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

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If you need something to wash away the bad fan fiction that was J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens, stick with the far more imaginative Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two. There's better storytelling on display throughout these 22 episodes, collected on three discs in the currently-available Blu-ray set (also on DVD). Just as the Clone Wars series (which bridged the gap between prequel episodes one and two) did before it, Rebels' creative team proves far more reliably inventive than Abrams and company did with their big screen stillbirth last year. Rebels takes place several years prior to the events of the fourth film episode (A New Hope).

High production values make the series a true visual treat, with clearly action-scene direction that is exciting yet economical (no overload of quick cuts, etc—the series' directors know how much onscreen kineticism is enough). Tie-ins to the classic film trilogy make Rebels even more fun for longtime Star Wars fans, including James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader and Billy Dee Williams handling Lando Calrissian. Viewing of season one is certainly recommended, though not really required as the season opening two-parter "The Siege of Lothal" makes it pretty clear who we're rooting for and against thanks to sure-handed storytelling.

Disney's press materials succinctly summarize the plot of season two, and I'll defer to them now: 

Amid growing Imperial oppression on Lothal, the rebels are forced to seek out new allies throughout the galaxy and additional resources to sustain their fight against the Empire. With the help of Ahsoka Tano, the crew of the Ghost bands together with a secret rebel cell and ex-soldiers from the Clone Wars to join a fledgling alliance determined to restore peace and freedom to the galaxy.

As Ezra continues his journey to become a Jedi under Kanan’s guidance, the threat of the dark side looms large over the fate of the growing rebellion. Darth Vader himself will dispatch new Inquisitors to snuff any spark of resistance, setting the stage for a climactic showdown in which past lives will be revealed, terrible truths will be discovered, and the lives of our heroes will be changed forever.

rsz_star_wars_rebels_season_2_bd.jpg Disney's Blu-ray presentation of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two is beyond reproach, with each episode looking razor sharp and boasting vivid colors. The space battle sequences look the most impressive here. As great as the visuals look, the lack of lossless audio is hard to believe in this day and age. The episodes are offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. While they certainly aren't hard to listen to, there's a notable lack of oomph that presumably could've been remedied by the inclusion of Dolby TrueHD instead of lossy audio.

Special features are spread out over all three discs, dominated by "Rebels Recon" behind-the-scenes shorts. Apparently these featurettes, hosted by Andi Gutierrez, have long been available on YouTube. If you've been following them, their inclusion here isn't going to be all that exciting. But they're cool to have as they offer 'making of' pieces for each of the season's episodes (there are 20 in all; "Recon" episodes were also included on the previous Season One release). At an average length of five to six minutes each, it adds up to quite a bit of extra content.

Beyond the "Rebels Recon" segments, there's not much here. "Connecting the Galaxy" is a short (three minutes) bit about Rebels' place within the expanded Star Wars universe. "From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader v Ahsoka" is a six-minute featurette concerning a key element late in the season.

Star Wars Rebels: Season Three begins airing September 24 on Disney XD, with a two-part season premiere "Steps Into Shadow."

Star Wars Rebels was created by Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sherlock Holmes), and Carrie Beck. The Lucasfilm Animation production is also executive-produced by Filoni and Kinberg.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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