Blu-ray Review: Star Wars Rebels Season 1
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Star Wars Rebels
The Complete Season 1
Blu-ray | DVD
Created by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, Carrie Beck
Starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Vanessa Marshall, Tiya Sircar, Steve Blum, David Oyelowo, Jason Isaacs
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release date: September 1, 2015

As a life-long Star Wars fan, I’ve always kept my ear to the ground for anything new in the universe, especially during those post-Jedi drought years. I would take anything I could get, even an Ewok adventure, if it meant more Star Wars and I devoured the offerings of the Expanded Universe. But, as with many fans like me, I became jaded and partially disinterested after the disappointing prequel films. While the Clone Wars animated series helped reinvigorate my love of the franchise and J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens feature film has given me hope that Star Wars can be restored to its former glory, I didn’t know what to expect of Star Wars Rebels, a new CGI-animated series airing on Disney XD.

After Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the company eventually revealed that all their new Star Wars projects — movies, TV show, books, video games, you name it — would be considered “canon,” with Rebels to be the first new on-screen project to meet this qualification. That means that everything that happens in Rebels would be considered official, sanctioned, true, untouchable, unchangeable — that’s a huge deal.

Let me just put it out there right up front: Star Wars Rebels is awesome and I love it.

Created by Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), and Carrie Beck, this animated series takes place within the nearly two decades between Episode III and Episode VI films, with Season 1 occurring five years before the latter movie (the original film – 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope). The rise of the Galactic Empire brought about the mass extermination of the knights of the Jedi Order, but it also prompted the formation of the Rebel Alliance.

In Rebels, we see the beginnings of the Rebellion, as the Empire tightens their grip. We meet new character Ezra (Taylor Gray), a young orphan from the Imperial-occupied planet of Lothal, one of the Outer Rim worlds. The teen demonstrates Force abilities, which helps him with his thieving, but he’s not a bad person – he’s just a kid on his own trying to survive under difficult circumstances. And he’s a little hot-headed and impulsive, too, not surprisingly, since he is a would-be hero in the Star Wars universe. Ezra joins a band of rebels on their starship, Ghost, to help in their fight against the Empire. The rebel crew consists of Kanan (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a Jedi survivor of the Order 66 massacre who’s more cowboy than knight; Hera (Vanessa Marshall), the strong-willed Twi’lek pilot of Ghost; Sabine (Tiya Sicar), a teenaged Mandalorian weapons expert and artist; Zeb (Stephen Blum), the gruff-looking muscle of the group; and the astromech droid C1-10P, affectionately known as Chopper, who was pieced together from scraps by Hera.

Since each episode is a new mission for this band of rebels, there’s a lot of action, all of which is fast-paced. There’s no lulls in the storylines, so everything moves quickly, and before you know it, the 23 minutes is up, sadly, leaving you wanting more. The new baddies — like David Oyelowo‘s Agent Kallus and Jason Isaacs’ Inquisitor — are formidable, and the crew of the Ghost are worthy warriors who I’d imagine could inspire even the biggest skeptics to join the Rebellion. I especially like Kanan and the voice acting that Freddie Prinze Jr. does for him.

This inaugural season sees cameos from several original trilogy characters “” protocol droid C-3PO (voiced by original star Anthony Daniels), the astromech droid R2-D2, Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by original voice actor/puppeteer Frank Oz), and Darth Vader (voiced by original voice actor James Earl Jones), along with a guest slot by Lando Calrissian (voiced by original star Billy Dee Williams). We also get the Prequel version of Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) as well as Ahsoka Tano (returning voice actress Ashley Eckstein) from Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and TV show. There is also a surprise appearance by none other than A New Hope baddie and Darth Vader leash-holder Grand Moff Tarkin (voiced by Stephen Stanton).

Along with the aforementioned returning characters, there’s also plenty of familiar faces throughout — Wookiees and other alien races — as well as ships, weapons, clothing, holographs, Stormtroopers, and Imperial walkers — along with snippets from the film saga’s score, all of which makes the viewer feel totally immersed in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars fans, you are home.

The Blu-ray Edition contains all 15 episodes of Season 1 — including the 2-part Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion television movie that premiered before the main TV episodes which showed how Ezra joined the crew of the Ghost starship — along with the four shorts that aired on the Disney XD channel (and online) before the season one premiere. (Of note, the 45-minute Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion can also be purchased as a separate DVD.) Along with the episodes and shorts, the Blu-ray includes never-before-seen bonus material, cast/crew interviews, and inside looks at the making-of the series.

Regarding those bonus features, if you’re a completest like me, you’ll definitely want to watch the Shorts, as well as “Star Wars Rebels – The Ultimate Guide,” a 22-minute featurette narrated by Freddie Prinze Jr.’s Kanan that provides background information on the characters and a recap of their adventures together so far. “Rebels Recon” is 14 behind-the-scenes looks at each episode running about 5 minute each; for these, there’s interviews with the crew, revealing a lot of motivations and inspirations for the storylines, designs, and the series itself. In the 7-minute “Star Wars Rebels Season 2 – A Look Ahead,” series co-creator and executive producer Dave Filoni talks about character development and more, punctuated by concept art, for the upcoming Season 2. Lastly, there’s the Blu-ray exclusive featurette, “Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration,” a 4-minute look at Star Wars Rebels‘ presence at the 2015 Star Wars Celebration event, showing off the cast and crew on the red carpet and in the panels, as well as the fans reaction and cosplayers.

Needless to say, the Star Wars Rebels Season 1 home video release is a must-have for Star Wars fans. Rebels is a quality series that can be enjoyed by everyone, even those not familiar with the Star Wars universe.

Bonus Features

Blu-ray & DVD:
“¢ Rebels Recon: 14 behind-the-scenes featurettes
“¢ Star Wars Rebels – The Ultimate Guide
“¢ Star Wars Rebels Season 2 – A Look Ahead
“¢ Star Wars Rebels – Shorts
– “The Machine in the Ghost”
– “Art Attack”
– “Entanglement”
– “Property of Ezra Bridger”

Blu-ray Exclusives:
“¢ Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration

In the first groundbreaking season of Star Wars Rebels, young hero Ezra Bridger joins the clever but motley crew of the starship Ghost in their resistance against the Empire. As the series begins, Imperial forces have occupied a remote planet, ruling with an iron fist and ruining the lives of its people. Ezra and his new rebel friends — Hera, Kanan, Sabine, Zeb and Chopper — embark on daring adventures in their fight against oppression across the galaxy, receiving help from familiar heroes such as Lando Calrissian, Ahsoka Tano, and Jedi Master Yoda. Pursued relentlessly by the Imperials and a Jedi hunter called the Inquisitor, this tenacious ragtag band of rebels will find itself in the crosshairs of none other than Darth Vader when season one closes in a shocking two-part finale.

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