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Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two

(2015) *** Unrated
484 min. Disney XD. Cast: Taylor Gray, Freddie Prinze Jr., Vanessa Marshall.

/content/films/4956/1.jpgIn its first season, Star Wars Rebels delivered an abundance of fun, with high-spirited action (including dazzling space battles and impressive lightsaber duels), dry wit, and dramatic contributions to the Star Wars mythology. If Season Two feels a bit more ordinary at times, the Disney XD series remains an impressive TV iteration of Star Wars, a canonical storyline nestled fourteen years after Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith and five years before Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope (and, as such, functioning as a sequel to the previous Lucasfilm Animation series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).

The setting allows familiar, beloved ship and set and costume designs (those "buckethead" stormtroopers and Imperial Star Destroyers being especially prominent), as well as legendary characters, many voiced by their originating thespians: Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), Yoda (Frank Oz), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), R2-D2, Princess Leia Organa (Julie Dolan), and Darth Maul (Sam Witwer). The series also incorporates John Williams' themes, which go a long way to setting the Star Wars tone (Kevin Kiner contributes the new theme and score supplemented by Williams' work), and the signature wipes used as scene transitions. Of course, Star Wars Rebels also has its own exciting new characters, worlds, and designs.

The principal rebels make up the crew of the freighter turned rebel starship the Ghost. Scrappy teen Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) fills the Jedi padawan slot, trained as he is by Jedi Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Then there's the captain of the Ghost and ace pilot Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall); Mandalorian teen Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), a former bounty hunter who paints with graffiti and explosives alike; Lasat warrior Zeb Orrelios (Steve Blum); and the at-times mischevious, at-times high-strung C1-10P, a.k.a. Chopper ("As Himself"). Some of the series' action (albeit less in Season Two) takes place on or in the vicinity of Ezra's homeworld of Lothal, a hotbed of rebel and Imperial activity.

Recurring characters include Imperial Agent Kallus (David Oyelowo); dark-side Inquisitors Fifth Brother (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez) and Seventh Sister (Sarah Michelle Gellar); Mandalorian bounty hunter Ketsu Onyo (Gina Torres); Mon Calamari engineer Quarrie (Corey Burton); and smugglers Azmorigan (James Hong) and Cikagro Vizago (Keith Szarabajka). Though knowledge of The Clone Wars isn't necessary to enjoy Star Wars Rebels, fans of the earlier series will recognize a few characters who pop up in Rebels: rascally trader Hondo Ohnaka (Jim Cummings), Clone trooper Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), and Jedi Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein).

The animation style of Star Wars Rebels makes the characters look a bit plastic (like action figures, which is fitting), but the style especially lends itself to characters like Vader and the stormtroopers. Occasionally the ideas here can play a bit silly or Disney XD-kid-pandering, as with Sabine's graffiti habit and Ezra's energy slingshot (though I suppose that's not much sillier than ray guns). The series' best trick is to replay familiar themes with new spins and creative trappings, pacing out the big moments like a lesson from Yoda or a showdown with Vader.

Most importantly, Rebels credibly fits into the canon, under the leadership of executive producers Simon Kinberg and Dave Filoni (both occasional screenwriting contributors), and co-executive producer and supervising writer Henry Gilroy (Season One executive producer Greg Weisman left the show between seasons). Season Two's greater size (22 episodes) may account for the series logging some episodes that feel more like Star Trek than Star Wars, but those outings are exceptions to the rule, the focus mostly staying on the cat-and-mouse games between the Empire and the rebels, and the clashes of the light and dark sides of the force. With its balance of humor, heart, and excitement, the series has earned a steady following heading into its third season.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 8/30/2016

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Disney/Buena Vista offers a satisfying package in its Blu-ray release of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two. Picture quality proves consistently excellent, with pleasing attention to color and sharply detailed rendering of the basic source material. Other than very rare instances of aliasing, there's nothing to distract from the dynamic, good-looking imagery, which achieves an illusion of cinematic depth in some of the Imperial interiors and especially in the space battles. The serviceable audio comes in the form of lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes: only the most sensitive ears will be consciously disappointed by the sound here, but it is playing with less power and nuance than we'd get out of lossless audio. Most of the time, we're getting clear, nicely prioritized dialogue, convincingly robust scoring (though not on orchestral par with a feature score), and punchy sound effects (again, the space battles excel), with palpable low end rumbling, so only serious audiophiles will complain. All the same, this is Blu-ray: Disney should deliver the lossless goods. 

Substantial bonus features add value to the set. Disc One's selection of Rebels Recon featurettes (with "Play All" option) comprise "Inside 'The Siege of Lothal'" (8:46, HD) "Inside 'The Lost Commanders'" (5:53, HD), "Inside 'Relics of the Old Republic'" (5:43, HD), "Inside 'Always Two There Are'" (6:14, HD), "Inside 'Brothers of the Broken Horn'" (5:22, HD), "Inside 'Wings of the Master'" (5:38, HD) and "Inside 'Blood Sisters'" (5:52, HD). Disc Two includes "Inside 'Stealth Strike'" (5:41, HD), "Inside 'The Future of the Force'" (5:16, HD), "Inside 'Legacy'" (7:33, HD), "Inside 'A Princess on Lothal'" (5:53, HD), "Inside 'The Protector of Concord Dawn'" (6:28, HD), "Inside 'Legends of the Lasat'" (5:51, HD), "Inside 'The Call'" (5:58, HD), and "Inside 'Homecoming'" (6:27, HD), while Disc Three delivers "Inside 'The Honorable Ones'" (6:22), "Inside 'Shroud of Darkness'" (6:42), "Inside 'The Forgotten Droid'" (6:52), "Inside 'The Mystery of Chopper Base'" (6:32) and "Inside 'Twilight of the Apprentice'" (10:57).'s Andi Gutierrez hosts these dives into story, character, and themes that even include clips from a ComicCon panel.

Disc Three also includes "Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2" (3:30, HD) and "From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader vs. Ahsoka" (6:08, HD). The former swiftly contextalizes the show within the Star Wars mythos, and the latter focuses in on the titular, season-climactic clash, while also celebrating the vocal contributions of James Earl Jones.

Fans will be well pleased to add Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two to their Blu-ray shelves.


Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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