Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – A Masterpiece of Betrayal, Family and the Philosophy of the Force

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      “The Empire Strikes Back” is truly the best of the Original Trilogy. It has the tightest story, it is desolate, there are stakes and it still manages to have hope. We also see why Darth Vader is the primary villain of the Trilogy as this one allows us the chance to see what it is like when Vader is charge and not reporting to Grand Moff Tarkin. It’s one of my favorites and the change that was made in one of the Special Editions of putting Ian McDiarmid in as the Emperor was good, though the new dialogue isn’t so good and the cgi Tie Fighters that were put in post production are distracting. The Original unchanged is still the strongest and that was the one I saw, like “A New Hope” and like I’ll be seeing “Return of the Jedi.”

      This film wasn’t directed by George Lucas and he was only one of the three writers behind it.

    The director was Irvin Kershner and written by Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasden and George Lucas, while being produced by Gary Kurtz.

     The story involves the rebels on the run, having escaped to Hoth to hide from the Emperor as they are still strong after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader is hunting them, hoping to destroy the Rebellion for good and capture and turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is wonderful and John Williams captures the fear and terror the Empire so well as we are given the most desolate situation for the Rebellion as Darth Vader is successful in whatever he sets out to do.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful, especially the Battle of Hoth and the Duel between Luke and Vader. The use of mist and shadows to increase the fear and tension among our characters and heroes is done masterfully. Peter Suschitzky did a great job.

The Writing – The script is tight and fast and you can tell that Lucas was not the primary writer, though Lucas did do a great job on the script for the original version of “A New Hope,” to his credit. When he’s on a team he seems to be do better though.

The Empire – The Empire is powerful in this and we see Cloud City, the Rebels on Hoth and the pursuit of the Millennium Falcon. Part of the reason I enjoy this film so much is the Empire feels like a threat and they never stop feeling like a threat. They force our heroes to escape the Galaxy and no longer have a home base as the Empire has chased them away from all their safe havens, captured on of their Captain’s and friends (Han Solo) and injured one of their leaders (Luke). The Empire has a firm win, even if it isn’t a total victory. The stakes are raised in this.

The Rebellion – The Rebellion shows how resilient they are in this. We see that in the end, no matter how hurt they are (so many die in the Battle of Hoth) that they will keep going and resisting the Empire, and that is what makes them interesting.

The Battle of Hoth – The Battle of Hoth is my favorite “Star Wars” battle besides the assault on the Death Star. The AT-ATs are beautiful machines that are deadly and take a lot to take down. We also see how deadly the Empire is again as they walk all over the Rebels as above we see Star Destroyers from their fleet.

The Millennium Falcon on the Run – Han and Leia’s escape is a great arc. We see them forced together because they stuck around to make sure all the other Rebels escaped first and as a reward they are pursued by Vader himself through an Asteroid field and eventually by Bounty Hunters hunting them too. Through it Leia and Han fall in love as we see that they are both stubborn but have a huge respect for one another and notice how aware they can be with others. It is during the run we see Han grow up and stop pushing people away.

Cloudy City – Cloud City is a great location. It’s Lando’s base and business and is neutral in the war until Vader goes back on his deals with Lando and we see Cloud City join the Rebellion and resist Imperial oppression. It is a great arc as we see Cloud City is a selfish place but there is good here too when Lando saves our heroes and tries to save the friend he betrayed.

Luke’s Training – Luke’s training continues his heroes journey as we see him grow to look beyond appearances when Yoda reveals he is the Jedi Master and that his size does no matter as he raises Luke’s X-Wing out of the Swamp. In this we see Yoda is always forcing Luke to face himself and learn to let go, which Luke is not able to do as Darth Vader’s torture of his friends leads him leaving Dagoba even when Obi-Wan’s ghost and Yoda warn him how dire of a mistake it will be.

Dagoba – Dobaba is a fantastic location! It is dark and smoggy and full of life. You get why Yoda chose this place when he explains how the force flows through all life forms. It is foreboding but beautiful in it’s own way too.

The Characters – The Characters and their arcs are what make this film a classic and a favorite. More is done with them than in “A New Hope” and we see the choices they make that change them and help them to grow.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan is back as the mentor sending Luke to Dagoba and warning him about the challenge of facing Vader when he is not fully trained (which he would know having failed to kill his friend). There is a sadness to the character too as he can’t do anything a ghost but communicate with those already in connection with him.

Yoda – Yoda is awesome and Frank Oz owns this role. He’s a compelling character, unlike the CGI one-dimensional pillow sitting Master we got in the Prequels. Yoda is a trickster yet full of wisdom as he pulls Luke out of his comfort zone and forces him to confront himself and what it means to use the Force. It is this film that made Yoda one of my favorite characters, and we never see this level of depth from the character again.

Lando Calrissian – Billy Dee Wililams is awesome as the gambler who turns on his friend Han to save his people. He’s complicated and when you see the operation he runs you get why he made that terrible decision as he no doubt saw it as one life versus many. By the end he realizes he’s been tricked though and joins the Rebellion and tries to save Han to begin to atone for his betrayal. I really liked this character, he’s smooth, suave and owns his own city.

Boba Fett – Fett is great. I really like his original voice as it shows someone who has been through a lot. His voice is raspy and we get an idea how deadly he is when Vader orders capture only and no disintegrations to Boba. Boba is the one who figures out how the Falcon escaped the fleet and tracks them to Cloud City. In the end he succeeds and is able to bring Jabba Han’s frozen body.

Princess Leia – Leia is more passive in this after the Battle of Hoth than she is in Empire but we see she never stops being the one who figures things out first. She doesn’t trust Lando and we learn she is right to do and she comes around to Han showing that at this point Han has become a good person. She also tries to warn Luke, though Luke doesn’t listen and walks into Vader’s trap in Cloud City. She also saves Luke when Luke communicates through the Force to her.

Han Solo – Han is the main character of this film. He goes from the guy who is still selfish and just wants to have his old life back again, but each time rises to help the Rebellion, whether it is saving Luke in the Blizzard or finding the Imperial Search Droid. This eventually leads to him protecting Leia as slowly they fall in love as Han begins to show more awareness towards others from doing insults to treating Leia and C-3PO with only respect. Han learns to listen and in the end he is frozen in carbonite as he has finally found love with his partner Leia.

Darth Vader – Vader is driven in this and we see soon learn why as Luke is his son. Everything he does is to bring Luke to him so he can turn him to the Dark Side so he will no longer be alone. There is a sadness to the character in this as we see his scarred body when his helmet is being put on, which gives him vulnerability, though he never stops being ruthless. Whether is is taking over Cloud City, destroying the rebels on Hoth, the torture of Han and Leia to bring Luke and the cutting off of Luke’s hand. Vader is destruction contrasted with vulnerability and it makes him one of the most compelling villains of cinema.

Luke Skywalker – Luke grows up a lot in this as we see him discover the Force is not easy to learn and that he has so many hangups he needs get over. In the end we see him mature though as he loses his friends, the Rebellion (when he seeks Yoda for training) Han and in the end his hand and his innocence as he learns he is the son of the Dark Lord Darth Vader. This breaks him and completes the destruction of his worldview that Yoda began when he showed him size and appearance has no bearing on the force. In it he experiences betrayal from Obi-Wan and not telling him the complete truth and the realization that they were right, he was not powerful enough to kill Vader and now he doesn’t know if he ever can as he no doubt still lives his test in Dagoba where his killing of Vader in the forest revealed himself underneath the helmet. That vision hits much closer to home now. Vader is blood and family and was once a powerful Jedi who turned. If Obi-Wan’s best friend turned, than what hope does Luke have? None of this is outright stated but it’s implied in the scenes and drama that unfold in the Duel.

The Duel and Reveal – The reveal of Vader as Luke’s father is powerful as is the lead up to it. In it we see how Luke has learned a lot but everything Vader says about the Dark Side being more powerful seems to be true. He walks all over Luke, using the environment against Luke and getting into his head with the final reveal of that vulnerability we saw when Vader was without his helmet. “Together we can rule the Galaxy as Father and Son.” Vader does care even though he is this ruthless machine who sees life, whether it is Imperial or Rebel as expendable…he makes an exception for Luke because there is good in there. The duel is beautiful too as the Lightsabers are light in the dark and mist that covers the areas of Cloud City they fight in. It is my favorite duel of the series without a doubt because it isn’t just great action, it is great action with a purpose.

Philosophy of the Force – The Force is all about letting go. It is when the illusions of size, appearance and strength are mastered that you can master the world. This is shown in starting with the basics where Luke’s mind and body and strengthened but he isn’t able to let go as it is fear for his friends that leads to the loss of his hand and in the end he loses one of his friends anyway, showing that Yoda and Obi-Wan were right that leaving would change nothing.

The Ending – Han is captured by Jabba, the Rebellion has been chased out of the Galaxy and is on the run and has no safe haven and Luke is left to consider the words of his father and is given his first dilemma…can he kill Vader to save the Galaxy or is that price to high? The Rebellion has a new ally in Lando though as Vader is left to deal with the loss and escape of his son.

Okay/Pro: The Droids and Chewbacca – The Droids are alright, same with Chewbacca. They are support roles with R2 saving the day in the end when he fixes the ship so the Falcon can jump to Light Speed. They weren’t bad but compared to all the other characters I found them distracting at times, with the exception of Chewbacca and R2 sometimes. C-3PO was largely annoying.

The Emperor – He pops up once to show that Vader reports to a higher power but I never felt threatened by him in any version. He’s a force in the background but we’ve seen the things Vader has done. The Emperor in the Original Trilogy is just there as the symbol of the Empire’s power. He was used much better in the Prequels and his rise, I’d have liked to see him do more but he wasn’t a con.

    This is my favorite of all the “Star Wars” Films and I’ll be very surprised if “The Force Awakens” manages to beat it. So much is accomplished in this film and we learn so much about all our characters as they are put through their greatest tests and from those tests humanity and growth is revealed. This film is one of my all time favorite films and is beloved by so many for many for the reasons I describe above. Watch the Original if you can, the Ties are distracting in the “Special Edition” as is some of the added dialogue. Less is more and that is what the original version captures as it is wholly focused on our characters and their struggles. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 10 / 10. The things that are okay do not bring down the score in this instance as everything else is solid.

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Stealth Strike” – New Friendship But More Failing Empire

Star Wars Rebels Stealth Strike

    First I’m going to say I like this episode, it isn’t a favorite but I enjoyed it. My issue is that the Empire continues to lose. I should have never listened to the interview where they said this Season would be “The Empire Strikes” back of “Star Wars Rebels.” So far it hasn’t…it’s even more positive than ‘The Clone Wars” and “A New Hope,” which for the Dark Times just doesn’t cut it for me.

“Stealth Strike” was directed by Brad Rau and written by Matt Michnovetz.

The story involves Ezra and Sato being caught by the Empire when they discover an Experimental Star Destroyer that can pull ships out of Light Speed. From here it is up to Rex and Kanan to rescue them and stop this new weapon.

The Pros: Ezra – Ezra is a cocky guy but he loses this time and it isn’t until  Rex and Kanan are helping him take out the weapon that we get to see how powerful he is as a Jedi. He isn’t overpowered like Starkiller in “The Force Unleashed,” so it keeps him interesting. He also earns Sato’s respect.

Rex and Kanan – These two are at odds but have grown to be friends, as we see at the end when Rex doesn’t turn on them and Kanan comes back to rescue him. It’s a great moment and this episode was a Clone Wars callback for sure.

Agent Kallus – Kallus is smart about the Rebels now, sadly the man in charge of the special weapon was not. Kallus got a big “I told you so,” at the end.

Okay: Chopper – Choppper it too overpowered. Nobody suspects droids even though they were the main enemy of the Clone Wars and countless times Chopper has saved the day.

Commander Sato – Sato doesn’t have any personality yet, he’s just a blank slate who commands respect. I want to know what drives this guy so the mystery puts him as an okay rather than a con.

The Cons: How the Empire Was Handled – The Empire captures the Rebels and does nothing with it. Sato should have been sent to an Imperial Prison, Ezra should have been executed or at least the attempt of execution immediately, and the super weapon needed more fail safes.

This was an episode that could have been more. Even Grievous managed to hold onto his super weapons longer and he was a coward and an idiot. I expected more from the Empire, they still have to be the best if the Rebels are to be the underdogs. This season they are not the underdogs at all…except for the Pilot “Siege of Lothal.”

Final Score: 7.8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 6 – “Blood Sisters” – Sabine’s Past

Star Wars Rebels Blood Sisters

   “Blood Sisters” is okay, which has kind of been a theme lately (Bring back the Inquisitors and Ahsoka or Tarkin at least). Each episode involves the Rebels eventually having a win of some sort and the Empire being made to look incompetent. I get that we got around 24 episodes this season…but really? The Empire is ruling for a reason, make them a threat again. This episode really illustrated how this has become a problem, even though we do get some great Sabine development.

      The episode was directed by Bosco Ng and written by Kevin Hopps.

      The story involves Sabine and Ezra picking up a Droid that has important information for the Rebels but things soon get complicated when Sabine’s former old friend Ketsu arrives on the scene who is working for the Black Suns to get the Droid for them.

The Pros: Chopper – Chopper is a lot of fun in this as we see him wreak havoc in Ketsu’s ship and be just as adaptable as R2-D2 in regards to new situations and threats.

Ketsu – Ketsu has a great ship and we see that her and Sabine were both alone after the Clone Wars leading them to become bounty hunters. At one point Ketsu left Sabine for dead and went her own way…in this episode we see her go from being skeptical of the Rebellion to eventually wanting to maybe join after she is forgiven by Sabine and when Sabine saves her from the Empire.

Sabine – This is very much Sabine’s episode as we see how selfish she used to be in the actions of Ketsu who left her behind to die in the past even though they were like sisters…and how now she is willing to risk everything for her former friend to help them escape. She’s grown up and this episode illustrates it.

The Cons: Ezra – Ezra is really annoying in this. Stop hitting on Sabine, she has clearly shown she isn’t interested. There is nothing positive to say about him in this episode, when he isn’t creepin he’s incompetent and ends up left behind when Sabine and Chopper escape with the Droid.

  This episode was okay. Again, I’m tired of the Imperials being a non-threat after how awesome they were in the Siege of Lothal and when the Inquisitors first arrived…can we get back to that? I get that the Rebellion needs more allies but we already know they win since we know how the Original Trilogy goes. Have them lose more.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Upcoming Reviews – The “Star Wars” Films

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    With “The Force Awakens,” coming out in 6 Weeks I am going to begin reviewing the “Star Wars” Film series. I am only r reviewing Original Theatrical Releases as I’d rather not see them marred by what George Lucas did to them later in regards to the Original Trilogy until I can dedicate some to just describing everything he changed. This also I think gives the fairest comparison between the different films as I will be watching the Theatrical release of “The Force Awakens” not the “Special” or “Extended” Edition of “The Force Awakens.”

     It has been a while since I’ve watched these films though “The Empire Strikes Back” and “A New Hope” are two of my all time favorite films and I’m curious to see how they compare now that there is so much distance from when I originally saw them, as well as the Prequels.

      My approach is going to be like the reviews I’ve done in the past, listing the pros, cons and what was okay. I know humor isn’t my strong suit and if you want to see some comedic takedowns of the prequels there is always Redlettermedia or if you want to see a defense of Episode 1 there is Moviebob’s look back. These films are such a part of our cultural mindset and have already been creatively taken down in so many ways that I just want to talk about them with my own voice and perspective given how long it has been since I’ve watched them and fully explore the pros and cons of each of the films.

     I’ll be starting with “The Phantom Menace” and working my way up to “Return of the Jedi.” So here we go. I’ll be reviewing around a film a week with “Return of the Jedi” being reviewed the week before opening week of “The Force Awakens.”

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 2 – “Relics of the Old Republic” – Clones and Jedi Together Again

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  “Relics of the Old Republic” is another solid episode of “Star Wars Rebels.” There hasn’t been a great episode so far but I think that’s mostly due to the writers developing the feel and characters of this season as we have a much more expansive cast thanks to the addition of the Clones and Ahsoka. How their arcs will all play out remains to be seen though.

    The story involves Agent Kallus’s assault on the Clones and Rebels as Kanan continues to deal with his distrust of them while Hera works on an escape.

The Pros: Agent Kallus – The guy should have done an orbital bombardment but I got to give him props for coming down in AT-AT’s and he did destroy the Clones’ Tank, even if all his Walkers were destroyed in the process. It was kind of out of his control since Constantine got recalled to pick up an Inquisitor

The Clones and Rex – I really like them, especially Rex who has adopted Ezra as a Ahsoka or Anakin type of partner. It was great seeing them in action against Kallus’s AT-AT Walkers and them having to work with the Jedi to survive. It was like “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” again.

Kanan – Kanan’s distrust is still just as strong but he begins coming around, especially when Rex tells him that the Jedi are the only ways they will survive the battle and that he always trusts his General. After the battle Kanan begins to warm towards them.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who has to guide them above when they are in the sandstorm and we see him step up to the challenge. It is awesome seeing that it is Rex’s belief in him that gives him the courage to do it too.

Okay: Sabine, Zeb, Hera and Chopper – All of them are just kind of there and we don’t get any real character time with any of them. They are just surviving and none of them had standout moments this episode.

  This was a good ending to the arc that started last episode. We meet the Fifth Brother Inquisitor at the end of the episode and the Clones join the Rebellion so there are lots of stories that could be made. Part of me is hoping that the Clones go out in a blaze of glory or get back in touch with their Mandalorian heritage. Either way, there is so much that can be done thanks to this episode.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 1 – “The Lost Commanders” – Ghosts of the Clone Wars

Star Wars Rebels The Lost Commanders

    “The Lost Commanders” is a good episode that could have been great if the format had been 1 hour instead of half that. We get some great exploration with the Clones and learning about what happened post Order 66 with some questions still open and things that need to be discovered. How they are doing things though…I think the 24 episode format could work for this season if they play their cards right.

     The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and Sergio Paez and written by Matt Michnovetz.

     The story involves the crew of Ghost seeking allies and a base for the Rebellion in the Outer Rim as Ahsoka points them in the direction of the surviving Clone Commanders while she investigates the Sith Lord Darth Vader.

The Pros: The Commanders – The Commanders are awesome! You have Wolffe who reaches out to the Empire because he doesn’t trust the Rebellion and just wants peace, Rex who is advocating for help and Gregor who has gone crazy from the events of the war. It’s really cool seeing their dynamic and how war weary they are. They all carry regrets and for Rex Ezra is the hope he saw in Anakin.

Kanan – Kanan distrusts the Clones and for good reason as Wolffe did sell them out, even if he apologized. We learn that the Clones killed his Master and from that we learn some Jedi did betray the Clones while others like Rex, Gregor and Wolffe removed their chips…when they did is still a mystery but it helps make Kanan a little more comfortable with them.

Ezra – Ezra is getting war weary too and is stuck above taking care of their ship after Imperials injure it. We see that she is the more cynical view to Ezra’s hope and they compliment each other’s perspective really well. She also sees the bigger picture and we learn Jedi and Clones saved her during the Clone Wars.

Okay: Sabine and Zeb – Much like the Siege of Lothal, these two are just kind of there and can’t even kill a scouting droid the Empire sends. It’s a shame that Zeb is just comedic relief and used to catch an alien for the Commanders to eat.

Ahsoka – She’s going off the find out about Darth Vader and points them in the direction of the Clones. Not so much a character as a plot device this episode.

  This was a good but not great episode. We see the promise of things to come but there was more that could have been explored. Kanan and Rex should have fought and dealt with the end of the Clone Wars. I guess we’ll see more of that later hopefully but hints aren’t the same as answers and if the Clones are going to be brought in, we need answers.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars Rebels: The Siege of Lothal – The Might of Darth Vader

Star Wars Rebels The Siege of Lothal

    “The Siege of Lothal” is a great lead-up to Season 2, which is arriving later this month. We get to see the Empire rock again (though I would have preferred a near complete annihilation of the rebels minus the crew in the Lothal System…but it’s a show for kids so what can you do) and really liked how our characters were shaped and changed by the events around them and how this truly raised the stakes for what will go down this Season. It truly shows how great of a villain Darth Vader is again and what made him so awesome in “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back.”

     The tv movie was directed by Bosco Ng, Brad Rau and Dave Filoni and written by Henry Gilroy.

     The story involves the arrival of Darth Vader and his plot to draw the Lothal Rebels out and annihilate them. Things are going according to plan as our heroes must find a way to escape and help the others in their Rebel Cell escape.

The Pros: Occupied Lothal – Lothal under occupation is really cool as we see Star Destroyers with search lights over the planet and see just how outmatched it is. Vader also destroys the refugees there to force the Rebels out of hiding showing how little life means to him now…so Alderaan down the line is no surprise.

The Rebellion – The Rebellion has internal conflict of those who want to stay seperate from a larger movement and them becoming a militaristic fighting force akin to the Republic and Separatists of old. It is great to see.

Commander Sato – Sato is the rebel commander in the region and is shown to be a stubborn fighter but smart enough to run after Hera talks him down and Vader has destroyed his Capital ship. It is only due to the crew of Ghost being the focus of Vader’s ire that lets them escape.

Hera – Hera is the one aware of the bigger picture and tries to help Jarrus see it too as he eventually does. She knows that they can’t live like the crew in “Firefly” forever and that if real change is going to come about it is going to take a revolution.

Ezra – Ezra nearly gets killed by Darth Vader in this and realizes just how outmatched he is. It is only when working with Jarrus that he stands even the chance of escape against Vader and this sits with him for sometime showing that he may go to the Dark Side for a while since he’s always wanted to be stronger and Vader shows that strength as he easily beat both him and Jarrus.

Kanan Jarrus – Jarrus is the one afraid to fight in war as he remembers the Clone Wars and how it changed everyone and helped the Dark Side grow in power. He’s PTSD from it all and after meeting Vader the Sith Lord knows just how outmatched he is and that their only hope is survival and allies in the greater fight.

Lando – Lando helps them make their escape from the Siege when he gets them a ship. It was great seeing him make a guest appearance again.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka is part of the reason they the rebels are able to escape as it her revealing herself to Vader and realizing that he is Anakin that makes him stop to think and realize that she is the greatest tool to hunting down the rest of the Jedi. She is also lying to the crew as she probably has a lot of shame over who her Master became.

The Empire – The Empire is shown to be unstoppable in this and it is great. They stop the Rebels at every turn and show the Sith mentality when they eat their own as Minister Tau is used as bait to bring the Lothal Rebels out into the open to be destroyed. Vader is truly their face and philosophy.

Minister Tau – Tau is shown to be not truly bad as she is ready to help the rebels and give them information. She is motivated by fear for her life but she was never as cruel to the populace as Tarkin and Vader and tried to rule through some form of affection. This is of course is taken advantage of as all feelings are with Vader and she ends up blown up.

Agent Kallus – Kallus is a complete tool but shows why he is still alive as he always knows when to get out or get help and I can see why Vader uses him as he is completely ruthless and very capable of genocide as he did to Zeb’s people.

Darth Vader – James Earl Jones voices is Vader and it is awesome! In this we see Vader’s plan is largely a success as the rebels are lured out and he learns his apprentice Ahsoka is alive, giving him and the Emperor more hope at fully destroying the Jedi order as they know the Lothal Rebels will be looking for allies and help in the coming fight or simply just to survive. Anakin is gone and the Dragon is here ready to destroy any Rebels or Rebellion. I’ve missed this Darth Vader.

 Okay: Chopper. Sabine, Zeb – These guys are just kind of there and have no distinct growth or choices beyond them voting to fight or run at one point. This is a shame as they are all great character minus Chopper who is mostly annoying.

The Imperial Admiral – The Admiral under Vader working for Kallus is so unmemorable it is not even worth mentioning his name. This guy no doubt has a force choke in store.

  This is a great introduction of the fight to come and raises the stakes high as the Emperor orders Vader to send out another Inquisitor as the Lothal rebels could draw out whatever Jedi are in hiding and Vader really wants to kill his old master Obi-Wan. It is a great scene and we see that the Empire has every reason to remain confident and it’s power at ending whatever threats may be thrown at it.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

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     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

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The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars Rebels Finale – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Fire Across the Galaxy” – Unifying the Rebellion

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       What a fantastic end to a great season! I got to say after the reveals at the end of this episode and the character growth we see take place, I’m excited to see where this series goes. “Star Wars Rebels” has the potential to be one of the greatest animated television shows made if it can handle it next season(s) right and have an ending.

   “Fire Across the Galaxy” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Simon Kinberg.

    The story follows from the last episode with the crew of Ghost mounting a rescue of Kanan who has been brought to Mustafar by Tarkin in order to be destroyed. It is at this point the Rebels plan is put into motion and they infiltrate Tarkin’s Star Destroyer with the Tie Fighter taken from “Fighter Flight.” On the ship they mount their escape as The Inquisitor prepares to destroy both Kanan and Ezra as Tarkin works to destroy the Rebel Cell for good.

The Pros: The Plan – The plan starts out with stealing an Imperial Transport with Sabine being the distraction while while Zeb and the other take the ship. Next the Tie Fighter Zeb and Ezra stole is used to get into Tarkin’s Star Destroyer and a Energy Pulse is used to shut down all power on the ship (and knockout the troops). From here they make their way through the ship with Chopper staying behind to help them escape once they get off the Star Destroyer.

The Inquisitor – The Inquisitor is the main focus as the most that Tarkin does is call in more troops to overwhelm and destroy the Jedi…but it is The Inquisitor who pushes Kanan to the dark side and makes him despair over the fact that he ran during Order 66 and didn’t stay and fight. He is good at the mind games and is only defeated when Kanan is fighting with two lightsabers and nothing to lose. In the end he chooses death though as he rejects Kanan’s offer to be saved knowing their are far worse things than death if he were to change. R.I.P. The Inquisitor, what a great enemy.

Kanan – Kanan shows that he has truly become a Jedi Master. He is rescued by Ezra and believes that Ezra has died after The Inquisitor knocks Ezra off the bridge they are fighting on. This leads to him fighting with nothing to lose and we see how he has grown mentally as he even offers to save the Inquisitor’s life. He has truly become a Jedi to be reckoned with.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who came up with most of the plan and he sticks with it all the way to the end, risking his own life on multiple occasions to save Kanan. We see how devoted he is to his new family and that he is the glue that is holding them all together and truly becoming a great Padawan.

The Rebellion – The Rebels would have been killed if Senator Organa hadn’t arrived with reinforcements to Mustafar to help them escape the overwhelming forces of Tarkin. The victory at Mustafar is a major blow to the Empire as was Ezra’s transmission which has given people hope and a reason to fight. A United Rebellion is what we see at the end and they are ready to stand openly and together against the Empire.

Fulcrum Reveal – Fulcrum was Anakin’s apprentice from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars!” Ahsoka Tano survived the purge and Order 66 and is now an open resource for the surviving Jedi and the Rebellion. It’s a powerful reveal especially since the Empire is bringing in Darth Vader to deal with the Lothal Rebellion. Can’t wait to see what’s done and seeing her playing such a big role in this series makes me want to watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

Empire Rising – The Empire knows that it is fighting a larger rebellion now and is risking in turn. Tarkin is still on the scene but now Darth Vader is as well. Vader is famous for being the ultimate Jedi killer and I hope we get to see him do just that when Season 2 roles around. There is so much potential with using Vader as the main threat, especially since the creators said they want Season 2 to be “The Empire Strikes Back” of the series.

  This show is an amazing show that captures the spirit of “Star Wars” so well. The Finale did this in a great way too, even if we got less character moments with the crew as it was primarily focused on the overall arc and setting the stage for next season. Still fantastic action, amazing story and a great sign of things to come to end a fantastic season.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Star Wars Rebels – Season 1, Episode 12 – “Rebel Resolve” – To Risk

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   “Rebel Resolve” is mostly setup for the finale for Season 1 but it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a good episode, especially in regards to how Hera and Ezra get defined more…and the plan to get the information on where the Empire is holding Kanan is done really well. It is a high stakes infiltration that involves our heroes taking a lot of risks to make the plan even work, but more on that later.

    The episode was directed by Justin Ridge and written by Charles Murray and Henry Gilroy.

    The story begins with the rebels hijacking a Walker to try and find out where Kanan is being held. They aren’t successful as the Imperials have changed how they communicate after they destroyed the Communications Tower. This leads to Fulcrum ordering Hera to stop the search and to hide until it blows over. She orders her crew to do so but they have other ideas as Ezra comes up with an idea to find out where Kanan is being held and is willing to go to any lengths to get the information.

The Pros: Vizago – The gangster we saw prior is willing to help after Ezra proves he is a Jedi and Kanan is too…which leads to Vizago showing him how the Imperials are transporting information (droids) and that now Ezra owes him a favor down the road. It’s another side of him we see even if he is still the same gangster.

Zeb and Sabine – These two are the support for Ezra in going behind Hera’s back and finding Vizago. They stick with him the entire time and are part of the plan as it moves forward. Sabine especially plays a big role later on the rescue next episode.

Chopper – Chopper is one of the main characters as he goes undercover as an Imperial Droid and steals their information. It is his missing of Kanan that leads to the first Alliance among the crew as Ezra has already resolved to do anything to rescue him. Chopper is great in how he ignores the Imperials and the crew at different points. Chopper doesn’t care, except about Kanan.

Hera – Hera is conflicted this episode but we see that she is a soldier. When Fulcrum gives the order to stand down, she does even though she misses her partner and lover Kanan. She eventually joins Ezra’s plot though too after Ezra apologizes and she realizes that he’s doing what she’s wanted to do all along.

Fulcrum – Fulcrum sees the bigger pictures and knows that if a larger rebellion is seen to exist the Empire will destroy them. The only reason they’ve been able to survive so long is because no one can turn another in…all that gets risked due to the actions of Ezra and the crew of Ghost.

The Imperials – The Inquisitor tortures Kanan but is not able to break him which leads to Tarkin ordering Kanan to be sent to Mustafar, which is where Jedi go to die. The Empire never feels powerless in this and always feels like a threat which makes the events of this episode actually mean something.

   This was a really good episode as we get to see Hera the soldier and what it means to to be a rebel leader (sometimes you lose people) and also how Ezra’s recklessness could lead to him going down a darker path since his risking everything for Kanan could easily push him to the edge and desperation, and with how powerful he is in the force…the dark side. Suffice to say this episode was enjoyable, I just wish we’d spent more time with the Imperials.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10.