- "We will each be challenged; our trust, our faith, our friendships, but we must persevere. And in time, a new hope will emerge."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion is a forty-four minute long (one-hour with commercials), two-part animated television movie that serves as the series premiere for the animated television series Star Wars Rebels. The film premiered online for verified users of WatchDisneyXD.com on September 26, 2014, and made its television debut on Disney Channel on October 3, 2014. Spark of Rebellion was released on commercial DVD on October 14, 2014. The movie re-aired on the ABC Network on October 26, with a new prologue featuring Darth Vader and the Grand Inquisitor.
The canon story takes place five years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and introduces the crew of the Ghost, a band of rebels who fight against the Galactic Empire and who will one day help spark the rise of the Rebel Alliance. The plot primarily centers around fourteen year old orphan Ezra Bridger as he joins the crew of the Ghost and learns he can use the powers of the Force. Ezra and the crew—Order 66 survivor and former Padawan Kanan Jarrus, pilot Hera Syndulla, Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, Lasat warrior Zeb Orrelios, and astromech droid Chopper—learn that Wookiee slaves are being taken by the Empire to the spice mines of Kessel and launch a mission to rescue them, all while being pursued by Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau.
Spark of Rebellion was executive produced by Dave Filoni, Simon Kinberg, and Greg Weisman, written by Kinberg, and directed by Steward Lee and Steven G. Lee. It stars Taylor Gray as Ezra, Vanessa Marshall as Hera, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan, Tiya Sircar as Sabine, Steve Blum as Zeb, and David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus. Jason Isaacs provides the voice of the Inquisitor; James Arnold Taylor reprises his role from Star Wars: The Clone Wars as Obi-Wan Kenobi, who appears as a holographic recording; and James Earl Jones once again provided the voice of Darth Vader. This episode was originally split into two parts when it was aired and made available on DVD, but was released as one uninterrupted episode when it became available for purchase on digital video storefronts, such as iTunes.
It is a dark time. The Jedi are no more, and the Empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist -- bringing tyranny to the Outer Rim world of Lothal. Their ominous presence is a cloud over the planet, squashing any hope of freedom or a better life, especially for 14-year-old orphan Ezra Bridger. But the young con artist soon finds that destiny has other plans for him, as he encounters a small band of rebels who dare to strike back against the Empire.
- "The Emperor has foreseen a new threat rising against him: the children of the Force. They must not become Jedi."
- ―Darth Vader, to the Inquisitor
Some time after the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Jedi hunter known as the Grand Inquisitor is on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, where he speaks via hologram to the Sith Lord and fallen Jedi Knight Darth Vader. Vader tells the Inquisitor that, though "the Jedi Knights are all but destroyed," Emperor Sheev Palpatine has "foreseen a new threat" rising against the Empire—the "children of the Force." Vader orders the Inquisitor to ensure that they do not become Jedi and that, if they do not join the Empire, they be destroyed. Vader then announced that these orders came from the emperor. On Vader's request, the Inquisitor ensures his master that it would be done.
Heist in Capital City
- "Who is that kid?"
- ―Kanan Jarrus, after witnessing the acts by Ezra Bridger
On the Outer Rim world of Lothal, fourteen years after the rise of the Empire, Ezra Bridger is a fourteen year old orphan living in an abandoned communication tower. He spots a Star Destroyer flying over his tower and towards Capital City, and he speeds off towards the city as the cruiser makes its approach. In the city, he comes across Commandant Cumberlayne Aresko and Taskmaster Myles Grint who, along with a group of stormtroopers, are harassing a local merchant, Yoffar. The merchant expresses his disagreement with the Empire, saying that the Imperials ruined Lothal and the rest of the galaxy, for which Aresko charges him with treason. Ezra arrives and steals Aresko's communicator, which he uses to impersonate an Imperial officer and send Aresko and Grint towards a supposed emergency in the city's main square. With the Imperials gone, the merchant thanks Ezra for his help, and Ezra steals a few jogan fruits so he can have something to eat.
Ezra climbs onto a nearby roof, where he makes his way towards the square and overlooks Aresko and Grint, who learn that there was no emergency after all. Instead, they find Yogar Lyste, an Imperial officer, overseeing the transport of important shipping crates. While watching the Imperials, and amused at his work, Ezra unknowingly uses the Force to sense the presence of the nearby Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi Padawan who survived the destruction of the Jedi Order. Ezra stays hidden as Jarrus senses his presence as well, and the boy watches the former Jedi as he and his team of rebels begin an operation to steal the Imperial supply crates.
One of the rebels, the Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren, leaves a detonator near the Imperial troops, which explodes and forces the Imperials to evacuate with the crates. Jarrus intercepts the Imperial speeders and, along with the Lasat warrior Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios, fights off the troops. Bridger steals one of the speeders and, with it, a set of crates, and speeds away before Jarrus and Orrelios can stop him. Wren spots Bridger and jumps onto the crates Bridger's speeder is carrying, taking one of the two while Bridger continues to speed through the streets of Capital City and Jarrus and Orrelios pursue him.
The chase leads to a roadway outside the city, where Bridger and the two rebels are spotted and chased by Imperial troops. The rebels fight off the troops and Jarrus intercepts Bridger, who says that he stole the crate from Jarrus fair and square. Bridger flees once again as a TIE fighter fires on their position, leaving Jarrus's speeder destroyed. The boy continues to speed back towards his tower while the TIE fighter pursues him. The fighter fires on him and destroys his speeder, leaving Bridger defenseless until the fighter is shot down by the Ghost, the rebels' ship. Jarrus offers Bridger a chance to escape as additional TIE fighters approach, and Bridger unknowingly uses the Force to leap into the hovering ship with his crate, much to the surprise of the former Jedi. With Bridger safely on board, the Ghost flies towards space with the TIE fighters in pursuit, while Bridger learns what was inside the case he stole: blasters.
Jarrus makes his way to the Ghost's cockpit, where the Twi'lek Hera Syndulla is piloting the ship. While Jarrus explains to her what happened on Lothal, Bridger and Orrelios argue about who has the rightful claim to the blasters, with Bridger believing that the rebels simply want to use them to survive like he does. Orrelios eventually throws Bridger into a small, closet-sized room, but the boy enters an air vent and makes his way through the bowels of the ship. Syndulla, meanwhile, is impressed by what she's heard of the boy, and thinks he would be useful as part of the crew—which Jarrus, at first, disagrees with. Bridger falls through the ventilation shafts and into one of the ship's gun turrets, where he realizes that—for the first time in his life—he is in space, and in a battle he thinks he will kill him. Jarrus and Wren man the two gun turrets, with Wren taking the one Bridger is in, and hold off the TIE fighters, giving Syndulla a chance to jump the Ghost into hyperspace.
On Lothal, Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau inspects the scene where the rebels stole the crates. He tells Commandant Aresko that they are not the first Imperials on Lothal to be attacked by the rebels, much to the officer's relief. Kallus explains that the activities of the rebels are now a pattern, and that their actions could signal the start of a full-scale rebellion against the Empire. It is Kallus' job to ensure that the spark of rebellion is not lit, and he plans to stop the crew of the Ghost the next time they attempt to attack the Empire.
The Ghost drops back out of hyperspace and Orrelios takes Bridger to the cockpit, where he meets Syndulla. Bridger demands to be taken back to Lothal, which is what the crew plans to do—but Bridger is concerned that going back too soon will put the Empire on their tail. Syndulla explains that the Ghost can scramble its signal, that way the Empire cannot track them. Upon returning to Lothal, the Ghost lands near Lothal re-settlement camp 43, which the locals call "Tarkintown," named for Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin after he forced the settlers off of their farms and into refugee status. The rebels bring the stolen crates into Tarkintown, where, for the first time, Bridger sees the suffering of the people there. Later, Jarrus and Syndulla speak to local Lothal crime lord Cikatro Vizago, for whom they stole the blasters in return for payment. In exchange for the blasters, Vizago also reveals information that they have wanted to know for some time: the location of Wookiees who were enslaved by the Empire.
In Tarkintown, Orrelios and Wren open their crates to reveal food, which they give away for free to the locals. Bridger is surprised when one of the refugees thanks him, as the boy knows he did not do anything. He returns to the Ghost and, while sitting outside of the ship, he senses something through the Force that leads him to Jarrus' quarters on the ship. After breaking into Jarrus' quarters, he finds and steals a holocron, as well as a lightsaber—which he activates to reveal the blue blade. Jarrus and Syndulla spot him with the weapon, having been alerted to the break-in by the C1-series astromech droid Chopper, and Jarrus demands that Bridger hand over the lightsaber. Jarrus lets him keep the holocron, however, knowing that if Bridger can open it, then the boy can use the Force and could be trained as a Jedi.
- "I know where they're really taking the Wookiees. Have you heard of the spice mines of Kessel?"
- ―Ezra Bridger, to the crew of the Ghost
Bridger leaves Jarrus' quarters and finds Wren, where he learns more about the rebels and how they became a family after losing their real families to the Empire. Orrelios interrupts their conversation and says that Jarrus wants to speak to Orrelios and Wren, leaving Chopper to watch Bridger. In the ship's common room, Jarrus explains that Vizago gave them the location of an Imperial Gozanti-class cruiser carrying Wookiee prisoners, most of whom fought as soldiers for the Galactic Republic before its fall. As Jarrus begins to explain his plan, Bridger falls into the common room, having once again snuck through the ventilation shaft. Orrelios wants to dump him back on Lothal, but Wren says that it would be too dangerous as the boy knows too much about their plan already. Syndulla takes Bridger to the cockpit, while the others prepare for the mission.
In the cockpit, Bridger expresses his surprise that anyone would fight so hard against the Empire. A few moments later, the Ghost drops out of hyperspace near the Imperial transport. When questioned by the transport about their purpose, Syndulla lies and says that they were ordered by Grand Moff Tarkin to deliver an additional Wookiee prisoner. The transport allows the Ghost to dock, and Jarrus and Wren enter with Orrelios, who pretends to be a "rare hairless Wookiee." The Imperials do not believe them, so Orrelios knocks them out. The trio, along with Chopper, makes its way into the ship to rescue the Wookiees.
Unexpectedly, Agent Kallus' Star Destroyer drops out of hyperspace and brings both the transport and the Ghost into its docking bay, springing a trap he had set for the rebels. Syndulla tells Bridger he needs to board the transport and warn the others. After briefly arguing against her, as he does not initially want to risk his life, Bridger boards the ship and finds Jarrus and Orrelios to warn them. They are soon assaulted by stormtroopers, forcing the rebels to flee. Wren and Chopper, meanwhile, temporarily disable the gravity system on the ship, giving them an opportunity to make their way back to the Ghost. As the rebels get back to the ship, Orrelios pushes his way in front of Bridger, an act that leads to the boy's capture by Agent Kallus—and the departure of the Ghost without him. As the Ghost flies away, the rebels detonate explosives Wren left behind, destroying the transport.
The crew converges in the cockpit after the Ghost jumps into hyperspace. When they realize that Bridger is gone, Orrelios at first tries to feign innocence, saying he thought the boy was with the others, but quickly admits that Kallus took him prisoner. Aboard the Star Destroyer, Bridger is being held in a prison cell when he is approached by the ISB Agent, who tells him that the Empire will use the boy as bait in order to capture the rebels—an idea Bridger thinks is foolish, as he does not believe people would risk their lives to save someone in such a mission. Once Kallus leaves and the stormtroopers take most of Bridger's gear, Bridger finds that he still has the holocron he stole from Jarrus. Bridger is able to use the Force to open the holocron, revealing a holographic message from Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. The message, recorded during the fall of the Republic and the Jedi Order, warns the surviving Jedi about the rise of the Empire.
Back aboard the Ghost, the crew argues about whether to rescue the boy. Orrelios and Wren vote to leave him behind, knowing that the Imperials will be waiting for the rebels, while Syndulla and Chopper vote to rescue him. Jarrus is left as the deciding vote and chooses to mount a rescue. Not believing that anyone will come to rescue him, however, Bridger tricks the stormtroopers guarding him to enter the cell, giving Bridger an opportunity to slip out and lock the troopers inside. He makes his way to a storage room, where he picks up his gear and an Imperial helmet, inside of which he can hear the communications aboard the Star Destroyer—and learns that the Wookiee prisoners are being taken to the spice mines of Kessel. He also learns that the Ghost has returned to rescue him and meets up with the rebels near the docking bay. The group flees as Kallus and the stormtroopers pursue, and the ship takes off just as Wren ignites an explosion in the hangar, one that nearly sucks Kallus into space.
The Ghost jumps back into hyperspace while Bridger talks to Syndulla in the cockpit, revealing that he has no family to go home to on Lothal. When more of the crew joins, Bridger tells them that the Wookiees are being taken to Kessel. Knowing that the Wookiees will not survive in the harsh mining environment, the rebels—including Bridger—choose to mount a rescue. Kallus suspects that they will embark on such a mission, as he learns that the communicator was on inside the helmet that Bridger stole while the Imperials discussed the Wookiee prisoners.
On Kessel, the Wookiee prisoners—including Wullffwarro and his young son, Kitwarr—are taken off an Imperial transport ship and led towards the spice mines by stormtroopers. As they do so, the Ghost descends towards them and fires on the Imperials. The ship lands, and Jarrus, Wren, and Orrelios fight the stormtroopers, giving Bridger an opportunity to sneak around the soldiers and release the Wookiees from captivity. The freed Wookiees fight back against their captors just as three TIE fighters emerge and fire on the Ghost. The Ghost leads the fighters away while Kallus' transport arrives. The ISB agent and stormtroopers pour out, forcing the rebels and the Wookiees to take cover.
While Syndulla pilots the Ghost throughout the sky to escape the TIE fighters, Jarrus tells her to perform a 22 pickup—a maneuver where the crew and the Wookiees will hide inside a cargo container that can be picked up by the Ghost. In order to give the rebels and the Wookiees an opportunity to escape into the containers, Jarrus ignites his lightsaber and reveals himself to be a Jedi. Kallus orders his men to fire on Jarrus, who uses his lightsaber to deflect blaster fire back towards the Imperials while the others escape into one of the containers. Bridger, however, decides to rescue Kitwarr, who fled from the firefight and is being pursued by a stormtrooper. After following them to a ramp overlooking the deep mines, Bridger uses the Force to leap over the stormtrooper and knocks him over the railing with an energy slingshot. Kallus witnessed Bridger's actions and believes him to be Jarrus' apprentice. Jarrus and the Ghost, which picked up the cargo container, arrive in time to save Bridger and Kitwarr before escaping from Kessel.
A new Jedi
- "You can keep the lightsaber you stole, let it become just another dusty souvenir, or you can give it back and come with us—come with me, and be trained in the ways of the Force. You can learn what it truly means to be a Jedi."
- ―Jarrus offers Bridger the opportunity to train as a Jedi
Having fled Kessel, the Wookiees board the Ghost, where Kitwarr and Wullffwarro reunite. The Wookiees are picked up by an Auzituck anti-slaver gunship and tell the rebels that, if they ever need help, the Wookiees will be there. As the Wookiee ship disembarks, the departure physically jolts the ship, which Bridger uses as a chance to take Jarrus' lightsaber from the Jedi's belt. The ship returns to Lothal, where Bridger says goodbye to the crew before returning to his tower. Before leaving, however, he returns the holocron to Jarrus, who sees that the holocron has been opened.
Bridger returns to his tower, where Jarrus soon arrives. The boy asks him what the Force is, and Jarrus explains that it is an energy field that binds the galaxy together. Jarrus tells Bridger that he could be trained in the ways of the Force and become a Jedi, giving him the choice to either keep the lightsaber and remain on Lothal or return to the ship and become part of the crew. Jarrus departs, leaving Bridger with time to think about his decision, and returns to his quarters aboard the Ghost. Once there, he opens the holocron and plays the full message from Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Jedi Master warns Jedi survivors that they should not return to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and that a new hope will, one day, emerge from the darkness. As the message ends, Jarrus sees Bridger in the hallway, and the boy returns the Jedi's lightsaber.
Aboard his Star Destroyer, Agent Kallus contacts the Inquisitor and informs the Jedi hunter that he has discovered a rebel cell led by a Jedi, which the Inquisitor says Kallus did well to inform him of.
Spark of Rebellion received its first public screening at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. It was scheduled to appear online for WATCHDisneyXD.com subscribers on September 29, 2014, but the date was eventually moved up to September 26. It made its television debut on the Disney Channel on October 3, 2014 (concurrently with a Walmart-exclusive DVD release), followed by an October 6 airing on Disney XD. It was made available for digital download/VOD on October 4, and received wide release on DVD on October 14. On October 9, 2014, it was announced that the film would air on ABC on October 26, 2014 with a new scene featuring the Inquisitor and Darth Vader. This idea arose after George Lucas was screened the original version of the film. It was released again, on September 1, 2015, as part of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One in which it was split into two episodes.
Spark of Rebellion takes place fourteen years after the events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and five years before Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The characters of the film and the full Star Wars Rebels series are part of a rebel cell that will one day become part of the Rebel Alliance, the organization depicted in the original Star Wars trilogy. Many of the characters backstories reference past Star Wars stories and events, including: Kanan Jarrus, who is a survivor of the destruction of the Jedi Order as depicted in Revenge of the Sith; Hera Syndulla, who is the daughter of Cham Syndulla, a Twi'lek resistance fighter who appeared in The Clone Wars; Sabine Wren, a Mandalorian whose people were first canonically introduced in The Clone Wars; and Zeb Orrelios whose species, based on original concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, was first introduced in the non-canon Star Wars Legends line.
Chronologically, Spark of Rebellion also follows the novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, which showcased the first meeting between Jarrus and Syndulla; and a series of prelude shorts that introduced the main characters of the show. Various parts of the film have also been adapted by Disney–Lucasfilm Press. The Rebellion Begins by Michael Kogge is a full junior novelization of the film, while Droids in Distress, also by Kogge, and Ezra's Wookiee Rescue by Meredith Rusu tell the story of the mission to rescue the Wookiees on Kessel.
Reviews for Spark of Rebellion were generally positive. Eric Goldman of IGN gave it a score of 8.7 and called it "great," saying that it successfully evokes "the spirit of the film that first made us love the franchise" with "fun, engaging characters" and "well-done action sequences." Goldman noted the animation is less detailed than The Clone Wars but still "has an engaging look of its own," particularly with the influences of Ralph McQuarrie, but also said that some of the animation—specifically the Wookiees—could have been better. Kevin P. Sullivan of MTV said that "the galaxy far, far away has changed—and it's for the better," and that the show "immediately feels essential and new." Sullivan also suggested that its official canon status "gives new characters weight" and makes the show "required viewing" even for fans who are skeptical about the franchise's future. Merrick of Ain't It Cool News said that there are some "funky, sometimes off-putting opening moments," but that the show becomes worthy of the Star Wars Saga and can appeal to Star Wars fans young and old.
Brian Lowry of Variety said that the use of original characters "proved oddly liberating" and "less confining" than The Clone Wars, where most the major characters all appeared in the films and their fates were already known. Lowry further said that the show "exhibits some genuine wit" and that the show "offers a reassuring reminder that there's plenty of room to operate" in the Star Wars universe. Likewise, Mike Hale of The New York Times positively compared the series to other Star Wars stories, particularly Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, and said that the show, "in its unassuming way, looks like it will be a smart and sensitive piece of entertainment." Robert Lloyd of The LA Times further said that "The Force is strong in the House of Mickey with the new Disney cartoon," and said that, while retaining its Star Wars identity, Rebels is a product of the The Walt Disney Company and its style of animated storytelling. He compared Spark of Rebellion to Alexander Korda's 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad, on which the Disney film Aladdin took influence, and draws comparisons between Ezra Bridger and Aladdin.
In addition to the positive response from critics, the Star Wars Rebels team showed Spark of Rebellion to George Lucas, as it was the first Star Wars production to be released that Lucas was not involved in. Filoni told StarWars.com that Lucas loved the episode, which, for the team at Lucasfilm, "was a big deal" and "a great moment."
In its television debut, Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion garnered 6.5 million global viewers on Disney Channel and Disney XD. The target demographic—boys ages 6 to 11—numbered 52% higher than Disney Channel's year-to-date ratings average in the time slot in which Spark of Rebellion aired. Between September 26 and October 6, the on-demand views numbered 75,000 and ranked as the top television property for Disney Channel Subscription Video On Demand, Comcast's Xfinity, and Apple iTunes. The premiere ranked #1 in the Nielsen Social Daily Top 5 for serials and specials.
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