Minor spoilers for the season 2 premiere of Star Wars Rebels below
With all the excitement in the last 24 hours over the release of the new and final trailer for The Force Awakens, one could be forgiven for forgetting about all of the other parts of the new Star Wars universe coming out. But Lucasfilm hasn’t forgotten and has launched full speed into the new season of Star Wars Rebels, the second animated series to be set in the new Star Wars canon which premiered last fall. We were given an early introduction to the second year back in June with the release of the film The Siege of Lothal and continued the ride with last week’s season premiere The Lost Commanders. So, have these two newest entries enriched the canon and added to the growing Star Wars universe? Check out the season 2 trailer and read on!
A Return to Form
You don’t get to be number three on AFI’s list of greatest film villains of the last 100 years by having a middling screen presence. Darth Vader’s indelible impact has resonated with audiences for decades, his foreboding voice and ominous presence, brought to life by both James Earl Jones and David Prowse, are simply iconic. So having him officially return to the screen for the first time since Revenge of the Sith undoubtedly presented certain challenges. How do you communicate that presence, the sense of doom, evil and malevolence that the character brings to bear in the Original Trilogy? Moreover, how do you make it animated? With the character’s full return in The Siege of Lothal, the Lucasfilm Animation team had that bar set before them and ended up surpassing it admirably. Voiced once again by the stellar James Earl Jones, Vader’s entrance retains the same iconic feel and brings the audience right back to the character’s original portrayal. But the truly impressive feat is halfway into the film, when he confronts our heroes as they are attempting to help an Imperial defector escape. At the moment just before they catch sight of him for the first time, the showrunners trigger an impressive tone shift, and that ominous weight and coldness comes forcefully to bear. You feel it. Our heroes can’t win; who could, against this? They can only run. The effectiveness with which these feelings are communicated to the audience is impressive, and the film would be worth watching for this reason alone.
The clones, that is. Along with the triumphant return of Darth Vader and Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice from The Clone Wars series, we’ve now had the reintroduction of Captain Rex, the heroic clone trooper and companion of Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi during the war. The return of Ahsoka and Rex is a welcome one, along Ashley Eckstein and Dee Bradley Baker once again voicing them, respectively, and provides a firm continuity link between The Clone Wars and Rebels, as well as helping to provide resolution for both characters after the end of the former series.
In The Lost Commanders, Rex, along with his clone companions Wolfe and Gregor, have taken up residence on a remote and desolate planet in the outskirts of the galaxy, no longer needed or wanted by the Empire they unintentionally helped bring to power. For a children’s program, Rebels then begins to deal with some rather heavy issues. Kanan, our team’s leader and former Jedi apprentice, served in the Clone Wars during Order 66 and, upon Emperor Palpatine’s remote command, watched the clone troopers he had fought beside for years turn and shoot down his master, followed quickly by an attempt to kill him. Believing all of the clones had betrayed and murdered the Jedi 14 years ago, Kanan’s trust in them is all but nonexistent, save only for Ahsoka’s exhortation to trust Rex. We then have the long-awaited resolution to whether or not Rex participated in the virtual extermination of the Jedi; thankfully, it’s a satisfying one.
First Step into a Larger World
Rebels, along with the accompanying novel A New Dawn, formed the beginnings of the new unified Star Wars universe, continuing the saga and paving the way for The Force Awakens. But do they enhance it, keeping the same spirit of the original films while adding to it? Yes, I believe they do. Rebels has matured going into its second season, feeling more polished, less episodic , more cohesive overall and, most critically, important. It feels like it matters, like this is the continuation of the official story. For anyone other than kids who already watch Disney XD, this is vital. The Lucasfilm Story Group has an immense task ahead of them, creating a cohesive and consistent universe which is simultaneously comprised of films, television shows, novels, comics and games, all of which must feel important and part of the overall story. With the quality and care which has gone into making Star Wars Rebels, they’re off to a pretty good start.
Thanks for reading and be sure to catch Star Wars Rebels, Tuesdays on Disney XD. See you at The Force Awakens premiere!
All above images courtesy of starwars.com