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Pilot


14 years after the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the Empire has a firm hold on the galaxy, The Jedi are no more and the dark times are upon us. Orphan loner Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) finds himself in the middle of robbery led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and his crew, who steal from the Empire to help those in need after the Empire had crushed their lives. During the escape Ezra finds himself aboard Kanan’s starship The Ghost with this band of rebels and he soon discovers that Kanan holds a secret that may unlock a new destiny for Ezra.

Star Wars: Rebels
So superb Star Wars animated series, The Clone Wars ended rather abruptly after Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise and it was a shame as the show was really hitting it’s stride but it didn’t take long for Disney to announce their new animated show Rebels and wisely, for the most part they kept The Clone Wars team together, led by Dave Filoni to carry on their good work.

Rebels begins very strongly with this forty odd minutes length pilot episode. There’s a real sense of scale from the opening scene as a Star Destroyer looms over Ezra’s life and a few beats of a familiar theme rings out as the Rebels theme tune but it’s when it cuts to a couple of passing Tie Fighters where the nostalgia and the sense of all things Original Trilogy kick in. From here on in, everything feels slick and smooth and the action sets pieces weave us beautifully into this new era for Star Wars characters, making sure to bring us every sound effect we ever loved along for the ride. Blasters, Speeder Bikes, Scout Walkers, they all make all of this feel entirely Star Wars and it makes meeting the new cast of characters all that much easier.

Star Wars: Rebels
As far as the core characters go, this opening episode does wonders setting them up, Hera (Vanessa Marshall) is the pilot of The Ghost and even though she probably has the least to do, she comes with a real warmth to her, Zeb (Steve Blum) is the muscle and has you know he’s going to be totally lovable going forward, Sabine (Tiya Sircar) is the cool colourful chick in the Mandolirian armour who likes spray paints and blowing stuff up, so what’s not to love about her already? New droid Chopper isn't really given a whole lot to do but seems a good droid so far and then there’s Kanan.

I wish every single trailer and marketing image hadn't revealed what Kanan really was before the episode aired but the steps towards finding out Kanan is a surviving and hidden Jedi were beautifully handled and the moment Kanan “Let’s everyone in on the secret” and steps out in front of a bunch of Stormtroopers and whips out his lightsaber really is a great moment in the Pilot. The same can be said for the Obi-Wan cameo (via the holocron message sent out to all Jedi in Episode III) and the general approach to Ezra’s Force sensitivity.

I’ve watched this first episode of Rebels at least ten times already as my two year old daughter totally clicked with it. I’m not going to lie, its mainly for the Wookiees (especially the baby one) and Chopper (my kid loves ‘bots’) but each time I've watched it, I enjoyed it more and more. I think Freddie Prinze Jnr  does a fine job as Kanan and his ‘The Force’ speech, though a line we’ve heard before, is delivered with a strong sense of respect and wisdom (and doesn’t sound unlike Kevin Conroy’s Batman at times). I really like Ezra’s placement in the already thoroughly enjoyable Rebels team and even though we’ve seen very little of The Empire I get a massive kick out of seeing Stormtroopers being tossed about or blown up in fun and enjoyable ways.

Star Wars: Rebels
Rebels is obviously pitched at kids but it’s a show that knows its audience. It’s got a great sense of nostalgia about it to appeal to the adults out there but it doesn’t dwell in it and it's enjoying itself in a way that parents and kids alike will get a kick out of. This show has a story to tell and it’s being totally respectful of the Star Wars rules. Like The Clone Wars before it, it wants to celebrate Star Wars and expand our knowledge of what was going on in the Galaxy Far Far Away in a time that’s always been rather intriguing to many a fan.

Having a new batch of characters makes it a little more refreshing than The Clone Wars, in that we don’t know what is going to happen next for them. Characters could very well die, turn bad, lose a limb and whatever else Star Wars loves to throw at us because for the first time in a long time we don’t know what these character’s ultimate fates are (let’s just hope they don’t get recruits as Bothan spies). We don’t know where they are come Episode IV (which is roughly about four years away in this timeline) and that’s intriguing and exciting stuff as a new era of Star Wars begins on the run up to Episode VII in 2015.

Star Wars: Rebels

Video


I’ve seen Rebels in both HD and SD and as Disney decided in their infinite wisdom not to release this pilot on anything but DVD, I guess I’ll have to put up with SD until the eventual Blu-ray boxset for season 1 rolls around. With that said, the DVD does have some benefits in its limitations. Don’t get me wrong the HD presentation of this show is glorious but here on the much softer DVD format, the lack of popping colours actually serves the show well in a few instances. The Wookiee’s look a little less digital with their straight edges not looking much like fur, Ezra’s hair isn’t quite so in your face blue and… actually they are about  the only benefits.

The DVD is fine, it’s much darker than the leap off our screen colour attack the HD presentation has, edges are good and detail is just about enough, even if you can’t really see the textural art design in the skin and costumes of the characters which you can see entirely in HD. The laser blasts and lightspeed streaks don’t have quite the same effect here and the same can be said for sunsets and explosions but the DVD gets the job done and still provides a clear, fairly sharp video presentation.

Star Wars: Rebels

Audio


The audio design of this show is very much the biggest thing to highlight its Star Warsyness. The score elements sit well in the rears, blasters fire all over the speakers and explosions come with a solid level of bass. It’s obviously not an all out assault given the TV budget and such but this is an all around tight audio experience, with strong, dialogue, great placement for effects and  a wide feeling space at times.

Star Wars: Rebels

Extras


The only extras are 4 shorts (all run in at  02:56 a piece) . A Machine in the Ghost, Art Attack, Entanglement and Property of Ezra Bridger. All flesh out the characters a bit more and all are light and fun but produced with the same level of high quality animation the show offers.

Then there's the 'Look Ahead' (05:01) which flashes through some of the highlights the first season has to offer.

Star Wars: Rebels Spar Of The Rebellion

Overall


Star Wars Rebels kicks off with a great meet and greet first episode. It establishes the playing field and gives us a great central cast of characters that I want to know more about. It harks back to the past beautifully and hints at the future and really that’s exactly what a pilot should do, they just rarely do it this well.

In the realms of animated TV shows, this pilot grasped me much more than most out there. In terms of comparing it to The Clone Wars (which is going to be it's fate until it establishes itself I'd imagine), it has a way to go to prove it’s as good a show as that but I have to say, the Rebels pilot was miles ahead of the first introduction to The Clone Wars and Rebels feels much more comfortable in its skin than the The Clone Wars did at this stage of the game, so that has me incredibly excited for the future of this show (happy to hear Disney has greenlit Season 2 already too).

The DVD itself has a solid video and audio presentation, the extra shorts flesh out the characters a little more and the look ahead looks exciting. This is very much a typical promotional disc to launch the new show and something quick and easy to throw on for the Star Wars fan in your life, no matter the age. So far Disney are impressing me with how they are handling Star Wars, long may it continue.

Star Wars: Rebels Spar Of The Rebellion


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