For me, the start of Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels has been bug-ridden. The animations are often poor and the characters are little beyond the typical Disney caricatures and cliches. The hour-long special Spark of Rebellion, following in the wake of several shorts that introduced the various characters, is my first introduction to Disney’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise, and by the looks of it, things look pretty bleak and dire to me. It was a decent special, if we want to stretch the truth out, but the fact is that I just couldn’t go along with it. It was too childish for me.
The first three episodes proper of the show are now out, and I have to say that I noticed almost nothing in the way of improvement from Spark of Rebellion. Stormtroppers still can’t hit worth a damn, making them the most inept army in the history of fiction, ever. Dialogue and characterization is still firmly on the side of clunky. There’s no real story here other than madcap adventures of the characters in question. The third episode ups the quotient a little bit by bringing out the show’s big bad, the Inquisitor, but even that fails to impress as much as it should have.
Some of the good things about the show, going off the hour-long special, were the characters of Kanan, Hera and Sabine. Together, the three of them pack quite a good amount of badassery, and were a shining light for someone like me who was really struggling to find some good in the episode. But the first three episodes of the show have put paid to that.
Sabine never gets a chance to show off her Mandalorian skills. She is either too busy playing interior decorator in the crew’s ship, the Ghost, or she throws around explosives and the like. She is never really active in the show, not in the way that Kanan or Zeb are, or even how Ezra is at times. And this frustrates me since there is so much potential in her as a character and so far the writers are not capitalizing on that.
Hera gets off a bit better, but too often she is sitting behind the control-board of a ship or shuttle and that’s all that she does. Other than give some motherly advice to the team. And that just bugs me. She is locked into a role where we never really get to explore much of her since much like Sabine she has an incredible amount of potential. If an episode or two could be there where all the other characters are helpless and it is only her piloting skills that can get them out of the jam, that’d be something. The show leans on Hera as a font of wisdom, not a font of action, and even there, all she gets to do is the classic cliche wisdom. Nothing uniquely Star Wars or uniquely Twi’lek or what have you.
Kanan was really good in the hour-long special but in the good and proper show he has been much less than that. He is supposed to be a Jedi Knight and given that he’s managed to stay alive for so long under the Empire’s tight grip on the galaxy, you’d think that he is more of the patient, long-term thinker type. But, he is a brawler. He falls more in the camp of Jedi like Anakin Skywalker than Obi-wan Kenobi. There’s this particular sequence in the third episode when he is training Ezra as a Jedi Padawan and it strikes me as completely bogus, as a riff on the Obi-Wan and Luke training scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, especially when Kanan and Ezra make fun of Yoda’s maxim from Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, “Do or do not, there is no try”. The episode just takes potshots at long-established scenes for cheap laughs, and it is little more than that in the macrocosm.
Plus, Kanan has to be one of the most inept Jedi Knights ever if he can’t teach a Padawan even the most basic of Jedi tricks. Some of it perhaps could be put down to that it has been a long time since Kanan was in such a situation, that he doesn’t have quite the support system as the Jedi Knights did before Order 66, but even then, none of it shows through. It is just window dressing and nothing more.
Perhaps the only real positive light in the show thus far is that the two main Imperial characters we’ve seen actually do stand out. There is Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau of course, who is the nemesis to Kanan and his crew, and then there’s the Inquisitor, a Sith-like being who serves the Empire and makes his debut in last week’s third episode. They both strike me as really dangerous characters, as far as the heroes are concerned, and certainly much more capable as well. They don’t rely on random chances to help them win the day. Sure, the odds are stacked against both of them since they are the villains and must thus be put down at every turn, but despite all that they do shine, and for now I’m content with that.
The animation hardly improves in these three episodes from the hour-long special. It is still too much of the comic-relief and Toy Story animation rather than something much more… realistic and believable. For someone who holds an endless fascination for The Clone Wars, the animation here is really hard to stomach. The only good part, such as it is, comes in the climax of the first episode when we have this big close combat fight between Kallus and Zeb, involving a weapon unique to the latter’s decimated and destroyed homeworld. That was an especially nice touch, both in terms of the animation and the story elements. But that’s really it. The Inquisitor in the third episode comes off as dark, villainy and creepy, something that is only heightened when he breaks out his unique dual-bladed lightsaber.
But that’s all it. This is a Disney production through and through. As far as I’m concerned, Disney is not interested in drawing in the older generation of fans with this show. This is a show that looks firmly back on the company’s glory days of animated movies of the 80s and 90s and puts that into only a slightly modern look for today’s kids. Fortunately each episode is only half-hour long, because otherwise I’d get burned out on it pretty quick. As it is, I’m kind of close to giving up on this one, restrained only by my Star Wars fascination to keep on going.
And a final point. The first episode is about a kinda-sorta undercover mission for C-3PO and R2D2 and it is one of the most convoluted and headdesk-inducing stories I’ve seen on television. Not to mention that the entire episode is a big black mark on the new Star Wars canon. It completely wastes these two characters, and the cameo of Bail Organa is even more disappointing.
More Star Wars: Rebels: Spark of Rebellion.