Coming to television screens in October 2014, the premiere of Star Wars Rebels was screened before a small audience for the first time on Thursday night at the Reading Cinemas in the Gaslamp neighborhood of San Diego. The screening took place after the Heroes of Star Wars Rebels panel at San Diego Comic-Con.
I was lucky enough to be invited along with some other fan sites, entertainment journalists, celebrities, members charitable fan organizations like the 501st and Mando Mercs, celebrities and select other guests.
Reporters from the major media outlets present were asked to embargo their reviews of the premier but the rest of us were encouraged to share our reactions to the screening and that is what I am going to do here. The caveat being that I am not going to talk about plot points or spoil the story of the premiere.
The screening was prefaced by Filoni by saying that what we were seeing was an unfinished product. From the opening and closing of the screening it appears that the title sequences are still being worked on. There was also a scene transition during the screening that was a little rough. But other than that what we saw was pretty darn complete looking and sounding.
Cast and crew have been laboring on Star Wars Rebels for approximately a year now and it is clear from what we saw that it has been a labor of love.
In 1977 George Lucas, his cast and crew created a film that captured the imagination of a generation and all the generations that have followed. Much has been written and discussed about what factors played into the appeal and success of Star Wars. The thing about it is that you can break it down into all these different components and factors, but when they were put together the whole of Star Wars that we saw on the screen was much greater than the sum of its parts. There is something magical about Star Wars and sometimes hard to define but that produces a sense of feeling.
Many times when I am reviewing a Star Wars story, be it a book, comic, or television show the first question I ask myself is; Did it feel like Star Wars? Now if you ask me to define what that feeling is, I could probably come up with some factors but I have never been able to articulate that feeling completely. When a Star Wars story fails it is usually because it just doesn’t feel like Star Wars, it is like a song being played off-key.
I can say without any reservation that what I saw of Star Wars Rebels felt the most like Star Wars of anything I have seen on the screen since the Original Trilogy. I love the Prequel Trilogy and I love The Clone Wars, but there was something special about the Original Trilogy and the world that Lucas created in those three films.
George Lucas throws you into the middle of events in Star Wars. You are immediately snapped to attention as you try to figure out who everyone is, what their place in the universe is and keep up with the on-screen action all at the same time. In Rebels they follow a very similar approach. We are thrust into the middle of events on Lothal as we are introduced to Ezra, but we don’t spend much quiet time getting to know Ezra as events escalate quickly. The pacing of Star Wars Rebels was terrific, once it gets rolling it doesn’t stop.
It struck me about the storytelling in Rebels that the way Simon Kinberg wrote the story, they only time we have a lot of exposition is at the beginning as we are given an introduction to our Point-of-view character Ezra and get to know his thoughts and feelings before the adventure kicks off. The rest of the characters are introduced in the flow of the story and we don’t learn a ton about them, but we do learn about their personalities and their character based on their reaction to events and the actions they take.
I loved the relationships between the existing Ghost crew members. It is also fascinating to see how the dynamic of Ezra entering the mix plays off of those relationships. The dialogue contains the banter and humor that balances the drama and action of Star Wars. The richness of the vocal performances was impressive across the board and I wonder if one of the reasons that most of the cast is using a voice that is similar to their actual voice is that it allows for a more natural performance were your effort isn’t split between trying to act the scene and maintain the voice.
There is also something comforting about seeing Imperials as the villains again. It was exhilarating to hear the whine of the TIE fighters again and to see them on the screen. The rigidity and uniformity of the Empire provides a very strong contrast to the heroes of Star Wars Rebels.
There are a number of moments through the film that had a giant fanboy grin across my face and I can’t wait to see the reaction once everyone is able to watch the premiere.
The animation style is much different from The Clone Wars and I think it will be less jarring for general fans of animated television or movies. Character movements are more exaggerated than in The Clone Wars, but not so much so that it becomes comical. In fact with the use of close-ups on character facial expressions it allows the animators to convey characters emotions more so than in The Clone Wars.
What really blew my socks off was the sound design. The sound effects and environmental sounds were perfect to me right down to the sound of Stormtrooper armor and boots as they moved through a hallway.
Above all else Star Wars Rebels is fun. It is the swashbuckling, full hearted fun that will keep a grin spread across your face until the moment you realize it is over.