While its beloved animated predecessors, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, were sweeping stories, spanning pivotal periods of the epic saga, the new Star Wars Resistance is far more limited in scope, if not necessarily ambition. That’s a function of its setting, just six months before the events of 2015’s The Force Awakens, but perhaps also a result of its influences.
Announced as an “anime-inspired” adventure, Resistance establishes with its hour-long premiere, airing Sunday, Oct. 7, on Disney Channel, that inspiration goes beyond simple character designs and animation. It’s a shōnen-style story about a young protagonist determined to overcome obstacles (created by his father, his opponents and himself) to become the greatest something (in this case, starfighter pilot). It’s, effectively, Speed Racer in space, playing out against the backdrop of a brewing war between the Resistance and the First Order. And that mostly works, as long as viewers keep in mind that this series is geared toward a younger audience.
Granted, Star Wars has a long history with high-speed racing, stretching back to the Death Star trench run in A New Hope, the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi, and the Podrace of The Clone Wars, each of which were later adapted for video games. But with Resistance, the race moves from a thrilling set piece to a central focus.
The series follows Kazuda Xiono, a young pilot in the New Republic Navy who, during the course of a mission, impresses Poe Dameron (voiced by Oscar Isaac, reprising his role from the films) with his skill. Before he, or the audience, knows it, Kaz is recruited as a spy for the Resistance, a role he accepts, at least in part, to prove he doesn’t need the help of his senator father to succeed. Tasked with identifying First Order spies, he’s whisked away to the Outer Rim ocean planet of Castilon, and the Colossus, a massive fueling station that will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Mos Eisley. While not quite rising to the level of “a hive of scum and villainy,” it possesses a similar, if fully G-rated, Wild West flair. It’s a lawless crossroads, where those who renege on a bet might be dropped into the waters below, brawls are frequent, and marauders are a near-constant cause for concern. The latter falls within the purview of the Aces, five celebrity hot-shot pilots who, when not fending off attacks on the Colossus, race each other for fame, and for the entertainment of the fueling station’s denizens.
In short, it’s the perfect setting for a spy hunt, to say nothing of a coming-of-age adventure. But if Kaz was supposed to keep a low profile on the Colossus as a humble mechanic (and he most certainly was), that pretense almost immediately crumbles when his expressed desire to become the greatest starfighter pilot in the galaxy is misinterpreted by his literal-minded new friend Neeku Vozo as a boast that he is the greatest. On the fueling station, where information is currency, Kaz’s unearned reputation reaches Aunt Z’s Tavern — a sort of sanitized Chalmun’s Cantina — more quickly than he does, thrusting him into the center of his new home’s racing, and betting, culture.
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