“Star Wars Rebels” was a creative bright spot in that cinematic universe, chronicling the years before the first movie, “A New Hope.” Making the jump to a similar period in the run-up to the current trilogy and “The Force Awakens,” “Star Wars Resistance” paints with a much brighter, more colorful palette, but at least initially settles for more pallid characters and situations – the kind that don’t immediately suggest this is the animated show you’re looking for.
Although programs like “Clone Wars,” “Rebels” and now “Resistance” have played on children’s networks (most recently as part of Disney’s synergistic stewardship of Lucasfilm), the not-so-secret truth is that the earlier shows offered plenty to like for older (including adult) “Star Wars” fans.
“Resistance,” by contrast – again being produced under the supervision of Dave Filoni – feels more squarely designed for kids, splashed in a vibrant, anime-style visual presentation but softer and flabbier when it comes to establishing a storyline to match it.
The series follows Kazuda Xiono (Christopher Sean), a young pilot who is recruited by Resistance leader Poe Dameron (voiced, uncredited, by Oscar Isaac, who plays him in the movies) to spy on the growing threat that is the First Order.
Kaz, as he’s called, is asked to take his place among a group of pilots – who congregate at a refueling platform on the outer rim – get to know them, and find out “who’s loyal to the good guys, and who isn’t.”
So far, so pretty good, including a dazzling aerial dogfight that opens the hour-long premiere. After that, though, “Resistance” bogs down, as Kaz meets a diverse but fairly uninspired band of roguish and eccentric characters, who he approaches with a little too much youthful, wide-eyed exuberance.
For Disney, maintaining an ongoing “Star Wars” cable-TV presence is the definition of a no-brainer – a way to help keep the property alive in the minds of the youngest consumers until “Episode IX” hits theaters two Christmases from now, and even introduce new players (and toy lines) underneath that overarching umbrella.
The timeframe, moreover, creates crossover opportunities with the live-action movies, including not just the Dameron cameo but also plans to incorporate the villainous Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), an under-used presence in the movies. In that regard, “Rebels” had a decided advantage, strictly in terms of its adjacency to the first trilogy versus the latest one.
The “Star Wars” galaxy is obviously a vast, sprawling place, one Disney is eager to mine across various platforms, including a live-action series for its upcoming streaming service. But there have also been signs – none bigger than the disappointing box-office results for “Solo” earlier this year – that the appetite for it isn’t infinite.
While this new show has its moments, unlike the earlier animated series, it doesn’t appear that the apex of the “Star Wars” lies along the path of “Resistance.”
“Star Wars Resistance” premieres Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. on Disney Channel.