Blu-ray Review: Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three

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The popular CGI animated series Star Wars Rebels has been a fixture on the Disney XD network for since its premiere in 2014. With a new season set to premiere in fall 2017, fans can now add the three-disc Complete Season Three Blu-ray to their collection (also available as a four-disc DVD set).

The third season only deepens the characters who've populated the stories seen in the first two seasons: Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Gray), Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Hera Syndulla (Vanessa Marshall), Sabine Wren (Tiya Sircar), Zeb Orrelios (Steven Blum), Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker). If you're a Star Wars person, but these names don't mean anything to you, probably high time to get caught up (go all the way back to the Clone Wars series if you're really in the dark about the expanded universe material). Many of the concepts, worlds, and even characters introduced by George Lucas in the much-maligned prequel trilogy serve as the inspiration for these expansive, surprisingly complex series. 
rsz_star_wars_rebels_s3.png It'll be gibberish to those who haven't seen seasons one and two, so I'll let Disney's press notes help provide a bit of brief context: "Having established a secret base on Atollon, the Ghost crew, now led by a more powerful Ezra, strengthens the Rebel fleet by acquiring new resources and recruits eager to stand against the Empire. However, the Imperial efforts to eliminate the Rebellion are now being led by the coldly analytical Grand Admiral Thrawn, whose strategic, tactical and cultural insights make him a threat unlike any they have faced before. Ezra and Sabine must take on new roles and challenges as the Rebels prepare for their biggest mission yet - a direct assault on the Empire."

That's the easy way out, letting press materials do the talking, but honestly you already know if you're in the demographic for this release. Following Rebels? Then it's a no-brainer: get the Complete Third Season. The addition of Thrawn to a "canon" series is quite exciting, as it officially validates author Timothy Zahn's great original character from Heir to the Empire and the books that followed. Rebels is admittedly geared at a younger audience, but the stories are strong enough (and well told enough) to easily sustain interest in older viewers.

Disney XD broadcasts in 720p high definition, so the 1080p Blu-ray is an upgrade in terms of visual presentation. The 22 episodes look boldly colorful and terrifically sharp. Audio presentation continues Disney's avoidance of a lossless format for this series—as with previous seasons, the Complete Third Season is only offered in standard Dolby Digital 5.1. It sounds fine, to be sure, but the added punch and clarity of DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD would've been even better.

Special features provide the most compelling reason to pick up the set, and the Blu-ray format provides the clear-cut winner. Exclusive to BD are five audio commentaries with a variety of participants, including Dave Filoni (Executive Producer), Justin Ridge (Supervising Director), Kilian Plunkett (Art Director), Keith Kellogg (Animation Supervisor) and Joel Aron (CG Supervisor: Lighting & FX) (commentary episodes are: "Trials of the Darksaber," "Legacy of Mandalore," "Through Imperial Eyes," "Double Agent Droid," and "Twin Suns").

Also exclusive to Blu-ray are a number featurettes. "Return to Mandalore" (seven minutes) examines Sabine Wren (the Mandalorian graffiti artist voiced by Tiya Sircar). "Thrawn: A Legend Reborn" (seven minutes) spotlights the Timothy Zahn-created Grand Admiral Thrawn (voiced by Lars Mikkelsen). "Apprentices to Outcasts: Kenobi And Maul" (nine minutes) charts the troubled history between Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Darth Maul (voiced by Sam Witwer). "The Original Rebel: Saw Gerrera Returns - Extended" runs just three minutes but is fun for Rogue One fans as it features Forest Whitaker talking about reprising the character for the animated series.

The meat of the bonus stuff, in terms of running time, are the "Rebels Recon" mini-featurettes—these are all found on both Blu-ray and the standard DVD edition. The first BD has seven episodes (51 minutes), the second disc has seven episodes (46 minutes), the third has five episodes (45 minutes). Also on both formats is the six-minute "A Rebel Alliance" featurette, which further details the bridging of Rebels and the timeline seen in Rogue One.

As universe building goes, Rebels: Complete Season Three continues the excellent precedent set earlier in the series. This 22-episode set, loaded with worthwhile supplements, should definitely pique fans' interest in the forthcoming 15-episode fourth season.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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