In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
For me, the start of Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels has been bug-ridden. The animations are often poor and the characters are little beyond the typical Disney caricatures and cliches. The hour-long special Spark of Rebellion, following in the wake of several shorts that introduced the various characters, is my first introduction to Disney’s reboot of the Star Wars franchise, and by the looks of it, things look pretty bleak and dire to me. It was a decent special, if we want to stretch the truth out, but the fact is that I just couldn’t go along with it. It was too childish for me.
The first three episodes proper of the show are now out, and I have to say that I noticed almost nothing in the way of improvement from Spark of Rebellion. Stormtroppers still can’t hit worth a damn, making them the most inept army in the history of fiction, ever. Dialogue and characterization is still firmly on the side of clunky. There’s no real story here other than madcap adventures of the characters in question. The third episode ups the quotient a little bit by bringing out the show’s big bad, the Inquisitor, but even that fails to impress as much as it should have.
Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels is the first big production in the Star Wars franchise released after Disney acquired Lucasfilm a couple years ago. Set 14 years after the terrible events of Revenge of the Sith and just 5 years before A New Hope, it follows a group of do-good mercenaries as they rock it out with the Empire again and again. With (relatively) recent news that Disney has basically kicked out all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe canon in favour of a new canon centered around the six movies and The Clone Wars, it is an uncertain future at best for the franchise, and how Rebels performs in the coming weeks is going to be a big indicator of that uncertain future.
Disney kicked off the show with four shorts focused on the various characters, and then an hour-long special a little over two weeks ago. Titled “Spark of Rebellion“, it introduces the characters to the audiences and gets them all together after the (somewhat) scattered adventures of the shorts. It is a decent series opener, as such things go, with the characters being interesting all of them, though some of the hallmarks of Disney are prominently visible character-wise. And as for the animation, well, it is certainly problematic in many ways and nowhere near the smoothness of The Clone Wars.
Once Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the rights to pretty much all future Star Wars movies and cartoons and comics and what not was finalized last year and news began filtering in of all the new things being planned, one of the ones to come out was that the House of Mouse was going to deliver on a new Star Wars animated series set in the period between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope. The first trailer released was somewhat decent, though problematic, but I was kind of excited that a different period was being considered for the format, given that most of the previous work was so focused on the Clone Wars themselves.
And this past week at San Diego Comic Con 2014, Disney released a new trailer that also contains some extensive footage of the animated series, and this is kind of where I am beginning to lose some interest because the story appears to be rather haphazard and the characters appear to be cliches in the way that only Disney can do, though sometimes to great net-positive effect, and the animation doesn’t really work so well for me either, especially not after having seen three excellent seasons of The Clone Wars (it rain for a total five seasons!) and other previous Star Wars animated work, from what I remember.
In only a few short months, Dark Horse will no longer be the publisher for any new Star Wars material since with the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney, all rights to the property have been shifted to the Mouse and the executives there are going to publish all new material through their own comics division, Marvel Comics. But, Dark Horse intends to go out on a bang. And part of that process is some new mini-series that the publisher is putting out, as well as wrapping up lots of others.
Rebel Heist is one of these new mini-series from Dark Horse, and it features a new Rebel recruit (the comic is set some time after the events of the original Star Wars) and Han Solo as they try to evade an Imperial trap, with some interesting results. It is certainly an interesting story but the narrative framework didn’t quite work for me, and Matt Kindt’s dialogue here wasn’t always on the ball either. The same could be said for Marco Castiello’s artwork as well, which was rough in some places and with inconsistencies.
As a kid, I remember when the original trilogy was released in India in theaters. There was a huge promotion about it, to the tune that you could get these nice little stickers in packets of chips that you could then use to add to these booklets that you could buy from confectionaries, grocers etc. That was when my fascination with Star Wars began. Years later, I picked up my first Star Wars book, Starfighters of Adumar by Aaron Allston, and a few years later I saw the third movie in the prequel trilogy in theater with a friend, and then soon after that I saw the original trilogy for the first time, in college. I then went on to read a ton of Star Wars novels, thanks mostly in part to a well-stocked college library (or libraries rather, I should say), and I’ve almost always had fun.
In 2012, George Lucas and Co. began to roll out 3-D versions of the movies, starting with Episode I. It was a fantastic experience for me. But my excitement for watching the successive movies in the new format died out when it was announced that all plans had been put on hold pending Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. And now Disney has no plans to rerelease the movies in 3D, moving forward instead with a new trilogy and several spin-off films. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.
So, anyway, here’s a repost of my review for the 3-D version of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my eighth pick is trio of Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, who have been the mainstays of the Star Wars universe since its earliest days and have recently starred together in several novels, most notably in Troy Denning’s latest, Crucible, as an old generation of heroes and in Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge as a young generation of rebels against the galactic tyranny of the Empire. Both novels are among my favourite novels of the year and the portrayal of this trio has been excellent in both.
Hit the break to see why I picked these characters.