Posted by Steve on October 8, 2018 at 10:50 AM CST
Spoiler Warning: While this is mainly a non-spoiler look at the show, it does contain some very minor plot points...you've been warned.
It may feel like ages ago when we last had Star Wars animation on TV, but it was just earlier this year, back in March, when Star Wars Rebels ended its four year run. The show left a lasting impression on the Star Wars community and we've been craving more ever since.
Oh, how much has changed since that show went off the air. Solo: A Star Wars Story has come and gone, we learned The Clone Wars is coming back for a seventh season and we were just recently given our first look at Jon Favreau’s new live-action series, The Mandalorian, starting next year with the Disney streaming service.
Now, from the brain of Dave Filoni, comes the much anticipated but barely marketed Star Wars Resistance. Whatever the reason for the delayed push, it was indeed late in the game when things started showing up, it's been a steady stream of clips, featurettes and interviews with the show’s stars and creators ever since. With Amy Beth Christenson providing Art Direction, the show is a new look for Star Wars animation moving past the marionette days of The Clone Wars and the McQuarrie paintings come to life aspect of Rebels.
In their place we have a sleek Robotech-esque looking show employing a non-photorealistic rendering or “cell shading” type of animation and style. The sound effects, courtesy of mainstays David Acord and Matthew Wood, are equally amped up with this show seemingly sounding better then any previous show to date. Yes, there are some familiar engine noises and blaster effects, but because the show employs new characters, new ships and new surroundings, new sounds were required. And the soundtrack while occasionally using the familiar Williams motif, is mostly new composition and suits the show very well.
And that is where the draw of this show will ultimately lie. While it is most definitely a Star Wars show, and not only by name, it is at the same time something entirely new. Because of that I’m willing to forgive any small issues I may have with the first three episodes of this premiere season, four if you break up "The Recruit". There’s enough already established Star Wars vernacular and visual cues here that should appease the skeptics while giving us something fresh for a new generation of fans.
This will be a non-spoiler look at the show but just in case you want no details, I’ll pick it up after the break. Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet…
So, we know what the show is about. Kazuda Xiono, a young and surface level cocky New Republic pilot, is recruited by Poe Dameron and the Resistance and sent to Castilon. His job is to blend in on the fuelling depot Colossus and report back to Poe any First Order shenanigans he sees or hears. He is placed in the care of Jarek Yeager, an old war buddy of Poe’s and who currently runs a crew of mechanics that earn money by repairing racing ships, a big source of gambling, entertainment and danger on the depot. Kaz makes his way around, getting into trouble, meeting new people, all the while keeping an eye and ear out for any First Order trouble.
Whether you like Xiono or not will depend on your ability to absorb another Ezra like character who clearly is destined for greatness but will stumble greatly along the way. He’s got daddy issues that have given him a fragility and insecurity beneath the surface that we see emerge in the quieter moments, again, like Ezra.
A slight problem I already see brewing is that like Solo, we are continually being introduced to characters that are more interesting than Kazuda. That’s no fault of Christopher Sean who does a good job voicing Kazuda, it’s just that when you have essentially a show taking place on a prison colony with no real importing or exporting, the background characters become that much more important to keep the story moving. And they do it very well, too well in fact, and most times at the expense of the lead. Scene stealers like Neeku Vozo (Josh Brener), Tam Ryvora (Suzie McGrath), and Torra Doza (Myrna Velasco) are strong out of the gate and early standout Jarek Yeager (Scott Lawrence) will be the Kanan Jarrus of this show.
All of this is a problem if you believe a show is only as strong as its protagonist, otherwise, you’ll love these new humans, aliens and droids and folks are already shouting their favorites from mountaintops. I’m definitely team Yeager by the way.
Any of these issues I’m sure will be ironed out over the season and by no means dampen my spirits for the show, it’s just that, of the people we’ve met so far, I connected to Kaz the least. But great Star Wars storytelling has always been about the sum of its parts, so this show seems to be no exception to that rule.
Also, the confinement aspect of Colossus was starting to show by the fourth episode and a change of scenery is sorely needed. The backgrounds were beginning to get stale and repetitive and that in turn affected the characters as well. It’s likely on purpose, designed to induce restlessness and impetuousness in the shows lead but they can only get so much use out of Aunt Z's Tavern and Orka and Flix's shop.
Their lives so far seem mundane even by Star Wars standards and that includes an all too brief pirate attack which was over before it started, so this all hints that big things are coming for this quiet fuelling depot and I would bet that means the First Order. That’s why we’re here right? As we work our way through the “Hero’s Journey” we will learn what or who the Order is after.
There’re some pacing issues as well especially in the script which goes from looney tunes head-banging buffoonery at times to childlike introspection in the blink of an eye. It will be the humor that works least for me but I’m historically a stick in the mud and not a cheap laugh. As character motivations and backstories are revealed, these comedic moments I’m sure will dissipate as they are generally used as ice-breakers in these kinds of shows. Plus, as the show depicts more serious and dramatic events, the lightheartedness will naturally shift to darker tones which the characters will have to reflect.
The characters appearance themselves will take some getting used to as your eyes adjust to the “paperman” quality of their rendered CG look. They tend to occasionally float or skate around the surface instead of strong and defined movements but once you acclimatize to it, it’s fine. The details are in the eyes and in this show, they are well textualized and really help emote the characters outer/inner dialogue. In fact, this show depicts the face better than any previous Star Wars animated show to date.
For me the most exciting moments were the space, fighting and racing sequences, and this should come as no surprise as the show is built around Dave Filoni’s love of World War 2 aircraft. The visuals and sounds really excel during the flight sequences whether it be the dog-fighting in space or the racing on Colossus. Each ship has a unique look, feel and sound and the smooth crystal-clear animation shines brightest here.
So, as we wade through this expensive game of Clue, playing along with Kaz, the writers will be casually dropping little hints as to who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. This will be a slow build as we are just getting to know the characters we’ll be spending the next few years with. Eventually we’ll learn why Tam Ryvora is so angry all the time, what’s the deal with Aunt Z, what happened to Yeager’s family, what the First Order wants with Colossus and who Kaz can and cannot trust.
This is a good start for this show and is loaded with potential. As we go deeper into the lives of the people stationed on Colossus, learn more about the First Order’s motivations and spot tie-ins to The Force Awakens, the intrigue will only grow. There is indeed something for everybody here whether it's the "shippers", "gearheads", "droid builders" or purists and I can easily see fans of all ages finding someting to enjoy about this show.
So that's my opinion, what about you? What did you guys think of the premiere episode(s)?