Priming up for Episode VII in 2015, Disney has introduced the new animated series Star Wars Rebels to add to the mythology. Set 14 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before A New Hope, this series portrays a time when the Empire is in control of the galaxy, the last of the Jedi order in hiding.
It is a selfish and fearful time, where bounty hunters and lawlessness abound despite the veneer of Imperial order, and it is into this chaotic environment that young Ezra Bridger was born. A diamond in the rough like Aladdin, Ezra is an orphaned street urchin who appears to be in tune with the Force without being aware of it. Stealing to survive, he manages to bump into a motley crew led by Kanan Jarrus, who sees the potential in Ezra and decides to take him along on his freighter ship the Ghost. During their various transporting jobs, Ezra sees that Kanan and his crew are not just in the freight business but make a point to help others subjugated under the Empire, and eventually discovers that Kanan is a Jedi knight incognito.
Animated in 3D, the art style was inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy; the characters are stylized, but not to the extreme as in the 2D Clone Wars series. So Aladdin meets Firefly with the Force behind it all…Tragic stories lay behind each of the characters in Rebels, with the Empire presumably responsible for all of them. But Kanan holds onto the precepts of the Jedi order, holding onto a moral code of honor that almost seems outdated in this current era of Empire. But when he finally lets the cat out of the bag and wields his light saber, both friend and foe alike stop for a moment in awe, as if seeing something previously relegated to myth and legend suddenly appear in real life, like Excalibur or the philosopher’s stone.
Whatever has been said about George Lucas, he alone has created the mythos behind the Jedi, the knights of the roundtable updated to wield swords of light and indeed the power of the universe itself. The strict Jedi code of conduct and the Jedi knight’s unwavering sense to do right is something we all strive for, though most fall short; thus the immediate appeal of Ezra’s character, who has grown up alone in a rough and tumble world thinking only of himself up till now. Yet, when confronted with Kanan’s true identity, Ezra is compelled to follow, called by something higher than himself for the first time in his life. There is much to be ironed out and sanded down with Ezra before he can be all that he can be, but already he shows all the signs needed to become a Jedi. It will be up to Kanan to shape and sculpt him, paring him down to his true self.
Needless to say, Rebels has been engrossing from the get-go, depicting a time of relative darkness, with sparks here and there of light still unextinguished. Similar to Captain Reynolds in Firefly, Kanan remains unwavering in his vision of restoring the galaxy to its former balance, giving hope to those who would otherwise have none, and especially to Ezra, who has the chance now to transform from a petty thief into a Jedi knight.
Incidentally, it will also be fascinating to see how the events transpiring here will affect and set up the advent of Luke Skywalker five years later, as the stars must align for great things to happen…