Over the weekend, we caught the premier episode of Disney XD's animated series "Star Wars: Rebels." It could be better, but it's really not bad.
The animation's pretty lousy for something put out by Disney. And it feels a lot like fan fiction, in the way the writers feel compelled to work in plenty of visual and verbal references to the movies. I mean, do we really need to see whatever species Greedo was on every planet? And if Tatooine was "the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe" then why do people on the planet Lothal know enough about it to refer to Jabba the Hutt and Jawas?
On the plus side, the story is fairly fast paced and up beat with a good message ('decent people help other people against bad people') and flashes of humor. The series tries to recapture the feel of the original Star wars film, to the extent of using some of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for character designs.
In the premiere, we meet young con artist, thief, and orphan Ezra Bridger as he puts the fingers on some good being moved by Imperial troops on his recently-overtaken homeworld Lothal. Ezra runs into a small gang of terrorists as they, too, try to abscond with the same shipment of goods, and eventually Ezra is drawn into their circle as they rescue him from almost certain death. He finds out that the crew of the Ghost are four Rebels and their cranky astromech droid who go around trying to aid and rescue people who have been brutalized by the Empire, using their stolen goods not for personal gain, but to arm and supply a growing rebellion.
The leader of the group, Kanan, is a Jedi Knight who has put his lightsabre under lock and key to avoid attracting attention, as the Imperials have vowed to destroy every last Jedi. The story takes place five years before the events of "A New Hope." Kanan discovers that Ezra is so good at being a thief because he, too, is strong with the Force, and reluctantly decides to train the youth--as it's probably better to have Ezra working with them than against them.
The two women in the main cast, Hera and Sabine, are at the moment rather colorless as characters. Hera is a Twi'lek (the tentacle-head girls) who pilots the Ghost and seems to be Kanan's girlfriend. Sabine is a Mandalorian who wears pink and purple Boba Fett-style armor and likes to tweak the Empire by spraypainting grafitti on their stuff and using her skill with explosives to blow stuff up.
The comic relief comes in the hulking form of Zeb, the bug-eyed Lasat with an Australian drawl who does the "kill 'em all, let the Force sort 'em out" schtick pretty good--but deep down he's got a good heart. It may belong to somebody else, though...
The droid, Chopper, looks a lot like the R5-D4 action figure, and although he complains constantly in droid talk, the others seem able to understand him.
We were also introduced to Agent Kallus, of the Imperial Security Bureau, who seems to be set up as the main bad guy in the series.
The premier episode ran a bit too long--it felt kind of draggy in places--but it was interesting enough to tune in for the next episode.