Rebels Review – Through Imperial Eyes

STAR WARS REBELS
“Through Imperial Eyes”
By Jason Gibner


Oh Kallus, I really think this time you and your awesome mutton chop sideburns are in trouble.  I’ll admit, at first I didn’t like you at all.  Back in that first season of Rebels you seemed like the real Imperial stooge of the week and you ran around like a Scooby Doo villain. Seriously you were one step away from blurting out “My mission would have succeeded if it weren’t for those meddling Rebels!!”


Then something changed in you when you had that surprisingly game changing season two episode “The Honorable Ones”.  All of a sudden we saw that maybe you weren’t the guy just drinking the Empire’s Kool Aid and just maybe you were a character with some actual dimension beyond that grey uniform and trendsetting facial hair.


With the latest episode of Rebels “Through Imperial Eyes”, Kallus’ story is either just beginning or coming to it’s ghastly conclusion.  Here we see what constitutes a day in his roughsville drab and secretly rebellious Imperial life.  Through season three we’ve seen that Kallus is now serving the Rebels as being the newest Fulcrum aka Super Secret Spy.  Which is fantastic except Kallus’ boss is that whispering blue skinned, art gallery creeper weirdo Grand Admiral Thrawn.  The evil Smurf in white is no dummy and he’s figured out Kallus’ game a long time ago.  So as Ezra comes on board an Imperial ship to warn Kallus that even the Alliance has figured out that he has been caught, Thrawn allows the whole charade to go down as it’ll just help his dastardly master plan of slowly wiping out the Rebels.


This episode takes that fairly simple plot and turns it into what could be the most tense, thriller style episode of Rebels so far.  The whole thing plays like a never ending chase through Thrawn’s Star Destroyer as he is almost constantly behind every door Kallus and Ezra try to hide behind.  It’s a dark and spooky 22 minutes of Star Wars action that’ll have you biting your nails just WAITING for the moment where our heroes get caught.


There’s an awkward subplot with Chopper and AP-5 in there and some really wasted stuff with Kanan and Rex aboard yet another stolen Imperial Shuttle but thankfully it never manages to slow down the episode’s rapid fire pace.  We do however get a welcome addition to the roster of bad guys with the return of former Clone Wars hero of the Republic and A New Hope background guy with a mustache, Colonel Yularen.  It’s rough seeming this former friend of the Jedi and the Clones now acting as basically the CIA director for the Empire but we all new that’s how it had to happen eventually.


Through Imperial Eyes just adds to what so far has been an outstanding second half to Rebels season three.  Top shelf stuff like this episode and the previous Sabine arc shows that we have a lot to look forward to in coming weeks as with the Thrawn stuff coming to a possible conclusion , Maul’s showdown with Old Ben Kenobi and the further birth of the actual Alliance coming to a head. Rebels has it’s foot on the hyperdrive gas these days and hopefully isn’t letting up.

FINAL GRADE : B+

Rebels Reviews – Legacy of Mandalore

STAR WARS REBELS
“Legacy of Mandalore”
By Jason Gibner

Alright Rebels, you earned it.  That’s right, you get the intercontinental championship belt with this one.  Legacy of Mandalore is yet another blue ribbon brilliant episode that somehow not only captures that elusive brand of Star Wars magic but show that the galaxy far, far away can thrive on the small screen.  This is an episode to show to anyone who ever questions not just this show but if it was possible for Star Wars Rebels to ever match the quality of Clone Wars.  This is an episode that makes the entire series better while it echoes some the best qualities of its older sibling series.   Here we have a story that is not afraid to take the time it needs to properly convey real deal  emotion, have a dash of saber fueled fist pumping action and manage in 22 minutes to take viewers somewhere they’ve never been before.  This is just good Star Wars.

Opening up right where Trials of the Darksaber left off, we see Sabine, Ezra, Kanan and Fenn Rau headed to the snowy planet Krownest so Sabine can bring the mythical Darksaber to her mother and hopefully convince her to have Clan Wren join the fledgling Alliance.  Things do go as planned as when they enter the atmosphere, they are attacked by a group of totally cool looking rocket jetpack flying Mando warriors.  Once on the ground, the saber is handed off and some old family wounds are opened up before a seriously fun action climax takes place.   To say that the last couple episodes of Rebels have finally given the criminally underused Sabine Wren some brilliant material is a bit of a parsec of an understatement.   By deepening her relationship with her Mandalorian past, her family, the built in connection with Star Wars history, and her exciting future in the saga, the show has finally shown the character the respect she’s been due for quite a while now.


This episode’s bittersweet ending could start some Twitter wars about how it goes down and what it means for the future, but show head honcho Dave Filoni promises the obvious fact that more Mando action is on the way.  Mandalorian history and culture is something that’s existed in the minds of fans since 1980 and for Clone Wars to begin to tell that story and for it to continue so surprisingly and in such a compelling way in Rebels is just plain awesome.  I for one can not wait to see what happens next with this Mandalorian epic they’ve created here and if this is any indication on how the rest of season three is gonna go then we are in for some fun.

Final grade: A

Rebels Review – Trials Of The Darksaber

STAR WARS REBELS
“Trials of the Darksaber”
By Jason Gibner

While watching this phenomenal Filoni scripted episode of Star Wars Rebels, I kept saying to my myself that this one felt more like some of those really great episodes of Clone Wars.  Often that show would take a break from the Anakin, Ashoka and Obi-Wan slicing up battle droids action to focus on a smaller, more character centered storyline.  It was those kind of episodes that makes the show continue to win over and connect with both old and new fans what gives it the mighty legacy it still rocks today.


There’s no space battle in this episode, no droid hi-jinks, no fan friendly winks to past movies or clueless imperial moron of the week.  Trials of the Darksaber is a just a simple and powerful little look at the awesome seriousness of lightsaber training and most importantly, a real dive into the meat and potatoes of Sabine’s character.  It’s such a welcome change of pace and honestly the kind of episode Rebels should be creating much more often.


We get started on a real high five note as the episode begins with Kanan and Fenn Rau discuss the fascinating backstory of the Darksaber and just how it ended up basically being the Mandalorian version of Camelot.   From there it’s decided that the blade and what it represents is just too darn important and the crew try to convince Sabine that she has to wield it in order to try and unite her people once again.  Hesitant at first, she eventually decides she will try to let Kanan and Ezra give her a crash course in lightsaber combat.


Now for the small but dedicated fans of the nuances of lightsaber fighting and all the different numbered forms of that, this episode is like the first day Doritos tacos came out at Taco Bell.  It’s what we’ve all for real been waiting our whole lives for.  The training scenes are so well done as they not only strengthen Sabine’s character but are magically able to revive storylines that had been last seen struggling on life support.  Thanks to the Magic of Filoni’s wizard writing skills we finally get some good business this season happening with the previously limp relationships between Ezra and Kanan and Hera and Kanan.


Watching this episode unfold while thinking about the growing mystery of just what will happen next when Sabine heads back to Mandalore, and confronts the Vizsla Clan. It all makes the wait for the next episode feel almost impossible.  At the episode’s end, as Sabine still full of doubt, stands with the Darksaber as Ezra, Kanan and Rau pledge that they will support and stay with her no matter what happens on Mandalore.  They make this cool promise as they remind her they are family.  I’d say that goes for all us watching the Ghost Crew every week as well.  We will stick with this family and thanks to episodes like this one, we are just as curious as they are for where it all go next.

Grade :  A

 

Rogue One – Rebelling In The Land Of The Rising Sun

REBELLING IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN –
a look at Rogue One in Japan by Dave Hackerson

I took a bit of a detour on the way home Friday evening to go see the Japanese dub of Rogue One. This viewing marked the third time I had seen the film, with my previous two viewings being in the original English. Though the movie is doing really well in theaters, it has been tough finding theaters that are doing multiple showings of the dubbed version in the evenings. Fortunately a Japanese user on Twitter provided me with a pretty comprehensive list of theaters in the greater Tokyo area showing the dubbed version, so I was able to make my mission a success.

Prior to going to see the film, I did some research on impressions of the dub and the voice actors who handled the characters. One thing that struck me was the number of people who recommended that parents wanting to see the film with their children should go see the dubbed version. Unlike English, where we learn all 26 letters we need to know and the basics for putting them together to form words in our first two years of school, Japanese uses a combination of two phonetic alphabets (which combine for over 100 characters) and Chinese characters (or kanji, with the average person expected to be able to read over 1200 by the end of middle school). Star Wars is filled with lots of specialized sci-fi vocabulary and expressions, many of them including kanji characters kids won’t learn until they are far along in grade school. The daunting task of following along with subtitles that you can only partially read would quickly dim any kid’s enthusiasm, not to mention concentration. In addition, subtitles in Japanese are generally kept short and must eliminate some information in order for people to keep up with the pace of the story. However, a dubbed version spares you all the trouble of reading and allows you to focus nearly entirely on what is transpiring on screen. I was not a big fan of dubs in the past, particularly when it came to anime, but after seeing a number of western films dubbed in Japanese now over the years, I have a greater appreciation for their ability to engage you and help you better experience a movie free of distractions.

Ultimately, the success of the dub relies on the quality of the voice actors, and fortunately for the Japanese audience there is a wealth of outstanding voice actors here in Japan. I would say that the Japanese dub of Rogue One did the original justice, so much so that I forgot I was actually watching a dubbed version at times. Here I will introduce the characters, the respective voice actors, and their profiles.

Jyn Erso: Haruka Shibuya
Veteran of numerous Western film dubs. Often handles the dubs for Keira Knightley and Rachel McAdams.

Cassian Andor: Yasuyuki Kase
Popular voice actor known for simply outstanding work. Recent dubs include Dead Pool and Captain America: Civil War.

Orson Krennic: Satoshi Mikami
Actor/voice actor that often covers parts acted by Benedict Cumberbatch. Recent dubs include Dr. Strange and Imitation Game. Rogue One marks his SW voice acting debut.

Chirrut Imwe: Yasuhiko Nemoto
Voice actor that specializes in mainly western films and animated features. Has done a lot Disney film dubs, such as Frozen, Toy Story, and Brave. Also has done many of the Marvel films.

Baze Malbus: Katsuhiro Kitagawa
Another veteran voice actor with an outstanding track record, including Transformers, Frozen, and Disney animated series.

Bodhi Rook: Takuya Kirimoto
Wide-ranging voice actor who has done many Western films and dramas. Possess a dramatic flair that he puts to good use for roles acted by Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey, Jr, as well as Asian stars such as Andy Lau and Hyun Bin.

Galen Erso: Masahiko Tanaka
Original Gundam veteran. Often handles roles acted by Alec Baldwin.

Lyra Erso: Marika Hayashi
Voice actor responsible for the dubs of major actresses such as Cameron Diaz, Claire Danes, Kate Winslet, and Mary Lyn Rajskub.

Saw Gerrera: Fumihiko Tachiki
Voice actor that has done a number of anime titles. Most recently “appeared” in Independence Day: Resurgence. Has done Forrest Whitaker roles numerous times in the past.

K-2SO: Hideki Nonaka
Best known for his dub work on the CSI series. Has covered a number of foreign films, dramas, and Japanese anime titles as well. Rogue One marks his first major blockbuster.

Mon Mothma: Ai Satou
Voice actress that does primarily anime, Western films, and foreign dramas. Wide variety of work, including the Space Ranger series, Speed series, Ghostbusters, and 007 series. She also did the voice of Mon Mothma in Return of the Jedi.

Darth Vader: Taiten Kusonoki
The second person to voice Darth Vader after Toru Ohira. Pretty much handles all of Darth Vader dubs today. He’s done a tremendous job in Rebels.

I was fairly impressed with the job that Disney did on the dub for The Force Awakens, but it pales in comparison to the job they did with the dub on Rogue One. As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the dub made me forget that I was actually watching a dubbed version for 95% of the film. One aspect in which the Star Wars franchise may have an advantage when it comes to dubs is that the films take place in a “galaxy far, far away”, so our willing suspension of disbelief makes it easier for us (or me at least) to further separate what we see on screen from every day life. I knew we were in for a great ride upon taking in that opening dialogue between Galen and Orson. Actors Mikami and Tanaka did a fantastic job of producing the same gravitas as the original characters, but almost perfectly matching the tone and delivery. Galen holding Jyn and then looking at Lyra and saying “Ike (“Go” in Japanese) sounded exactly the same. Time and again throughout the film, I found the Japanese in the dub matching how I imagined things to be translated from English, and that made it all the easier for me to fully immerse myself within the experience.

Shibuya’s portrayal of Jyn was excellent, and while the standard Japanese she spoke lacked the atmosphere we get from Jones’s British accent, her voice conveyed all the nuances of the character quite well. Indeed, I could sing the praises of every voice actor, but there are two that I believe are worthy of special attention: Nonaka (K-2SO) and Kirimoto (Bodhi). Nonaka’s portrayal of K-2SO was simply sublime, and sounded exactly how imagined the character would have sounded in Japanese. Nonaka produced the same dead-pan delivery that Alan Tudyk perfected for the character, and I found myself laughing at all the same lines as the English original. In a certain sense, the different levels of honorifics used in Japanese helped to further enhanced the character, adding another dimension that made his lines work even better. The language and expressions he used clearly indicate that K-2SO is there to serve Cassian and others, while at the same time the over-the-top politeness made his initial encounter with Jyn all the funnier and goofy. As for Bodhi, Kirimoto’s work on the dub made appreciate that character’s transformation all the more. In fact, and this might sound strange, but the dub left me more impressed with Riz Amed’s performance all the more. His performance provided the template for Kirimoto to work off of, and he did that and more. The sense of confusion and fear when he first meets Saw’s men, the growing confidence he gains as he interacts with the other members of the rogue motley crew, and the ultimate sense of assurance he exudes by the end of the film… each of these small elements were perfectly captured within the dub Japanese, and fully conveyed by Kirimoto’s delivery of the characters’ lines.
There are only two major gripes I have with the dub. The first is that dub removes the added flavor we enjoy from the accents of the truly global collection of actors, many for whom English is not their first language. Their performances lend a sense of authenticity to our beloved galaxy far, far, away, where many of the humanoid and alien characters speaking a first language that is something other than Galactic Standard. This is lost in the Japanese dub, where all the characters sound like native Japanese speakers and speak in a natural tone. I loved Kase’s work on Cassian in the Japanese dub, but I must admit I was momentarily taken aback when I first heard him speak at the beginning of the film. The second is the translation of one single line of dialogue. It may sound trivial, but Bail Organa’s response to Mon Mothma regarding Leia’s capacity to handle the mission to find Kenobi could have been handled much better. In English, Bail says “I would trust her with my life.” The Japanese translation contains far less gravity, and reduces this weighty line to “She’s more than up to the task (literal translation: “She’ll be fine”). Considering how well they did with the translation for the dub, I wish they could have done a little more to capture the implied meaning of Bail’s response in this scene. Again, a minor gripe, but reflecting back on the dub I can’t get this one point out of my mind. On an interesting note, I think they created a Japanese dub for the Death Troopers as well. I listened really close, and I swear I heard them utter things that sounded like Japanese, such as garbled “stop right there” to Lyra when she approaches Galen and Orson. Finally, and this will probably come as no surprise, but Two Tubes and all the other characters who spoke a dialect other than Galactic Standard sounded just as they did in the English original

Well, there you have it. In conclusion, I give the Japanese dub two very big thumbs up, and may choose to watch it again when I take my son for another viewing of the movie (he’s eager to watch it again, and now claims it’s his third favorite of all the films).

Rebels Review – Warhead

STAR WARS REBELS
“Warhead”
By Jason Gibner

Over the course of this season of Star Wars Rebels, a dirty word has come up over and over that continues to haunt over almost every episode that doesn’t seem to feature Darth Maul or connect to Rogue One somehow.  The kids on the World Wide Web are using some crazy beatnik jive calling these episodes “filler”.

fill·er
ˈfilər/
noun
an item serving only to fill space or time, especially in a newspaper, broadcast, or recording.


Now, in all fairness, I’ve used this lazy word myself in describing some of the season’s “why is this episode even happening” moments. Looking at you once again, space kids with space waffles.  Nowadays, if an episode isn’t telling an epic story featuring lightsabers and characters from a movie, it’s instantly labeled as “filler” and quickly dismissed.  This episode does not deserve that treatment.
Warhead is an intriguing episode that begins with an ode to Empire Strikes Back’s opening with a Star Destroyer sending out probes to find a Rebel base.  Only instead of a probe droid, we get a fairly innocent looking protocol droid wandering around Chopper Base.  Turns out the droid is actually a giant killer enforcement droid and it’s up to the oddball trio of Zeb, Chopper and AP-5 to save the day.


Is this the most mind blowing 22 minutes of Star Wars Rebels you’ve ever seen?  Mostly likely that’s a no but the one thing this episode does have going for it is that it’s a good time.  Thanks to a snappy script from Rogue One writer Gary Whitta, the episode gets right to the fun and balances the Aliens/Predator action of hunting a killer droid with the mismatched team of Rebel heroes.


In an interview Dave Filoni said that the episode was originally to feature Zeb and Captain Rex as the Rebels left on the base, but putting Zeb against the underused AP-5 is a stroke of genius.  AP-5’s delight in wondering what the point of Zeb is almost sounds like fans on a Saturday night on Twitter after a new episode of Rebels just finished.  It’s smarty pants, snappy stuff like that that echoes back to the original trilogy style of dialogue that we all love so much.


In conclusion your honor, this episode is not “filler”.  It offers some fun droid and Zeb action and while Thrawn still really isn’t doing anything yet, the threat with him figuring out Kallus being Rebel’s inside man is becoming way more real.   The Thrawn thing is shaping up to be slow buildup to what eventually will be his total freakout on the Rebel crew.   And that’s gonna be something.

Final grade :  B


Side note :  In this episode’s Rebels Recon on Starwars.com, Filoni said if he knew when this episode was to air, he would have had the warhead droid be a K-2SO style droid.  The chances of us exploding if that would have happened would been high….very high.

Rebels Review – Ghosts of Geonosis

STAR WARS REBELS
“Ghosts of Geonosis”
By Jason Gibner

Let me guess: you suddenly heard a Mardi Gras style marching band going down your street on Saturday night and you were confused why this outburst of joy was happening.  Let me help by letting you know that the unbridled happiness you heard was from Star Wars fans unable to contain their excitement that FINALLY, we’ve entered the age of the Rebels / Rogue One crossover.  No more are we twiddling our thumbs while the Rebels hang out with teenage space waffle eating pirates!  That’s right, happy days are here again and who can believe it but we’ve got Forest Whitaker back as a slighter younger Saw “Lies! Deceptions!” Gerrera!  Like a freaking magic trick, they somehow got an actor from everyone’s new favorite Star Wars movie (until next year when it’s out of nowhere cool to make up elitist nitpick reasons about how much you didn’t like it) on the show.  Like peanut butter and chocolate, pizza and beer or Captain and Tennille, this new friendship between Rebels and Rogue just feels so right.


The episode starts with our Ghost crew heroes sent to the beautiful planet of Geonosis to find out why Saw’s crew hadn’t been to the Alliance and what they found on their mission to the planet.  Once they get there it’s clear that Geonosis is a planet of spooky secrets and a sweet little Geonosian buddy named Klick Klack just adds to the fun.  It’s a dark and moody episode filled with references to awesome Clone Wars history and little nods to the slightly more off the rocker Saw we see in Rogue One.  Sadly, we do not see the handsome Bor Gullet in this episode.  There’s always next week, I guess to go insane with Bad Boy Bor.


The episode wraps up feeling like just maaaaaybe it could have been just an excuse to bring Saw and some Rogue One action.  Our heroes don’t really learn a lot about the mysteries of Geonosis, the secret Death Star project that was there or Saw or anything in general.  Saw gets a nice little arc as he’s reminded of his humanity and his late, great sister but that’s kinda it.  Maybe it was in this episode he remembered that he left that sixteen year old Erso girl in a cave with a loaded blaster and a box of pop tarts.   Maybe he started to feel bad about that and got the Bor Gullet for her for a present?  I’d like to think the did.

Final grade : B+
Tons of fun having Whitaker back as Saw so quickly after Rogue One but I just wish the episodes had just a little more to them.

Also:  Was that Imperial Rae Sloane?!? Probably not, but man, that would be cool bringing her in even for just one episode.