P.t. Philben ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion is the hour-long TV movie special that serves as the pilot to Disney XD’s animated Star Wars Rebels TV series which is also available online. This particular version that appeared on ABC featured a brief scene in which the show’s main villain, The Inquisitor (Jason Isaac), is being tasked with genocide by his master: Darth Vader himself (over hologram) as performed by James Earl Jones himself in the first confirmed appearance in the saga since Return of the Jedi since he never confirmed his participation in Revenge of the Sith. It was a brief appearance but very satisfying. The show was created by Simon Kinberg (Known for the X-Men film franchise), Dave Filoni; who is well know for the Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network and later Netflix, and Carrie Beck. The series is set fourteen years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope in a time when the Galactic Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy through its cruel, autocratic methods. The story will follow a colorful group of rebels who all have a history with the Empire.
The episode opens with the Inquisitor (who appears to be trained as a sith) kneeling before a large hologram of Darth Vader who tell him to wipe out the remaining Jedi that survived the purge that began in episode III as well as to search for “children of the force” and to either recruit them into the Empire or kill them. The Inquisitor accepts this task in a dramatic reveal and it cuts to our hero Ezra (Taylor Gray) on his home planet of Lothal. I could put some time into describing his character but so far all you really need to know is that he is Disney’s Aladdin without song and dance applied to a Star Wars setting. He is an orphan, a thief, under the impression that he is selfish even though he just does not have any opportunity to be selfless, he enjoys stealing and sticking it to authority and he is literally referred to as a “street rat” multiple times in this movie. He is initially pretty much what you would expect given that description which is not a bad thing. There is also so heavy implication that he is in fact one of these “children of the force” which is of course what sparks the beginning of the action.
Ezra encounters a group of Rebels including Kannan (Freddie Prinze Jr.); the leader of the group. Given the marketing giving this aspect of his character away it is not a spoiler to say that it is revealed by the end to be a survivor of the Jedi Purge who typically employs a blaster instead of his handy lightsaber blade to avoid attention. The premise of the character is intriguing and he is pretty much what you would expect from the description and that is once again not a bad thing. He still has plenty of room to develop and he is downright cool enough in the meantime. Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios (Steven Blm) is the muscle of the group and he is an aggressive but intelligent member of the newly created Lasat race. Whats interesting about his design is that it (along with the multi-purpose weapon he sports) is based on the original designs for Chewbacca by legendary Star Wars artist of the original films Ralph McQuarie. The same basic thing is true of Chopper (AKA C1-10P), who is the crews droid that is based on an old design for R2D2 and he may not be as charming as R2 but he is just as cute and almost as entertaining.
Hera (Vanessa Marshall), the Tw’ilek pilot of the group is basically the voice of reason on top of being a good pilot. The most colorful, in both senses of the word, of the main characters is Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar). She is a purple and golden haired Mandolorian (Jango Fetts people) warrior who is both a skilled assassin/saboteur/general badass and a graffiti artist who likes to leave propaganda for the rebellion in her wake. She is intriguing in the fact that she is the first of the traditional Mandolorian warriors to not be an antagonist and she is very playful in her way of getting things done while still being brutally efficient. She is also the love interest/puppy dog crush of Ezra; who is much younger than she is. Through a series of conflicts Ezra ends up being accidentally brought into the fold of the crew of The Ghost and the adventure begins.
The crew dynamic of colorful characters flying around in a ship kicking but is extremely reminiscent of the original trilogy and other great sci-fi stories like Firefly and Guardians of The Galaxy. The whole design of the show is inspired by Ralph MacQuaries work on the original trilogy and it hits every note it is trying to hit in that regard. The characters are likable, the action is great and the feel of the show makes it very clear that the creators love the original trilogy and intend to honor it. The animation far surpasses Star Wars: The Clone Wars in its organic feel(the hair looks like hair and not cardboard) ith the one exception of the woolies that are featured. This may sound strange but they are almost too expressive to pass as the people as Chewbacca.
Although you only get a glimpse of the primary antagonist we get to meet a great secondary antagonist in Agent Kallus who is voiced by David Oyelowo. He is a crafty and almost likably underhanded imperial intelligence officer who likes to get his hands dirty in his work and he could honestly carry season on his own. Being an adequate primary antagonist is an indicator of a great secondary villain.
The voice acting is hard to overpraise all around, particularly on the parts of Oyelowo, Prinze, and Blum and it can be expected that Issacs will deliver as a villain since he played Admiral Zhao and Lucius Malfoy. The story of this film feels more like two episodes than an actual movie but it keeps you interested until the end and thats what counts for a series. Star Wars is great at its best but history shows that their is plenty of room to screw up but right now it all feels good. The only problems really where the animation of the Wookiees and the concept of Ezra’s tool that appears to be a laser slingshot which is just little of stupid. Everything else is fantastic and it leaves a lot to look forward to. It had a much better start than the clone wars did and that turned out very well. Great feel, great characters and acting, awesome action and an all around great foundation for whats to come.The force really is strong with this one.
Overall Episode Grade: A-