Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the only fresh on-screen Star Wars content fans had to cling to was The Clone Wars animated series on the Cartoon Network. The show was hit or miss over its five aired seasons, occasionally hitting the right tone, but too often floundering with lame characters and boring stories.
Season Five particularly lagged with back-to-back four-episode story arcs centered around the misadventures of child padawans and astromech droids. Four. Episodes. It was ridiculous and indicative of the show’s tendency to skew too far from the recipe which makes Star Wars work.
The announcement of Disney’s acquisition came as Season Five concluded. Not long after, The Clone Wars was abruptly cancelled. Fans feared that might be the end of Star Wars on television.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the new Lucasfilm to announce Star Wars Rebels, a new animated series set to air in October on Disney XD. Here are 10 reasons to get excited about this new Star Wars television show.
#10. The Return of Kenobi
Occurring in the timeline between Episodes III and IV of the film saga, Star Wars Rebels benefits from an era fertile for storytelling. The series deals with the initial sparks of rebellion which eventually foment into the Rebel Alliance seen in A New Hope.
During this time period, we know that Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has exiled himself to the desert world of Tatooine to keep a close watch over the growth of Luke Skywalker. Fans have long wondered whether those years between defeating Vader on the slopes of Mustafar and seeking passage to Alderaan were spent meditating peacefully in his Jundland hovel or engaged in a more active role in galactic affairs.
This trailer for Rebels seems to indicate the latter. There’s something about this version of Kenobi, the hermit Ben draped in Jedi robe while graying in the beard, which excites more than his Clone Wars iteration.
#9. An Accomplished Creative Team
It became clear, not long after Disney announced the development of Rebels, why Clone Wars had to end. Much of the creative team which brought The Clone Wars to screen was transferred over to Rebels. Chief among them was executive producer Dave Filoni.
Alongside Filoni stand fellow executive producers Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman, who boast impressive resumes featuring a variety of successful and entertaining projects. Weisman previously worked on animated series Young Justice and The Spectacular Spider-Man.
#8. David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus
Villains in the prequel era, during which The Clone Wars was set, tended to be force users, droids, or aliens. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, there’s something compelling about a plain old human villain. They can’t hide behind the façade of a monster or automaton. They own their evil and prove more sinister on account of it.
A recurring henchman in Rebels, Imperial Security Bureau Agent Kallus wields no superhuman power and hides behind no mask. Voiced with relish by venerable actor David Oyelowo, Kallus evokes classic Imperial villains like Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin.
#7. The Cowboy Jedi
Another lingering fan question has been whether any Jedi survived the Emperor’s devastating Order 66 aside from Masters Kenobi and Yoda. One of the last Star Wars video games made prior to the Disney acquisition, The Force Unleashed, imagined that several Jedi had escaped and remained scattered throughout the galaxy. Rebels has adopted that concept, casting the rogue Jedi Kanan as a chief protagonist.
Voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., Kanan is described by Filoni as “the cowboy Jedi.” It’s an image befitting any who managed to survive during the Jedi purge. Logically, with the Empire actively seeking to eliminate any remaining force users in the galaxy, a Jedi could not survive by behaving strictly as a Jedi. They would have to blend in, adopting characteristics less rigid and civilized than the knights of the Old Republic.
#6. Jason Isaacs as The Inquisitor
Darth Vader operates at his prime in the time period of Rebels, and will no doubt make several appearances throughout the series. However, a new villain joins the campaign to root remaining Jedi from the galaxy. Dubbed the Inquisitor, and voiced by consummate bad guy actor Jason Isaacs, this Imperial devotee wields the red-tinted lightsaber of a Sith along with the Dark Side of the Force.
Described as “a real threat” to the show’s heroes whose appearances will prove consequential, the Inquisitor holds the potential to emerge as a compelling villain in his own right. What relationship does he have with Lord Vader and the Emperor? Where did he come from? What motivates his hatred of the Jedi? Hopefully, these questions will be answered as the series progresses, along with others we can’t now anticipate.
#5. Composer Kevin Kiner
John Williams, composer of the orchestral soundtrack for all six Star Wars films and the forthcoming Episode VII, is 82 years old. Though we wish him many full years to come, the time will inevitably arrive when Star Wars will have to move forward without him. Whenever that happens, whenever Williams finally retires, all future Star Wars projects will raise the question: what might this have sounded like with a John Williams score?
Kevin Kiner composed the music for The Clone Wars, and joins those among that show’s creative team making the move to Rebels. He presents the right attitude toward the project, seeking to evoke and utilize those classic Williams themes while adding something new of his own. From what we have heard so far, Rebels will certainly sound like Star Wars.
#4. Executive Producer Simon Kinberg
The most exciting component of the new creative team behind Rebels has to be executive producer Simon Kinberg. There’s a lot of talent working on this show, but Kinberg elevates the project to another level.
Both a writer and a producer, Kinberg’s filmography includes both the most recent and forthcoming entries in the X-Men film franchise. He’s also working on next year’s reboot of The Fantastic Four, which has tracked well enough to earn its director, Josh Trank, a gig helming one of the stand-alone Star Wars films expected in 2018.
Big time Hollywood talent is guiding this animated television show. That signals that Disney is taking the property seriously, a perception affirmed by the involvement of the Lucasfilm story department and the many clips released thus far.
#3. That Classic Banter
One major reason why the prequel films failed to capture the magic of the original trilogy was the lack of personality expressed in the main characters. There was nothing like the playful banter between Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia.
Fortunately, there seems to be a concerted effort among the team writing Rebels to restore that sense of roguish fun to their series. It helps that we’re not dealing with a bunch of robed monks and conniving politicians. The good guys in Rebels are scoundrels who have more in common with Han and Chewbacca than Qui-Gon and Jar Jar.
#2. Real Stakes
Watching the above clip evokes something which The Clone Wars never effectively conveyed: a sense of imminent danger. Rebels might be considered a prequel, since it’s technically set prior to the original trilogy. However, unlike the prequel films or The Clone Wars, the characters in Rebels are not pillars of the continuity like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, or Yoda. No matter how much trouble those three got into on screen, in the back of our minds, we knew they would get out of it.
On the contrary with Rebels, we know that our new heroes likely fail in the long run. And since none of them prove critical to the future of the franchise, any of them could die (or turn) at any time. Put simply, for the first time since the original trilogy, the onscreen stakes are real.
#1. The Empire Strikes First
The most exciting aspect of Star Wars Rebels is its setting in proximity to the original trilogy. There’s nothing quite like Imperial star destroyers, old-school TIE fighters, and goose-stepping stormtroopers. The Empire is back, baby!
This feeds into the sense of real stakes. The Confederacy and “phantom menace” of the prequel era never lived up to the bar set by the Galactic Empire, particularly since our heroes operated with the might and sanction of the Republic behind them. Part of what makes Star Wars work is a deck stacked heavily against the heroes, a ragtag group of desperate idealists fighting a seemingly futile battle against a superior force. The Empire is that force.