The new cartoon series Star Wars: Resistance is coming soon. We take a look at everything we know so far.
Spoilers for: The Force Awakens and Rebels
Say what you want about the Star Wars Prequels but they did one great thing for the franchise – good Star Wars television shows. Certainly Star Wars existed on television long before the prequels. There were cartoons, tv movies, and one particularly memorable holiday special….and the less said about any of them the better. But as a child – I devoured all of it. I still have my VHSs (either purchased or recorded off TV) and my gobs of merchandise that has been the backbone of Star Wars since its creation. I look back at all of that fondly. But putting nostalgia aside, watching these shows today are a chore to say the least. The only really good thing that came out of these dark times was a short animated story from the dreaded Holiday Special (It’s actually kind of awesome. watch it here). Other than that, it’s pretty safe to say that Star Wars TV back then was more coarse and irritating than sand.
All that changed in 2003. Lucas had hired Genndy Tartakovsky of Samurai Jack fame to create a series of shorts that would lead into the release of Revenge of the Sith. The first volume of Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars (2003), consisted of twenty 2-3 minute, often dialogue free, shorts. These played during commercial breaks on Cartoon Network. The second volume had five 15-minute episodes, that further enriched the story of Anakin Skywalker’s journey from padawan to jedi knight. Tartakovsky’s entries into the Star Wars saga won critical acclaim as well as awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program.
While aspects of the style, feel, and narrative from the Clone Wars(2003) shorts where retained when Lucasfilm decided to expand the show, Tartakovsky was not. Dave Filoni was hired on as showrunner for the new half hour series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Fans were not overly thrilled with the change nor the new 3D animation style.
The theatrical release of the animated Clone Wars movie that started off the series, didn’t do much to assuage its critics (It currently sits at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes) Critics derided the animation as “wooden” and “outdated.” Many felt it took Star Wars to the lowest common denominator with childish “humor” and overly kid friendly story elements. However, as the series premiered it slowly and steadily won over critics and is often heralded as one of the highlights of the entire franchise.
When Star Wars: The Clone Wars was cancelled and replaced by Rebels (also run by Dave Filoni) many of the same arguments resurfaced. People didn’t like the animation change and felt the new direction seemed a bit too kid oriented. While this was true of some episodes, the series continued the tradition set by The Clone Wars of melding kid friendly and surprisingly adult storytelling.
What does this stroll down memory lane have to do with the upcoming series Star Wars: Resistance? A lot. With the premiere of the first look at Resistance (again by Dave Filoni) the exact same complaints have resurfaced – “I don’t like the animation” and “this seems like its for kids.” I think after The Clone Wars and Rebels Dave Filoni has earned the benefit of the doubt. But it is not just an appreciation for his previous work that make me say that. There is ample reason with all that we know to support that.
The recent teaser trailer for Star Wars: Resistance has predictably been meet with many a fan moaning “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” At a glance the animation style in Resistance can be a bit jarring. But that’s all we’ve had so far, a glance. Nearly every shot in the teaser is under a second long. We never get a moment to adjust to what we are seeing. This is in no way indicative of the actual show nor the effectiveness of the artwork. When we look at the stills people have pulled we start to get a clearer picture. The style itself is incredible reminiscent of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which is absolutely gorgeous at times) Bright, bold colors dominate the palette in an animation style that is part watercolor and part cgi. The anime influence with it’s large features and hyper stylized motifs complement the rich colors wonderfully. There is an element of overexposed lighting that washes over the images creating an ethereal, dream like beauty to certain scenes. You can see this to great effect in some of the shots of the fighters flying above the ocean.
Using Zelda and a few shots in the teaser as a baseline I think we can expect day time, outdoor, and space scenes to be stunning. This goes for slower, pensive scenes and establishing shots as well. We will get great use of color and contrasting lights that will make images and effects pop. Indoor, and particularly night scenes will be crisp and clear but may lose some of the intended mood. We can see a bit of this in the scene where our hero Kazuda is dodging laser blasts from an unknown assailant. It looks stilted and a bit bland. Much like the previous two Star Wars cartoons I think fans will quickly adjust to the animation style. That said I still long for a Star Wars cartoon that utilizes a more traditional 2D animation like Netflix’s recent Castlevania series.
Star Wars: Resistance follows young Kazuda Xiono, a pilot who has been recruited into the newly formed Resistance. Kazuda has been charged with going undercover and finding out where people’s allegiances lie; with the New Republic or the growing threat of the First Order.This is the only point where the kid friendly nature of the show gives me pause. It is difficult to balance the sort of nuanced storytelling a spy drama requires – in a kids show. But, Filoni has shown he can do wonders with political intrigue and grown up storytelling with elements in both Rebels and Clone Wars.
Resistance takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. This is not exactly unexplored territory for Star Wars nor is it as clearly defined as the Clone Wars or the Rebellion eras have become. There is a lot of room for creative storytelling without stepping on the toes of established cannon.
From the few clues we have we can tell it takes place after Claudia Grey’s brilliant novel Bloodline but before any of the Poe Dameron books/comics. This give this a rough estimate of 29 – 33 years after the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope.
Part of what made the novel Bloodline so fantastic was the political intrigue. Both Leia and the reader spend a majority of the novel not knowing if other characters were allies, enemies or totally oblivious of the growing threat to galactic democracy. This seems to be a major aspect of the new series as well.
It appears part of Kazuda’s cover will be as a mechanic and pilot in the intergalactic racing circuit. This is a somewhat exciting prospect as during this era Han Solo was deeply involved in racing. We know his wife Princess/General Leia Organa is going to appear in the series, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Han may be around as well. At this moment we don’t have an exact date as to when Ben Solo turns to the darkside but we do know it happens in this time period. It is unlikely we will see this happening, but with Leia around we might get to see some of the fallout.
Cast and Crew
This is where Resistance starts become really exciting, there is a wealth of talent on this show. Resistance seems to be in very, very capable hands. Sadly we know Filoni won’t be as involved in Resistance as he has in Clone Wars and Rebels (awwww.) Likely because he is finishing up the surprisingly revived last season of Clone Wars (Yay!) But he is still involved and will be helping to story team much in the way Lucas guided the Clone Wars. No word yet if he will take on a greater role once his obligation to The Clone Wars is finished. Even if he doesn’t opening Filoni up to a greater supervisory role within Star Wars is anything but a bad thing.
We know that Amy Beth Christenson has been hired as the art director. Christenson is no stranger to Star Wars, having worked on Filoni’s previous shows as well as both Force Unleashed games.
The music will largely be handled by Michael Tavera. Tavera has a long standing career in TV and movies, none of which is particularly celebrated nor has it been criticized. (Having small children I am well acquainted with his work in the Land Before Time series – which at this point has gone on longer than the actual time of the dinosaurs) Tavera is a talented composer with a great deal of experience in composing score that maintain an established style. This will be nice in that we can expect well composed music that will feel like Star Wars without being overly reliant on William’s score. The first episode, however, will feature music by relative newcomer Dylan McGill. This is McGill’s first credit as a composer but has worked int he music department for the upcoming movies Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.
The voice cast here is quite impressive. Leading the cast is Christopher Sean of American soap opera Days of Our Lives. SNL alumi Bobby Moynihan will likely be providing some comic relief for the resistance as Orka. Likewise the very funny Jim Rash (community, Reno 911) is playing Flix. Sci-fi veteran Scott Lawrence, who has appeared in Star Trek, Avatar, Fear the Walking Dead, Legion and Cloverfeild (just to name a few) will be playing Jarek Yager. Yager can be seen in the teaser saying he will turn a blind eye to Kazuda’s spying, but wants no part of it. Donald Faison of Scrubs fame is Hype Fazon, by the sound of his characters name we can probably expect the cocky over the top antics Faison did so well in Scrubs. Some readers may know Josh Brener as Kyle in the tv show Maron or as Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti in the HBO series Silicon Valley, he will be playing Neeku Vozo.
It has also been an announced, and confirmed in the teaser that Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie will reprise their roles as Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma respectively. Along with Poe Dameron, his droid and fan favorite BB- will be returning to our screens. Most exciting of all is voice actor Rachel Butera will be playing Princess Leia Organa. The loss of Carrie Fisher was tragic for many reasons, for Star Wars fans it also meant losing out on closure from one of the Saga’s greatest characters. (Supposedly Fisher had been told she was to be the focus of the 9th installment like Han in TFA and Luke in TLJ) And while it would have been amazing to see her in episode IX and have her return in this series, we can take some solace in the character she embodied so spectacularly will be with us a little while longer.
Overview and Speculation.
I am, by and large, a fan of Filoni’s additions to Star Wars. But his work is a mixed bag. He has added some of the greatest moments in the saga such as Maul vs Kenobi or Vader and Ahsoka in their final showdowns. Developing the Clone Troopers as actual characters was a master stroke that really created some memorable characters. But has also put in some of the worst the saga has to offer; the Brother, the Sister and the Father or pretty much anything dealing with the force and its history never totally fit with Star Wars. Kid Boba Fett is grating but not half as grating as some of the Hutt Characters. I think it’s fair to say we will probably get the same thing here. There will likely be some great episodes and fantastic moments and others that are simply geared towards a much younger audience. And that is totally fine. I loved having Star Wars as a kid, I loved Droids and Ewoks. Caravan of Courage was the bomb when I was like five. Just because I am an adult doesn’t mean every story has to be directed at me. Other kids deserve that enjoyment as well. There is enough Star Wars to go around for all of us…..forever…until Disney milks this franchise dry like the teats of an Ahch-T0 Thala Siren.
The Clone Wars did a lot of the heavy lifting story wise for the prequels. Most of the complaints lodged against Anakin and Padme or the incompetence of the Jedi Order were corrected or expanded upon within the cartoon series. Rebels did much the same, though arguably not as effectively. Resistance has the same opportunity here. Much of the criticism by fans of The Force Awakens (aside from its rehashing of A New Hope) was that it glossed over so much. What had happened in the years between VI and VII? Who is the First Order, and who this Snoke guy ? What the hell has everyone been doing for the past 30 years? Where the &*#@ is Lando? Why are we making a big deal about Captain Phasma? And so on. The Last Jedi, further enraged some fans by outright refusing to go any further into these details. Resistance gives us a chance to spend some time here and really flesh out the stories that many of us wanted to know. While a lot of these questions, such Snoke’s backstory, likely won’t get answered – we should have a clearer picture of what life was like at this time in a galaxy far, far away.
One thing the new canon has done a great job of is continuity. The new canon is tightly knit. Elements cross from movie to tv, to books, to comics and back again. There are easter eggs galore and a real sense of interconnected world building that was missing from some of Legends. Resistance seems to be continuing with that concept. While it is unlikely that Oscar Issac or Gwendoline Christie will be spending a lot of time on Resistance, their mere presence helps create a feeling of a connected universe (You hear that Marvel? It’s not that difficult. A freaking cameo or nod is all we are asking for. Even just the Avengers tower in Jessica Jones or Daredevil. Is that too much to ask? Is it!? IS IT? I mean this guy did it for free on the internet. Are you telling me with all that Disney money you don’t have a legion of Photoshop lackeys you can task with this? Some interns yearning to do more than fetch coffee? HUH!?….ahem *straightens imaginary tie*….sorry) Seeing as Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Ian McDiarmid, and Forest Whitaker have all reprised their roles on the cartoons, might we see more people down the line in Resistance? It seems a distinct possibility if you ask me.
While Rebels served as a sequel in many ways to Clone Wars it is unlikely we will get too much of the same out of Resistance. We may see some of the characters from Rebels, a certain Twi’lek General would be a welcome addition for instance. But this story seems to be Jedi free – and I really hope that is the case. There have been lots of great Star Wars stories that have nary a lightsaber in sight. I’m hoping this will keep the show somewhat grounded and focused on character and story and a little less on spectacle and mythology – which was often where Rebels and Clone Wars faltered. This also implies that there is a fourth cartoon from Filoni down the road to finish up what he started in Rebels. My prediction, the return of Ezra Bridger – from wherever the hell he has been – will mark the beginning of the post Episode IX era. An era that will be almost totally free from any constraints of the original trilogy. And doesn’t that that just tickle your imagination. In the meantime we have a lot to look forward to in Star Wars: Resistance.
The first episode of Star Wars: Resistance – Recruit is stated as having a 45 min run-time and will premiere October 7th on The Disney Channel.