Over the years we’ve had plenty of promises of Star Wars TV series – and in the case of The Clone Wars, for many, those promises were fulfilled. However, until watching this opening hour for Rebels, I’d not really seen a version of the universe which captured the blend of action, humour and characterisation that set the original trilogy apart from other SF films.
This is recognisably the universe that Luke Skywalker is growing up in over on Tatooine – the architecture and the layouts of the towns, the alien races that we see in the original film’s cantina sequence, the ever-present Imperial stormtroopers who don’t seem to be able to shoot straight to save their lives: all present and correct. The vehicles, the hardware – everything feels right, which is not really surprising given how closely the team has stuck to Ralph McQuarrie’s designs for the original film.
We get to know the crew of the Ghost through the eyes of young Ezra: Kanan, the adventurer whose past as a Jedi has to remain a secret until he can’t protect his friends any other way; Hera, the sometimes nurturing pilot (I’ve seen her called the mother figure, but that doesn’t really parse with the way she’s portrayed); Sabine, a Mandalorian with an intriguing line in colours, who reminds me a great deal of the TV portrayal of Ace in the late classic era of Doctor Who; and Zeb, an alien whose wrong side you really don’t want to be on. Their backstories aren’t crammed into the first hour – there’s plenty of time to learn about them as the series progresses – but we get important clues that they are all, in their own ways, victims of the Empire who have decided to do something about it. The villains of the piece, bar the obligatory stormstroopers, are not given that much to do but they make sufficient marks that you’ll want to know more about them – particularly after one of the later scenes with a stormtrooper who asks the wrong question at the wrong time.
As far as production values go, this isn’t the highest quality character animation that you’ll find – the producers have gone on record that they vetoed long hair for characters because of the difficulties of animating it. That does mean that one very familiar Star Wars race whose plight forms a key part of the story don’t look their best (or indeed very much like themselves).
However, the story pulls you in with many nods to the original trilogy, and even an appearance by one of its key characters, and with a terrific music score by Kevin Kiner which feels like a logical extension of John Williams’ work, this feels like we really are finally back in that galaxy far far away.
Verdict: A rip-roaring adventurous start that should reassure those who worried the franchise would be Disney-fied that its future appears to be in safe hands. 8/10
Star Wars Rebels begins on DisneyXD on October 3rd