Monday, February 16, 2015

Why I Cannot Help Rebelling Against the New Star Wars Show

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a bit of a Star Wars junkie. Not in a real over-the-top, walls of collectibles and legally changing my name to Vader kind of way, but I do have multiple copies of all the video releases of the films and television shows, and can hold my own in a trivia battle if need be. I was/am a huge fan of the Clone Wars series and thought that some of the storytelling on that show reached some pretty great heights. In fact, I think some of the best storytelling in the galaxy far, far, away was presented over the course of the series' six seasons. I still go back and rewatch episodes when I want a quick Saga fix.

So, when that show was cancelled and its replacement, Star Wars: Rebels debuted, you would think that I would just pass my love and appreciation for the one show over to the other and continue basking in the weekly doses of Saga greatness. And that would be where you were wrong.

We are officially eleven episodes in on Rebels and I still cannot say that I am remotely sold on the show. Despite hearing how great it is to return to the original trilogy aesthetic from various friends to podcasters in the know, I, personally, have a lot of problems with it.

From a purely design standpoint, I think the show lacks much of the lushness and flat-out beauty of Clone Wars. I realise that the production crew are going for an understandably different look, but there is a weird, synthetic, kind of cartoony feel to most of the characters and environments on the show that really throws me. Plastic might be a word I would use to describe it.

I know that Clone Wars was supposed to look like puppets from a Gerry Anderson television show, so the argument might seem a little odd coming from someone who swears by the look and design of Clone Wars so much, but there was something slightly more tangible to me there in that more stylised version of this world. The painterly textures and elaborate environments always gave you something interesting to look at. And, to be fair, none of the tech looked like it was a Hasbro/Kenner toy. There was a strange verisimilitude to it all.

Another element of Rebels that I haven't enjoyed much is the colour scheme that they have chosen for the characters. It just drives me nuts! Made up of primarily orange and green I don't feel as there is enough in their palette to really distinguish between these characters visually (and that those particular hues are commonly the colour of sick). For one or two characters I think I could forgive it, but for six of them, a little too much for the ol' eye stalks to take in.

Everything else seems to be the same, standard, white and grey environments which are supposed to harken back to the OT but just come off looking bland. Clone Wars based a lot of their look on McQuarrie's artwork (as Rebels claims to) and it had a much more dynamic and interesting colour palette. Granted, OT era stuff is supposed to look less ornate and designy (building on the idea that everything is industrial and m,ass produced), but I think it really hurts the look of the show.

There are several other things that bother me about Rebels but I'm only going to mention one more in this post; the character movement. I don't know what happened between the production of the two shows but we went from characters that stood and moved pretty logically, if not naturally in Clone Wars, to characters that move constantly.


A little weirdly.

Arms, legs, hair, name it, it's probably moving around on any one of the show's characters as they interact with each other. Or just stand tjhere and do nothing. It really doesn't matter what they're doing, they kind of wiggle and sway regardless. It's like they're all jacked up on something and simply can't hold still. It's really pretty maddening for me to watch and distracts enormously from my ability to focus on the story and just enjoy the show. To be fair, that may be my problem but that's how I see it.

Anyways, since starting this post a couple of days ago the episode "Call to Action" aired with an interesting ramping up of drama and stakes as well as an appearance by Grand Moff Tarkin himself. After all my negative droning earlier I'm as surprised as anyone to say that I think it was a pretty fantastic episode overall. There were moments where I was completely enraptured by what was going on onscreen and Tarkin's presence injected the show with a mucvh needed sense of peril. This was sincerely close to some genuine Clone Wars level storytelling.

Everybody has been praising Rebels over the last few months saying that it has triumphantly made the Wars feel like the OT again. While I can comfortably say this is still not my official position, I have to admit that this episode really nailed it for a change. Hopefully they can keep it up. They just might convert me. This is the first time I'm genuinely anxious to see the next episode. Two weeks is too long this time.