So, Rebels…

Watched the first two episodes bound together as an hour-long “premiere” last night although several people had already seen it through other sources before its official debut.

No matter what, everyone is going to compare “Rebels” to The Clone Wars. There’s just no getting around that. Of course, TCW had several years on the air and it was unceremoniously canceled while there was still plenty of creative gas left in its tank. “Rebels” was put together in a short period of time and just got out of the gate.

“Rebels” clearly has a different aesthetic and that’s fine to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Some of it is obviously meant to recall Eps IV-VI: stormtroopers move like guys in hard-to-move-around-in fiberglass/plastic suits instead of the smoother movements of the clone troopers, the ships move much more slowly, and there’s a lot of inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art (one location ought to be called McQuarrietown). When the characters are shooting TIE fighters in space, the TIE fighters look flatter than ships you’d see in the PT or in Clone Wars. The explosions look like the ‘splosions seen in ANH or TESB. But I also have to wonder if some of it is also meant to save time and money in the animation. The detailing and modeling of the various characters are better than what I’ve seen on most of what my nieces watch on Disney Junior, but not as rich as what was done for Clone Wars. Ditto for the decision for show composer Kevin Kiner to basically recycle John Williams’s motifs, sometimes at sonic boom levels, instead of composing new material as he did on That Other Show.

Occasionally the callbacks to Eps IV-VI are a little too on-the-nose. The characters’ main ride has an interior that looks like the Millennium Falcon, right down to having the same lounge and chess table. Did the Empire mandate every ship have the same aesthetic and design?

It is true the stormtroopers come off as dumb clucks and I thought the decision to rescue a small number of Wookiees from the spice mines of Kessel was a little spontaneous.

Now, the show still has plenty of action and humor, and maintains just enough interest in the characters so you keep watching. The protagonist is a street kid who falls in with a tiny and apparently independent group of troublemakers, which just happens to include a surviving Jedi on the run. They do not seem to be part of the larger Rebel Alliance, though I guess eventually that could change. And it just so happens that said street kid has some abilities in the Force, which the Jedi guy tests without the kid knowing it. Oh look, here’s Obi-Wan in holographic form, which only reminds me of how much I miss That Other Show. The different characters react to the kid in different ways, with Zeb not being all of that trustworthy to the lad and Sabine being set up as a possible love interest.

They also manage to squeeze in some neat effects, like one scene in zero gravity and another scene where there’s a hole blown open into space.

Clone Wars had its quirks and bugs at the beginning: the frequent use of lines cribbed from the OT and every encounter with General Grievous ending with his running away, for example. “Rebels” already got renewed for a second season so it’ll have time to find its space legs.

But Clone Wars had greatness in its DNA. It was ambitious. Its stories were meaty; Clone Wars hired writers from some of the best t.v. dramas. Its animation was beautiful, especially after the first season. Lucas wanted half-hour cinema and animated art, and that’s what he got.

I’m not sure if that DNA exists in “Rebels.” Time will tell but to me this show consciously skews younger than Clone Wars and the level of ambition doesn’t seem to be quite the same. “Rebels” seems to aspire to be a good cartoon and on that level it might succeed.

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5 Responses to So, Rebels…

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember with Clone Wars, it wasn’t until Season 2 that I really appreciated as much as the movies. I still enjoyed the first season, but it wasn’t until Season 2 that the show really started to shine. So, even with a flawed first season, I won’t judge Rebels as a success or failure until I see how it’s second season goes. Will it improve, or fall flat? Only time will tell.

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  2. Nobody says:

    I have to admit, I wasn’t terribly impressed. Maybe it’s because I’m too used to the rhythms of TCW, but the pacing felt way off here, too slow in some parts on the ship, way too rushed elsewhere, especially at the end. The animation was okay, but nowhere near the quality you had on TCW. Part of it is the direction– in trying to resemble more the practical look of the OT than the florid, beautiful PT, you wind up with something that’s kinda visually boring. Then there’s the characters– most of the main crew on the ship all sound kinda the same to me. Standard Whedon-inspired snarkiness. The kid Ezra is the latest in a long line of whiney young Jedi characters, and he’s probably the most irritating of all, coming off sounding like a selfish brat.

    It’s not a bad show, per se, but it’s nowhere near the quality that TCW had, even at its semi-awkward start. If this is what Star Wars looks like without the guiding hand of George Lucas, it doesn’t bode well for the ST.

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  3. Keith Palmer says:

    I admit I’m wondering if this “we’ll lead into those loveable old movies at every turn” trend will last once “Episode 7” opens; I can just imagine the focus shifting very much to it and the comparisons becoming just sort of assumed. Of course, I don’t know if we’ll get “the further adventures of (those who are left)” as a new animated series, comparable to the early Marvel Star Wars comics and the post-Attack of the Clones Clone Wars material…

    I’m afraid I managed to miss the premiere; it wasn’t conscious or spiteful, just a matter of seeing it in the newspaper listings on the “general Disney-related channel” up here and remembering I had my cable box and PVR set to record The African Queen off Turner Classic Movies just then… Hearing there was an effort made to have the stormtroopers “move like in the movies” makes me think there’s at least some effort going into the animation, anyway.

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    • lazypadawan says:

      There’s definitely some effort; it’s just that it’s clear they are not only going for a different aesthetic but also making this on a lower budget than Clone Wars.

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  4. I just submitted my own thoughts to JN, though I may be behind deadline so it may not see publication for another week. All I’ll say for now is that I’m…interested in seeing how this turns out. And that I thought Zeb was a Kaleesh until I read differently.

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