Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy are in for a treat from a galaxy far, far away with Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion. The movie serves as an extended pilot episode for the upcoming TV series on Disney XD, and really captures the spirit that made the original movies so special for multiple generations.
Any apprehension I had about the show being too kiddie-oriented or feeling goofy or forced immediately left as soon as the movie began rolling. From a wealth of John Williams music cues that were criminally underused in the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars cartoon series, to the playful banter and the light-hearted wide-eyed adventure, it’s all there in Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion.
The film revolves around a Firefly-esque diverse group of aliens and humans in the early days of the Empire’s reign as the first seeds of rebellion are beginning to grow. The group is led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), a Han Solo-type rogue who stumbles across young Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) on a mission and sees something in the boy, even as he interferes with their plans. Ezra is inadvertently pulled into the conflict with the Empire and secrets are revealed that set everyone’s destinies in motion.
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion is just so stocked with beloved nostalgia that you can’t help but get chills as you hear the unmistakable sounds of TIE Fighters blaring across the screen firing their screeching lasers, or watching our heroes run down Imperial corridors that evoke the Death Star. Ezra is very much the Luke Skywalker of the story, coming from a farm world with long stalks of grass reminiscent of the American midwest. His “first step into a larger world” will most likely be that first Luke Skywalker coming-of-age story for a whole new generation of Star Wars fans.
Speaking of new generations, it should be noted that Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion is still very much geared towards kids and doesn’t have the dark tone of The Clone Wars cartoon series, but also thankfully lacks most of that show’s goofy side characters and humor – at least thus far. But adults will still revel in the visuals and adventure of the story that is brought to life with gorgeously colored designs and animation that are heavily geared off of the original Star Wars trilogy aesthetic.
The film’s action sequences are an absolute blast, filled with classic stormtroopers pursuing our heroes, speeder bike chases, dog fights in space and everything fans have loved from the franchise. The only real complaints I have about the entire film are the limited character development for most of the side-characters in the extremely short 43-minute running time, and an occasional corny line of dialogue usually revolving around Ezra. But really, these are just tiny blemishes in a story obviously crafted with a lot of love.
The rest of the rebels also have plenty of depth to be explored in the upcoming series, not to mention will provide plenty of really cool action figures for the kids. Zeb Orrelios (Steve Blum) is a large beastly alien species called a Lasat that has a mean disposition and conflicted morals. He provides one of the best laugh out loud moments of the film when posing as a Wookie prisoner. Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar) is one of the younger teen members of the group and has flashy, colorful Mandalorian armor and develops an immediate connection with Ezra. I can see quite a bit of Sabine cosplay in Comic-Con’s future.
Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall) is the surrogate Twi’lek mother of the group and romantic partner to Kanan. She’s strong, likable and level-headed and is easily a leadership equal to Kanan, with whom she has a lot of implied history – personally as well as job-wise. As with every good Star Wars ensemble, the team also has a plucky droid (and thankfully no babbling sidekick) named Chopper that doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but it’s implied he will provide a more unhinged R2-D2 for the show.
One of the last minor complaints about the film is the real lack of a memorable and imposing antagonist. Sure, the Empire is immediately threatening and recognizable, and it’s given a face by imperial officer Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo), but it mainly feels like our heroes are facing stock character threats such as stormtroopers and TIE fighters for the majority of the run time. The upcoming series’ real Big Bad The Inquisitor (Jason Isaacs) does have a brief appearance, but is never involved in the events of this story.
By the time a perfectly placed surprise cameo is on-screen and the credits roll on the movie though, if you haven’t at least grinned once uncontrollably, gotten goosebumps, or laughed out loud then maybe Star Wars just isn’t your thing anymore. But if you grew up with the original trilogy and have waited so very long to see something capture that spirit again, then Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion will bring you a new hope that the franchise can return to its beloved roots.
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion airs Friday October 3rd at 9pm on The Disney Channel. Star Wars Rebels the series debuts Monday October 13th at 9pm on Disney XD.