|A time for action! STAR WARS REBELS begins! All Images: © 2015 & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.|
A sure-fire hit with the modern STAR WARS generation, and deliberately crafted to appeal to fans loving the colour, unique design, overall fun and spirited action of the Classic Trilogy universe of heroes and villains, that unique band of STAR WARS REBELS bring their fifteen-episode premiere year of excitement to Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of LUCASFILM and DISNEY. Created by film writer/producer Simon Kinberg, alongside THE CLONE WARS top supervising animation director Dave Filoni, and producer Carrie Beck, REBELS tells the ROBIN HOOD meets FIREFLY-esque story/format of a mismatched "family" of resistance fighters, whom, with their latest recruit in street urchin Ezra Bridger- a boy gifted by the powers of that mysterious Force, bring all kinds of inventive means and plucky heroism towards their constant fight against the mighty Empire that has enslaved the galaxy and controls their particular spatial area in the Lothal system. Having ignited a spark of rebellion, they soon catch the attention of some of the Empire's most formidable and brutal enforcers, including spiteful special agent Kallus, the lightsaber wielding killer known as the Grand Inquisitor, and later on the gruesome visaged Grand Moff Tarkin, whose cruelty and ruthless service of the Emperor and his harsh doctrine has been known and feared since the end of the all-consuming Clone Wars.
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|The heroes of STAR WARS REBELS.|
With the series pilot episode, Ezra Bridger, an orphan who's had to survive on his own instincts and growing latent skills, is the launching point into this universe, set five years before the events of the original STAR WARS. Through him we soon meet his mentor in the youthfully bold rebel leader and father-figure that is Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi who, these past fourteen years, has had no choice but to keep his incredible abilities concealed and under the radar since the apocalyptic ORDER 66 destruction of the Jedi Knights. Until, that is, the arrival of Ezra- a kindred spirit whom he soon identifies with, another brother in the Force, together sharing their potential to truly fight back against the corruptive Sith and their legion forces. Keeping Kanan "honest" is his friend, lover and skilled pilot of their modified freighter, The Ghost, Twi-lek pilot Hera Syndulla (daughter of the famous resistance fighter Cham), dedicated to her man and the rebel cause, very much the mother-hen to their Spectre unit, and knowing much more about the state of the galaxy-wide battle against the Empire than most. Bringing beautiful-looking destruction to a new art form is the plucky graffiti artist from Mandalore, the colourful Sabine Wren, and the almost last of his kind, headstrong put passionate about busting Stormtrooper heads alien that is quirky Zeb Orrelios, who brings muscle and firepower to their against all odds missions. Finally, we can't forget that squat orange Astro Droid that is Chopper- definitely the crankiest and attitude-giving member of the crew, but nonetheless a vital player in his own right, often surprising, delighting and infuriating all at the same time!
|Lando Calrissian and Chopper enjoy a quirky adventure in Idiot's Array.|
As this family of heroes cements itself, there's run-ins with a shady arms dealer, Vizago, who'd likely sell his own mother to the Imperials were it profitable enough, a bid to liberate a group of enslaved Wookiees from the harsh mines of Kessel, and a tense battle to destroy the propaganda machine that is "Empire Day". Then there's welcome appearances from popular characters across the six live-action films, including charming smoothie Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), gold-plated C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and helpful R2-D2, and the important return of Frank Oz as the in-exile diminutive Yoda, offering help and encouragement to Ezra via long distance Force rapport. Plus a very special cameo from THE CLONE WARS version of Obi-Wan Kenobl (as inherited by James Arnold Taylor) for the series opener, truly helping to merge George Lucas's prior animated saga with DISNEY's new vision.
|Kanan engages in lethal swordplay with the Grand Inquisitor.|
Behind the scenes, the series main voice cast's passion and enthusiasm for STAR WARS is clearly evident (of which Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Vanessa Marshall are particular standouts), whilst further talent adding to the storytelling tapestry of the series includes THE CLONE WARS writer Henry Gilroy. Top visual effects artist Joel Aron and conceptual resident Killian Plunkett continue weaving their production magic, clearly have fun adapting important sections of the Classic Trilogy era into new animated life (including some of the classic toys, like the beloved seventies standout, the Imperial Troop Transport), and composer Kevin Kiner cleverly adapts and fuses sections of John Williams memorable music of the film series into his work, if sometimes feeling a little over gratuitous.
|TIE fighters and Rebel vessels engage for the spectacular season finale.|
Beyond the episodes, best seen in crisp and captivating Blu-ray form, the two-disc set's Special Features include all the brief but fun behind the scenes webseries instalments of REBELS RECON, a lively report of the cast and crew making an impression at COMIC CON, the four original shorts introducing the crew of The Ghost, and a near half-hour look back at the key events of Season One leading in to Season Two, and its well deserved and highly anticipated return of dark warrior, Darth Vader, plus a short but exciting featurette of Dave Filoni teasing the new season, with lots of key episode conceptual art and an extended trailer packed full of exciting moments (mysterious new Inquisitors, Captain Rex, and a prototype B-wing fighter!). Finally, there's an HD transfer of the second THE FORCE AWAKENS trailer, of which this series, in many ways, is a valuable set-up for.
AFICIONADO RATING (Episodes and Special Features). A promising start to the series run, very much the New Dawn to A New Hope, though we hope, unlike the much-loved, scrapped before its time THE CLONE WARS, that STAR WARS REBELS lasts long enough to get a full and satisfying through line into the Original Trilogy. Fine family entertainment. 7.5 out of 10
In an opening season whose storytelling and animation production improves over the duration, here's a look back at AFICIONADO's top five episodes.
SPARK OF REBELLION (Pilot episode- released on Blu-ray in its two-part "prologue" version, featuring James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader)
On the far-off Imperial-controlled world of Lothal, lone youth Ezra Bridger discovers his powers as a Jedi Padawan when helping a group of distinctive rebels steal a consignment of food and weapons, followed by a spirited mission that will liberate wookiee slaves from the dreaded spice mines of Kessel.
STAR WARS AFICIONADO WEBSITE: STAR WARS REBELS: AFICIONADO's FIRST REACTIONS...
|Caught between good and evil- the return of C-3PO and R2-D2.|
DROIDS IN DISTRESS (Episode One)
Once more out of his depth, protocol droid Threepio, along with perky Artoo Detoo, find themselves unintentionally hooking up with our heroes in stealing a consignment of banned weaponry, of which old enemy Agent Kallus is on the trail and has scores to settle.
|Did Jedi Knight Luminara Unduli survive the Clone Wars after all?|
RISE OF THE OLD MASTERS (Episode Three)
Our heroes undertake their boldest and most dangerous mission yet- travelling to the dark world of Stygeon Prime in an attempt to free the decade imprisoned Jedi, Luminara Unduli. But all is not what it seems, as the fearsome Grand Inquisitor initiates his trap...
|Agent Kallus and Grand Moff Tarkin plot their next move to capture the Rebels.|
CALL TO ACTION (Episode Eleven)
Now tasked with the extermination of this havoc-bringing Rebel cell, the cruel Grand Moff Tarkin brings his tactics of terror to Lothal, capturing Kanan just after he and his party have successfully procured an Imperial communications tower.
|Kanan: captured by the Grand Inquisitor!|
FIRE ACROSS THE GALAXY (Episode Thirteen)
At the place where Jedi go to die, of which Kanan is being brutally tortured for information, Hera, Ezra and the Ghost team defy the odds, and a trio of Imperial Star Destroyers, in mounting a spectacular rescue mission for their friend above the volcanic world of Mustafar, gaining some unexpected allies in the process, yet also bringing in further enemy retribution in the form of the newly arrived Darth Vader...
|The oncoming storm that is Darth Vader!|
Get hold of STAR WARS REBELS: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE here:
Star Wars Rebels [Blu-ray] [Region Free]: Amazon.co.uk: DVD & Blu-ray
Also available on DVD: Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion [DVD]: Amazon.co.uk: DVD & Blu-ray
Official Site: Star Wars Rebels | StarWars.com
With thanks to DISNEY UK for their continued support.