s consuming dominance of the unsophisticated, nearly pastoral planet Lothal, while displaying another snapshot establishing how Ezra’s instinct is to go it alone and fight for himself against the Empire. His visual isolation in the flowing fields emphasizes his solitary ways and the vulnerability to danger his attitude can cause.

Ezra’s surprising jump into a highway lane of opposing traffic certainly impresses us and Kanan, showing the kid thinks outside the box when under stress and has a creative mind as he’s literally going against the flow in this Imperial domination of Lothal. Ezra’s not afraid to buck the system even at risk to his own life, which may cleverly set up Kanan’s eventual recruitment of Ezra to join their crew and fight against the Empire with them.

DESIGN

Sabine jumps onto the back of Ezra’s stolen speeder bike to congratulate him on his brazen hijacking of stolen goods from Imperial stormtroopers — just before she steals back one of the crates he took. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.Striking a different animation and design style from its predecessor STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, the visual impact of REBELS is a bit easier on the eyes and less angular as seen in this short preview. The computer animation is just as technically impressive — though I suspect we haven’t seen its full series potential yet — but its look is more traditional in the mold akin to Disney feature animation, especially in character design. Attention to detail in environments and design are quite robust already, as there are myriad of small touches evident in the city streets to pour over in freeze frame viewing: from the grandiose Imperial mural inviting citizens to join the Imperial cause by manufacturing TIE fighters, to the layers of age-worn and new colorful graffiti adorning side streets, the overall series design plan should provide plenty of depth and eye candy for studious viewers.

Ezra Bridger faces an uncertain future on Lothal in the wake of Imperial occupation of the planet in STAR WARS REBELS. Note how the saturated color palette of his character contrasts with the dreary, desaturated world of Lothal under Imperial control. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.This clip’s direction quickly demonstrated early strengths as well. While Lothal is at first glance a planet with a washed out color scheme of grey-domed cityscapes, hazy skies and muted wheat tones in its rolling fields — likely symbolizing how the Empire’s occupation has effectively sucked the life out of Lothal — it provides the perfect contrast to Ezra’s bright-colored jumpsuit of orange tones and his blue-tinted eyes and hair highlights. Likewise Kanan, Sabine and Zeb standout just as prominently from the drab Lothal environment, which perhaps is a thematic substitute of Tatooine’s desert design palette of a world drenched in searing yellow sunlight and golden sands that offered little visual stimulation to world-weary farm boy Luke Skywalker.

More now than ever do I expect REBELS to reveal that Ezra’s character will prove a blend of Luke’s impatient yearning for excitement and adventure beyond the drab confines of Lothal, and touches of Han Solo’s loner attitude that he can handle any danger better by himself without relying on help from others. Once Ezra joins the crew of The Ghost, his real potential as an individual and a Force-sensitive pre-Jedi will bloom in the action and thrills found out there in the galaxy.

SUMMARY

As noted, this seven-minute preview of STAR WARS REBELS succeeded in leaving viewers wanting to see more of it, which is a good jumping-off point for the series coming this October. This clip shows that it’s easy for audiences to identify with and like Ezra, Kanan, Sabine and Zeb for what little we know of them yet, so getting sucked into the drama and suspense of the show on a weekly basis should prove a natural reaction this Fall.

Here’s to the Rebellion and those who will help forge it in this new STAR WARS adventure set in a yet-unexplored period in the timeline as the Empire spreads its reign of terror and destruction across the galaxy. As for Ezra, I look forward to find out who that kid is.