Star Wars: Rebels Revisited – Part 0: The Shorts

It’s been a long time coming, actually it’s been something I’ve been putting off. But it’s finally time for me to suck it up and start my watch along series of Star Wars: Rebels. A show I’ve never watched before and know practically nothing about aside from the bits and pieces I managed to pick up while researching episodes for my Clone Wars rewatch series. And like with that blog series, I intend to go through all of Rebels and talk about each of the episodes a handful at a time.

Before I jump right in though, like with Clone Wars, there is a little bit of housekeeping I need to take care before I get into the series proper. While Clone Wars had a hastily slapped together movie to introduce the series, Rebels has a collection of four 3 minute shorts made to introduce us to our main cast.

Rebels was announced in May of 2013, a couple of months after the conclusion of Clone War’s 5th season and revelation that the series would not be continuing after the “lost missions” episodes had been released the following year. With Disney acquiring Star Wars the year previously, this seems like one big move towards them taking some ownership over the franchise and canning the old series to start a new one entirely under their own supervision and new vision for the future of the franchise.

Unlike Clone Wars, which was an anthology series, jumping around in the timeline and telling different stories from the perspectives of many different characters, Rebels would focus on a collection of core, original characters. Using those characters as the entire viewpoint of a galaxy under Imperial rule.

Before the series got started properly though, Disney put our four shorts over the course of four weeks. Which are the content I’m talking about here in episode 0. Knowing very little about these, it’ll be interesting to see the change in direction Disney wanted that made them cancel Clone Wars like they did.

I’ve written this intro not knowing what to expect from these shorts, and will expand on my notes of the episodes as I watch them. Then give a summery of the overall experience along with some info I learned after the fact thrown in where appropriate. That’s how the sausage is made anyway in this case. So let’s get into it:

The Machine in the Ghost

This short introduces us to Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, and Chopper through the device of Starfighter dogfighting. Kanan Jarrus is the “fearless leader” of the Ghost; a swaggering Han Solo type. Hera is a Twi’lek pilot, an equally fiery scoundrel type who I was recently introduced to through the two part storyline in the Bad Batch that took place on Ryloth, which featured a younger Hera along with her astromech droid partner Chopper.

Who is your standard R2-D2 type. Although he seems much more easily frustrated by his crewmate’s bickering than R2 ever was. Showing visible annoyance with them resulting in taking matters into his own “hands” by the end.

The short, as the description would imply is brief. Showing each of the three crew members destroy one of the three TIE Fighters pursuing them each using different positions from the Ghost. All while bickering with one another via an increasingly frustrated Chopper.

As the battle ends and we see Hera and Kanan together. And I mean together, the romantic moment between them comes much to the disgust of Chopper, who I imagine is the stand in for Disney’s new target audience of the series in this early stage of development.

Based on this events of these few minutes alone, I can only assume that Kanan and Hera are fairly blatant analogues for Han Solo and Princess Leia from the original trilogy. Which I have to assume is going to continue as the episodes go forward, introducing us to a Chewbacca and a Luke.

The big thing I notice throughout this is that there is something a little different to the 3D animation style of the characters. They look a little less stiff than they do in the Clone Wars series of the same time, there’s something rounder, bouncier and generally more cartooney to how the characters look and move.

Overall, this was a good first impression. I liked what I saw.

Art Attack

Right away in this episode we get a look at the Stormtrooper armour I’d imagine we’re going to be seeing throughout this series. And like I mentioned in about the previous short, there’s something very round and cartooney looking about those helmets.

Anyway, this short is introducing us to Sabine Wren, a woman who appears to be Mandalorian causing a distraction for the Ghost at an Imperial landing platform. She spray paints a Rebel Starbird insignia on the wing of a TIE while a collection of bumbling Stormtroopers fail to capture her. Culminating in her exploding a non-lethal paint bomb in their faces to allow a ship to escape.

Tonally, this episode wasn’t what I was expecting from this series and seems less in line with the tone of traditional Star Wars than the previous short was. The later series of Clone Wars, as well as the Bad Batch had a semi-serious tone throughout with comedy spattered throughout.

Much more in line with the tone of the original movies, this episode feels much more kid friendly in its feel. Despite being a Mandalorian (I assume), Sabine is much more childlike in her approach and enjoyment of embarrassing a bunch of Stormtroopers while disabling them all non-lethally.

After Rogue One, Solo and The Bad Batch, I’d kind of expected a series set during the Rebellion against the Empire to have a bit more of a grim overtone to it. Then again, this is a single three minute short intended to introduce us to one of our main characters. So I’ll reserve my judgement of the tone of the series until I’m deeper into the series itself.

Entanglement

This short introduces us to Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios; a Lasat member of Kanan’s crew. If Kanan and Hera are the ananlgues to Han and Leia, then Zeb is most definitely the Rebels version of Chewbacca. I mean, the Lasat were an alien race introduced into the franchise using an early design concept for Chewbacca himself during the production of the original Star Wars.

Zeb is a big guy with a heart of gold, filling that same mould that Wrecker would go onto embody during the Bad Batch. He get’s lost on his way to a rendezvous with Kanan and ends up saving an Ugnaught merchant from some harassing stormtroopers. Only in doing so he finds himself ambushed by the rest of their platoon.

Armed only with a Magnaguard Electrostaff he totally embarrasses a bunch of stormtroopers without killing any of them, jumping around like a giant monkey before allowing them to catch themselves in the explosion of a TIE fighter.

Much like the previous short, the tone of this short is intended to make the imperials all look like a bumbling bunch of idiots. I mean, sure a lot of Star Wars stuff does that, but there is also this looming dread and overwhelming sense of their sheer force that this comedic side is supposed to offset. So far, these shorts seem to be painting the Empire as totally inept. Which would worry me about the overall tone of the series going forward.

Had I not known this series is supposed to be real good by the time it’s over.

Property of Ezra Bridger

This episode opens with a kid called Ezra Bridger walking through an open field, cue our Luke Skywalker character for the series. Through an event of total happenstance he witnesses the Ghost shoot down a lone TIE Fighter. Without missing so much as a beat, Ezra jumps into the fighter under the guise of helping the piolot.

And through some barely masked contempt he fast talks the pompous Imperial and strips the ship of several components he intends to later sell on the black market.

Considering this looks like a pretty barren, backwater world, Ezra is very quick to jump into this opportunity to con someone. Although he makes the mistake of telling the pilot he was ripping him off after he’s done doing so. A mistake that almost costs him his life as the Imperial tries to shoot him with the fighter’s cannons.

It’s only thanks to the timely intervention of Luke’s Theme from the original Star Wars score, we realise that Ezra is force sensitive and able to dodge the cannons at the last moment. Without missing a beat, he uses a little electric slingshot to disable the pilot and mock him one last time before marching off to sell his ill gotten gains on the black market.

Verdict:

My initial impression of these shorts is kind of worrying. Not that they are bad as standalone pieces of children’s programming. More so at the prospect of having to watch and write about 75 episodes of a show with this tone.

It was obvious at this point that they weren’t especially interested in the existing fanbase of Star Wars and were more interested in integrating it into their massive marketing machine.

It was only through doing a little research about the production of the series and Disney’s original intent for the show that things start to make a little more sense to me. Immediately after picking up Star Wars from Lucasfilm, it’s very obvious that Disney had a very different vision for the franchise. Which I guess I already knew in hindsight. I mean, they went and threw all those expanded universe novels, comics and video games out of the window to start their new continuity afresh.

As I’ve mentioned several times already, my big issues with the brief 10ish minutes of Star Wars I watched in order to write this, it would be one of tone. Everything felt a little too Sunday morning cartoon in my eyes. Which probably seems like a really hypocritical complaint considering what I’m bloody talking about.

Each of these shorts show the Empire as a collection of bumbling henchmen while all the heroes are a collection of perpetually smiling, charismatic jokesters. Again, yes I do remember that I’m talking about Star Wars here… I guess the thing that jarred me about the whole thing is that this didn’t track with what I actually knew about Rebels before starting it.

It starts falling into place when I went and looked into the deeper reasons why these first four shorts existed in the first place. These episodes, they were mostly made as marketing material for Disney in order to promote their series to the people already watching their television channel: E.g. kids.

It seems, Disney really did want this series to be a more comedically driven one from the beginning. Something Kathleen Kennedy and the team making Rebels really had to push back against. It really makes sense when you look at it as the very first of the poor choices Disney made leading into them eventually having to soft reboot the franhise again following the debacle that was Rise of Skywalker.

Looking at Rogue One, it’s obvious that they knew what kind of tone and approach they needed to come at this era of Star Wars from, but decided that things like consistency of tone and setting weren’t important. Ha! They sorely underestimated how enthralled to the franchise obsessed fans like myself actually were.

So, in conclusion: other than learning a bunch of these characters names and some of the dynamics with one another, there is really no reason for anyone to actually watch these shorts before starting the series proper. I mean, I’m glad I did for the sake of this post and giving myself some time to give myself a frame of reference for the series going forward. But for anyone out there looking to watch the series itself:

Don’t bother with these shorts. They’re not worth the brief 10 minutes it takes to watch them all. Which seems like useless advice given it’s placement within this post. Oh well.


Now that’s all out of the way: next week I’ll start talking about the series properly from part 1. I’ll be getting into the first three episodes of season 1. Coming at that one with some fresh eyes and not worrying too much about these shorts considering they seem like little more than marketing fodder.

Star Wars Mondays are back baby! It’ll be nice to get back to a long running review series again after so long. Seems like it was just in time for me to find a little motivation as well.

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