Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Star Wars: Rebels - The Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
In the first groundbreaking season of "Star Wars Rebels," young hero Ezra Bridger joins the clever but motley crew of the starship Ghost in their resistance against the Empire. As the series begins, Imperial forces have occupied a remote planet, ruling with an iron fist and ruining the lives of its people. Ezra and his new rebel friends - Hera, Kanan, Sabine, Zeb and Chopper -- embark on daring adventures in their fight against oppression across the galaxy, receiving help from familiar heroes such as Lando Calrissian, Ahsoka Tano, and Jedi Master Yoda. Pursued relentlessly by the Imperials and a Jedi hunter called the Inquisitor, this tenacious ragtag band of rebels will find itself in the crosshairs of none other than Darth Vader when season one closes in a shocking two-part finale.
Show (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
As a huge fan of "The Clone Wars" I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about it being cancelled in favor of this new show call "Rebels." I was excited that "Rebels" would be set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, but it was replacing a show that was firing on all cylinders. Knowing that it would be helmed by Dave Filoni who also fulfilled the same function on "Clone Wars" did help a lot so I eagerly awaited this new show. 

When I finally did see "Rebels" it spurred the same feelings as the previous show did - a mix of excitement, admiration, and a few misgivings. It's normal for a show to take awhile to find its feet, whether it's "Clone Wars" or "Star Trek: The Next Generation," they all have to figure out the right blend of humor, action, character interaction, and have it all gel together in one tantalizing package. "Rebels" pulled that off before this first season was over. 

My biggest hurdle was (like most shows for me) the plucky young character who a lot of the action revolves around. I have a long history of disliking these kind of characters (Wesley Crusher comes to mind) and this show was no different for me. I know the kid was added because this is being shown on the Disney XD Channel and he's meant to be a character for kids to latch on to, but the old man in me wants to tell these kids to get off my lawn and take all the juvenile trappings including Jar Jar Binks with them. But then I see my seven year old son relate to the kid in the show and my heart grows three times bigger. Besides, I know plenty of people who would say that all of Star Wars is juvenile. It goes without saying that their lack of faith is disturbing and they should feel a tingling at their neck, but I digress.

"Star Wars: Rebels" is definitely a throwback both visually and spiritually, to the classic Star Wars films IV-VI (or A New Hope to Jedi for those of you who can't tell an Ewok from a Wookie). It's fun, propulsive, and full of action and humor and it really transports you back to the original movies instantly. It's in the way the TIE fighters spin as they attack, the way the lightsabers flicker and hum, or the acrobatic way that the rebels' ship The Ghost evades attackers in a style very reminiscent of a certain Corellian freighter. Even the characters themselves have more than a trace of the heroes that we know and love. 

Like all Star Wars films, this show starts off with a bang with the ragtag group of Rebels trying to pull of a mission against the Empire which is thwarted by a young kid named Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) who has his own plans. Considering that Ezra is able to take one-time Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.) by surprise, he quickly gets the attention of the Ghost crew and it's not long before he joins them. He's a good fit with the rest of the crew - the Mandalorian explosives expert Sabine (Tiya Sircar), the muscle Zeb (Steve Blum), the ace pilot Hera (Vanessa Marshall), and an astromech droid named Chopper who's just as feisty and opinionated as R2-D2. 

Even better, we get to see some old friends from the movies including Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2, and by the end of the season, we get to see not only Grand Moff Tarkin (Stephen Stanton), the Emperor (Sam Witwer), but also the return of Darth Vader at his most villainous. The first season got better and better with each episode and having seen the episodes from season two, I can easily say that it just keeps getting even better. 
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
This 10809 (1.78:1) transfer is just as good as the previous "Clone Wars" sets. Colors are bright and distinct, and the image is sharp and detailed. The black levels are suitably dark and solid and the contrast is spot on. Everything looks beautiful and film-like and it's a fantastic presentation as there's no digital defects to be found anywhere.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Star Wars: Rebels' Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also impressive. Most impressive. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand and isn't drowned out by the awesome collection of authentic Star Wars sound effects or the excellent score by Kevin Kiner. The rear speakers offer a lot of activity that keeps the action immersive with its well place directionality. I can't say how great it is to hear the classic sound effects roar through the speakers again. I just wish that Disney had released this as a lossless DTS-HD track.   
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
While I enjoyed these extras, I always wish that they would include even more, but at least all of these are in high definition. Here are the extras that are included in this set:
  • Rebels Recon - At almost an hour and half long total, these behind the scenes looks at the various episodes are fun to watch. They offer some comments from the production heads including Dave Filoni and Kilian Plunkett, interviews with the actors, and a few questions for Pablo Hidalgo. The episodes (which originated from Star include: "Spark of Rebellion," "Droids in Distress," "Fighter Flight," "Rise of the Old Masters," "Breaking Ranks," "Out of Darkness," "Empire Day," "Gathering Forces," "Path of the Jedi," "Idiot's Array," "Vision of Hope," "Call to Action," "Rebel Resolve" and "Fire Across the Galaxy."
  • Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration - A four minute look at the Rebels event that took place during Star Wars Celebration 2015. I tried to find myself in the footage but no such luck for me. This footage does not include the entire Q&A with the actors that took place there.
  • Rebels: The Ultimate Guide - If you want a high level look at the entire season, then this twenty-two minute featurette nicely summarizes it for you. It's been presented as a story told by Kanan to the audience. 
  • Animated Shorts - A twelve minute collection of animated shorts  that were excerpts from episodes that were slightly modified and extended for the promotion of the show. The shorts include "The Machine in the Ghost," "Art Attack," "Entanglement" and "Property of Ezra Bridger."
  • Season 2: A Look Ahead - After watching this first season, you will want to check out what awesomeness is coming for season two! Dave Filoni hosts this preview that really gives am exciting look at what's coming ahead. 
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
This is an easy sell. If you love Star Wars (and who doesn't) then you should pick this set up with no hesitation. Season two will be an even easier one to recommend based on what I've seen so far. This set also offers some fantastic video quality and the audio mix is also great. The extras are all good but I do wish that they'd include even more. Let the Force flow through you and click on the link below!

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