I've been very busy lately, but not too busy to catch the premiere episode of the new Star Wars: Rebels animated series. If what I saw was any indication, we're looking at the start of a new era for the blockbuster space opera franchise.
I tuned into Rebels primarily because I am a die-hard Star Wars fan. I love all six of the movies, I love the Clone Wars animated series, and I have loved many of the toys, video games, comic books and novels that the franchise has produced over the years. Long after other sci-fi franchises have either come to a complete stop or have been content to recycle the same plots over and over again (e.g., Robotech, Star Trek, Terminator, etc.), Star Wars has kept me engaged by expanding and exploring a sweeping, multi-generational saga from a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: Rebels looks to be a fantastic addition to the saga, and the first that doesn't involve anyone with the last name of "Skywalker". As the title suggests, the series tells the story of a small band of rebels (including a former Jedi, an ace Twil'lek pilot, and a teenage boy who exhibits the early signs of Force sensitivity) as they fight against the Empire on the Outer Rim world of Lothal. It takes place five years before A New Hope, so many details from the original Star Wars trilogy are in abundance in Rebels: TIE Fighters, Stormtroopers, and Star Destroyers are nearly omnipresent on and around Lothal.
The premiere episode is a fun romp that introduces the characters and sets up the series' basic premise and relationships. It makes numerous callbacks to the original trilogy in terms of scenes, dialog, and background music motifs, as well as a few key nods to the prequel trilogy: Obi-Wan Kenobi's warning message to the surviving Jedi in Revenge of the Sith plays a significant role, and there's a line of dialog about "masters and apprentices" towards the end of the episode that mirrors similar dialog about the the Sith at the end of Phantom Menace. The nods to the prequel trilogy serve as a poignant reminder of how much the galaxy has turned against the Jedi, turning Jedis from hunters of the Sith to being ruthlessly hunted by a Sith-led galactic Empire. Furthermore, many of the production team members from the Clone Wars animated series were brought over to work on Rebels and their experience at producing exciting, action-packed CG animated shows in spades. Like the predecessor cartoon, Rebels delivers the kind of space battles, blaster shootouts and lightsaber duels that fans have come to expect from Star Wars.
Even though it is set on Lothal, there are so many places that Rebels can go. So much of the Rebel Alliance's conflict with the Empire was left out of the original trilogy that I can't wait to see what the series has in store for us next. Episode VII can't come soon enough, but Star Wars fans will have plenty to keep them entertained in the meantime with Rebels.
Some of the new--yet very familiar--toys from the Star Wars: Rebels line.