Sunday, January 31, 2016

review: Star Wars Rebels

I know there has been a lack of reviews lately. To be honest, I wasn't very thrilled with the last couple of anime seasons. Mostly I didn't like what I saw, I dropped quite a lot of series and the  good stuff were mostly sequels to a series I already reviewed. So not a lot of material for reviews there.
But now I've got a review for you again - though it's not anime.

Recently I've really been into Star Wars. OK, with the release of The Force Awakens everything and everyone has been into Star Wars (even toilet paper). But for me it's been Star Wars Rebels.
I was sick before christmas and there was a Star Wars night on TV, showing the complete first season of Star Wars Rebels. I knew about it before, but this really made me love it

Star Wars Rebels takes place about fourteen years after the destruction of the Jedi Order (Revenge of the Sith) and about five years before Luke sets out to rescue Princess Leia (A new Hope). It's set on a grassland planet called Lothal, in the Outer Rim - a rather remote place - and follows the adventures of a group of five rebels, at a time when the Rebel Alliance against the Empire was just about to become an organized venture.

Main character is Ezra Bridger, a human teen. He's been getting by, living on the streets, since his parents were taken away for broadcasting criticism of the Empire when he was seven. He's been on his own for so many years that he has developed some trust issues. He's also often a typical teenager complete with annoying behaviour and stupid logic. But hey, it's realistic, so you can't hate him for it. It turns out that he's been subconsciously using the Force.

At the start of Star Wars Rebels Ezra joins the crew of the starship Ghost led by Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla.

Kanan Jarrus is - I'm going to spoil just a little bit here - a former Jedi Padawan, one of the very few who survived Order 66 when the Jedi were betrayed and killed. His master did not survive, so he changed his name and gave up the Jedi lifestyle in order to survive. He led the life of a vagabond - in my mind I call him a Rōnin, a samurai without a master - and eventually became part of Hera's crew and a rebel against the Empire. He keeps his Jedi past a secret, but the rebel group greatly benefits from his knowledge, training and experience in war.

Hera's a beautiful, green-skinned Twi'lek - and one hell of a pilot. It's often mentioned that Kanan is the leader of the group, but I think this title belongs to both of them. She owns the Ghost, the starship the rebels live on, and she often gets their missions, especially if they're of the more anti-Empire kind. I think the podcast Coffe with Kenobi once called Hera "the first rebel" - she's in this with all her heart and soul and puts her needs after the greater good she sees in their actions. She keeps the group together and pushes them forward.

The other three members of the group are Sabine, Zeb and Chopper.
Sabine is a young Mandalorian - remember the Bounty Hunter Boba Fett who caught Han Solo? - and she obviously loves two things: graffiti and explosions. She loves to dye her hair, spray paint all kinds of things, she's very good with blasters and even better with all kinds of explosives. The stormtroopers have learned to run and hide when they see her graffiti mark somewhere because it means something's about to blow up.
Zeb is the Chewbacca, the Mr. T, the grumpy muscles of the team. He's also one of the last of the Lasat, a species that was nearly wiped out by the Empire, and wields the traditional weapon of the Lasat  honour guardsman.
Then there's Chopper, an out-dated astromech droid, similar to R2-D2, only a lot less friendly. He doesn't seem to like anyone except for his owner Hera but just like his more famous cousin he saves the day quite a few times.

I like how the crew of the Ghost is very diverse - Star Wars has been criticised for being very white, but Star Wars Rebels definitely isn't. Ezra is very obviously Arabian, he reminded me a lot of Aladdin in the Disney movie in the beginning. Sabine has an Asian look to herself and some have said Kanan looks Latino. But as a rebel group they're very much like a patchwork family.
What I love even more is the portrayal of female characters. They are just normal characters, who happen to be female. It's so refreshing! This should not be such a big issue, but sadly it is.
I think it's a bit of a shame though that Hera didn't get a lot of background yet. I think she's a very important character, but unlike with Ezra, Kanan, Sabine and Zeb, we hardly know anything about her, her past and why she's doing this. Maybe it's because she's often staying behind, ensuring their getaway. I hope we'll have a bit more information soon, but I think for one of the leaders of the group, it's come too late into the story.

A lot of people say that Star Wars Rebels has the vibe of the original movie trilogy. It's not surprising, since timewise it's closest. Also the use of the old music themes emphasises this.
I like how Star Wars Rebels tells another tale, not the "saviour of the universe" tale, not the story of the people who will go on to become legends, but the struggles of the "infantery". To quote Gandalf: "Some belief that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay." Of course the Lothal Rebels aren't quite ordinary people.
It does worry me a little, though, because I wonder what will happen to these characters. Will they all have to die because none of them are mentioned in the movies that depict the events five years later?

But what I love most about Rebels is - let's be honest here - Kanan. He's my favourite Jedi since Qui-Gon Jinn. There are comics and books about him (which of course I had to buy) so he's the character with the most background. I really like characters who hide how badass they're actually are and I love it when they let it out. I love the Rōnin story of his life, I like how he's so in love with Hera (who puts their mission first) and how he upholds the philosophy of the Jedi without the dogmatic approach that eventually at least partly caused the downfall of the Order. And I love how he's not perfect, how he holds resentments and has his own insecurities. Through the series he bonds with Ezra, the both of them really becoming master and apprentice, and this relationship lets Kanan grow, too.

Star Wars Rebels includes a lot of nods towards the other franchise. People like Bail Organa and Lando Calrissian turn up. Mostly this is very well done, but sometimes they rely a little too much on viewers knowing The Clone Wars (which I don't). But overall you can watch it without having seen the other animated series.
By the way, I also like the Rebels style of animation a lot better, it's less square, more detailed textures.

Star Wars Rebels on Wookipedia
Star Wars Rebels on IMDb

A very special thanks to Amy Ratcliffe who trough her ravings in my Twitter timeline has made me start watching Star Wars Rebels in the first place. Read more on this article...