Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Scrolling through ye olde Facebook today and I am still seeing people posting The Mandalorian memes, even though the second season finale aired more than a month and a half ago. But the series is excellent and arguably the best thing to come out of the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back (and that is an argument I will make, just FYI), so it’s no surprise that people can’t stop talking about it.
But you know what recent Star Wars property I don’t see anyone talking about it? The animated series Star Wars: Resistance, which ran for two seasons from 2018 to 2020 and was co-created by Dave Filoni, one of the minds between Mandalorian, Clone Wars and one of the GOATs Avatar: The Last Airbender. So what gives?
Well, when I saw the trailer a couple years ago for Resistance it looked like some strangely animated kiddie show. After the last two animated series—the fantastic Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the very good Rebels—I was like “What the hell is this watered-down nonsense?” Thanks Disney, but no thanks. And I can sense in the Force that many people felt the same way and avoided this show like Jedis fleeing Order 66. But the completionist in me got the better of me and I watched it. So is it even worth checking out? Well let’s find out, shall we? With a very mild spoiler alert here’s my review in four saber slices:
Slice 1: Characters
Resistance is set just before and during the sequel trilogy and follows young New Republic pilot Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono as he is recruited by Resistance Commander Poe Dameron to be a spy on the aircraft refuelling station the Colossus located on the ocean planet Castilon. Kaz divides his time working as a mechanic, battling pirates and spying on the First Order.
As a lead character Kaz is just not very good. Sure he’s eager, loyal and a great pilot, but he is also incredibly naive, slightly annoying and such a complete klutz that even Jar Jar would say, “Dude, get your bantha fodder together.” I presume the goofiness and frequent attempts at slapstick humour were meant to attract younger audiences, but man was it grating. I wish I could tell you that Kaz gets better with time but the improvement is minimal at best. You’re stuck with this clown for the long haul.
But thankfully the series features other heroes that are actually good. Oscar Isaac returns to voice Poe as a recurring character and every time he shows up you know it is going to be a good episode. His wit and swagger is always refreshing and I found he was better utilised here than in the latter two movies of the trilogy. Feel free to @ me. Poe also lends Kaz BB-8 for a spell and the lovable droid gets Kaz and his allies out of multiple scrapes.
Of the new heroes my favourite is Kadas’sa’Nikto mechanic Neeku Vozo. This green alien with zero filter never failed to crack me up. Also pretty good were former Rebel-turned-mechanic Jared Yeager, super cocky Ace pilot Hype Fazon, the mysterious Synara San, shop owners Flix and Orka, no-nonsense bar owner Aunt Z, and security droid 4D-M1N.
In terms of villains we have boisterous pirate captain Kragan, Captain Phasma popping up a few times (voiced by film actress Gwendoline Christie in Season 1 and Ellen Dubin in Season 2) and a couple of other First Order brass in brightly-coloured Stormtrooper armour who look cool and deliver on the menace. But the best baddie is easily the manipulative Agent Tierny, who proves that words can be as dangerous as a blaster bolt.
Slice 2: Visuals
Remember when I mentioned being turned off when I saw the animation in the trailer? Well the cell shaded 3D aesthetic does look cartoony, especially when compared to the styles of Clone Wars and Rebels, but I got used to it pretty quickly and I even started liking it.
The population of the Colossus is a mix of established species and new ones. I especially liked the incorporation of sequel trilogy species as they just appear and then disappear in the films. But here you get to spend a little more time with them, and that was nice. The series also expands the franchise’s ever-growing bestiary, and who doesn’t love giant creatures?
Moving from the organic to the inorganic, it is always interesting to see the new designs for ships and stations. And Resistance is a cool blend of the old and the new. The Colossus herself is a beautiful station with a simple but graceful design.
But my favourite aspect is the ships, from the clunky Firebird to a sleek red TIE fighter. The coolest, though, is the retrofitted TIE fighter (seen above) flown by ex-Imperial and Ace pilot Griff. It has a dark, almost punk rock aesthetic to it, and of all Resistance’s ships it is the one that I would most want to add to my collection.
Slice 3: Action
The franchise is called “Star Wars” so you would expect some decent action. Well you’re gonna have to wait on that. After the series opens with a dogfight things slow down. Like, a lot. In the first half of Season 1 you have to suffer through some hijinks and ships racing each other before Poe shows up to rescue us all from boredom. I wouldn’t be surprised if people quit the show after a few episodes because it is as dull as dishwater.
But mercifully things pick up eventually as the First Order become more involved. At this point the spy aspect ramps up and delivers on some wonderfully tense scenes. We also get some blaster action here are there, but overall there is not much of that in Resistance.
Where the series does shine is in its creature battles and ship combat scenes. There are some massive and very creative creatures here that make for some fun action sequences. The ship combat is even better though and Resistance delivers some blazingly exciting one-on-one dogfights and squadrons versus squadrons, though no large scale battles.
Overall the action kicks into hyperdrive in the second season and makes it worth slogging through those early episodes. And fair warning—people are killed outright and there are some scenes of torture, so this is not a show for younger children.
Slice 4: Story
I promised to keep the spoilers mild so I will not get into much details with the story. But I will reiterate that the main story arc is quite the slow burn, emphasis on slow. And I do think they took way too long establishing things and spinning their wheels a bit, and this was to the show’s detriment. The name “Resistance” is also somewhat misleading, as while there are Resistance members and battling the First Order, this is not a show about the main Resistance. So don’t expect any massive war here.
But in spite of the rocky start and reduced stakes the writing actually goes to some surprising, amazing and dark places, even surpassing the sequel trilogy films on multiple occasions. For me the new time period is the least interesting (and most unoriginal) of the franchise. But Resistance actually does a fascinating job at fleshing out the nature of the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order. What was remarkable was the different views of the First Order, with some seeing them as a return to the Empire and others seeing them as the saviours of the galaxy. That is a level of depth I was not expecting in what is ostensibly a children’s cartoon.
I also enjoyed seeing the events of the films from different perspectives as I adore inter-property continuity. And Resistance occasionally makes nods to the wider franchise including one episode that showed a ton of love for the Clone Wars era. You’ll know it when you see it.
In conclusion, Resistance is a very different Star Wars series. There are no Jedi, few gunfights and an emphasis on comedy (which is very hit or miss). There are good characters but none are likely to become fan favourites. And despite its competent storytelling and development of the sequel trilogy era, the show still falls short of the quality of the two previous animated series. I would give Resistance a moderate recommendation, especially for sequel trilogy fans and fans of ship battles. But I would be lying if I called it a “must-see” series.
Editor Jules’s Review: 6.5 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.