Like most fans of the show, I was devastated when it was cancelled. Sure, I was glad to hear that Disney wasn’t going to completely ignore a regular TV program in Lucas’s universe – STAR WARS: REBELS was announced shortly thereafter – but I’ll always wish for more stories in the war-torn corners of that Old Republic before the Empire took hold.
See, THE CLONE WARS offered storytellers the opportunity to tinker with some meaty issues. Understandably, the galaxy was mired in the chaos of war, so this presented an endless scope of opportunities rich for examination. Conflict. Allegiance. Honor. Duty. Responsibility. Sacrifice. Teamwork. So on and so forth. All one need do is thrown in any quality World War II picture in the DVD player, and you can see the inspirations available. And – in most respects – THE CLONE WARS did a stellar job working through some of its early missteps, eventually settling into broader tales that gave writers two, three, or even four episodes with which to play out character arcs.
Immediately after viewing it, I wondered if the run-time wasn’t the premiere’s greatest disadvantage. After all, THE CLONE WARS launched with a theatrical outing before settling in to its weekly 23-minute format, so audiences were given more material and the familiarity of established characters and settings to sort through. I hate saying it but even if TCW wasn’t your particular ‘cup of tea’ then there still was more to digest with which you could reach that determination. To me, REBELS seemed as if the writers wanted to speed events up to the point wherein the viewer had no opportunity to stop and posit a question as simple as “How did we get here?” and that could be because … well … they only had 43 minutes to work with. Before the audience even knows all of the essential pieces they were whisked off on yet another chase, another battle, another argument, giving SPARK more the feeling that it was culled together for brevity rather than entertainment’s sake.
When you have a half-dozen new characters AND a new time and place AND new circumstances to establish, that’s a lot of ground to cover. As I’ve always said when examining movies and television shows, I’d rather a storyteller take a few minutes extra to get something right than trim a few minutes off only to risk getting it wrong.
Granted, some of this may seem like I’m nitpicking, and – if it does – then I’ll say I hope that only underscores how important I take my STAR WARS properties. I’m all for lightening up the mood, and I’m even a pretty big proponent of keeping something kid-friendly so long as there’s no sacrifice to quality storytelling. REBELS had a few great moments – the ‘big reveal’ regarding the true identity of a lead character, as well as the ominous set-up for the series promised villain – but they were spread out around some frenetic action sequences that looked good though didn’t make much sense.
RECOMMENDED. Always the optimist when it comes to most things George Lucas, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. The Force looks strong with this one, but as it’s airing on Disney / DisneyXD it definitely looks at first blush like STAR WARS: REBELS won’t have the intellectual depth of storytelling that populated so much of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS in its five/six season run on television/Netflix. That may not necessarily be a bad thing as Dave Filoni and his merry band of animators clearly hope to capitalize on the nostalgia factor: I mean, how cool was it to see actual TIE fighters at work again?