Lucasfilm Animation (2016), Buena Vista Home Entertainment (December 6, 2016), 2 Discs, 299 mins, 16:9 ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1, Rated TV-Y7 , Retail: $27.99
Three siblings struggling to make a living as salvage specialists find themselves thrust into galactic intrigue when the younger brother develops a connection with The Force.
The Sweatbox Review:
So…. Another Star Wars show. Not content with just giving us fans the series Rebels, which is set in-between Episodes III and IV, Disney wanted to have Lucasfilm create a second show to be broadcast on Disney XD—- one that would take place in-between Episodes V and VI. However, this one… would be different. It would have The Lego Group as a co-producer. Anyone with any knowledge of Lego-based programming will expect that, unlike Rebels, The Freemaker Adventures is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and silly at times, and decidedly not meant to be canon. However, it’s not just a comedy either, as it encompasses many things that make Star Wars so popular. Given a chance, the show can surprise and thrill, even as it winks to the audience. And Star Wars has always offered a wink anyhow, so there’s nothing wrong with that.
Lego and Lucasfilm, of course, have been corporate partners for years— since 1999, in fact. Their building sets have been huge sellers, being marketed both to kids and adult collectors. Direct-to-video and cable broadcast specials have been popular among fans. But this is the first time that an ongoing series by the corporate duo has been made for television broadcast. The Freemaker Adventures got a thirteen-episode order, and that whole first season is now out on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Freemaker Adventures concerns two brothers and a sister, the Freemaker family. They run an outfit that, in addition to making repairs to ships, also salvages wrecked spacecraft, even sometimes building new ships. The notion of having salvage operators as the main characters is genius, since the Lego toy brand is all about putting parts together to make something new. The idea is never quite used to its fullest in the show, with the Lego influence being seen more when ships fall apart into Lego bricks during battle, or a character’s hair is knocked off. Still, it’s a good set-up for the series.
Big sister Kordi Freemaker is the responsible one, who makes sure that their cash-strapped salvage and repair company keeps functioning. Zander is a great mechanic, but his boundless enthusiasm for vehicles often sees him making rash decisions that run contrary to the best interests of himself and his family. The key character is young Rowan, strong with The Force and eager to become a Jedi. As much as Kordi would love to keep her family and her business out of danger, Rowan’s gifts and Zander’s impulsiveness constantly bring them into conflict with The Empire. They have a comedic sidekick too. Just in case you never got enough of those wacky Separatist droids in Clone Wars, this series has you covered, with the character of R0-GR (“Roger”), a reprogrammed battle droid who is the decidedly unheroic type.
Until the events of the first episode, the Freemakers were just barely managing to keep their business operating, while staying beneath the notice of either the Rebel Alliance or the Empire; but in A Hero Discovered, Rowan first develops his Force abilities. He senses something strange while on a planet where his brother and sister are trying to scavenge for parts. Rowan, in fact, finds the handle of the legendary Kyber Saber, which, according to myth, was the very first lightsaber. At the same time, he meets Naare, a lady who claims to be a Jedi survivor of Order 66, the Clone trigger command that ended the Jedi knights years ago. The audience soon finds, however, that Naare is actually an agent of the Empire, and is taking orders from Darth Vader and the Emperor.
Naare joins the Freemakers at their home on The Wheel, the space station where they operate their business. Naare wants to help Rowan train to use his Force abilities in order to find fragments of the Kyber Saber, all the while pretending to be a friend, even as she slips away intermittently to report to the Emperor. Until her ruse is discovered, Rowan is overjoyed to have a mentor. Kordi takes a dislike to Naare mainly because she represents potential danger, and Zander…. Well, Zander has a huge crush on Naare. As the series progresses, the Freemakers constantly come into contact with either Rebel or Imperial agents, being aware they are in danger, but still not quite grasping just how involved they are really getting with the ongoing conflict between the two sides.
This is planet-hopping adventure, with all the things you have ever loved about Star Wars: space battles, chases, pod racing, and of course traps— lots of traps; and lots of things to have a “bad feeling” about. Familiar faces show up too— aside from Darth Vader, there’s Lando (voiced by Billy Dee himself!), hutts, some rebelling Wookies, Maz Kanata, and even Luke and Leia come by the Wheel for help. Like Babylon 5, the show’s set-up allows the galaxy to come to our heroes. Trouble just finds them naturally, though Rowan goes in search of trouble often enough too, either in his quest for Kyber Saber fragments, or simply in his efforts to become a Jedi. The Freemakers also make a few enemies along the way, including a snobby vehicle collector, and a bounty hunter or two. When the truth about Naare is figured out, this only allows the Freemakers’ enemies to combine their forces more easily.
While the series is not considered to be officially “canon,” no huge liberties are taken. In fact, these episodes can safely sit next to the official canon and not really contradict anything too much. Star Wars fans can even get some real thrills from the show, as it is far from being all about the jokes. This is not as much a full-out parody as previous Lego Star Wars projects. These are plot-driven stories with character moments, with real danger and peril. The tales are just told in a humorous fashion, with lighter characters— which is not really all that different from having Jar Jar in the prequels, or cute, fuzzy Ewoks bonking Stormtroopers in the head with sticks. Viewing this series with a child-like mindset likely works the best, as Rowan is our gateway character, a kid who only sees things as exciting and fun… until they’re not.
That said, the storylines do not really reach the dramatic heights of what we saw come out of the best Clone Wars or Rebels episodes, but of course this is a different type of show. Regardless, it’s a fun watch if you can manage to not take your Star Wars too seriously. Given the popularity of the Lego Star Wars brand, it shouldn’t be much a problem for most people.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Both discs go straight to the menu, with no trailers. From the Bonus Features option, we get two minor featurettes. One might expect minimal bonus material in a set like this, and that’s what we get.
Meet The Freemaker Family (2:21) is a quick— very quick— visit with the voice cast. Freemaker Salvage And Repair (1:02) is an ad for the family salvage company.
The initial release of this title comes in a box with a package containing six character bubble magnets. (There is no Lego mini-figure, alas.) The two Blu-ray discs are inside a standard case, with the discs on facing sides. There are inserts for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney Movie Club.
Ink And Paint:
The animation for this series is above par for a Lego show. Of course, it is from Lucasfilm, so that explains a lot. The look is very polished and detailed, though less so than the previous, more serious Star Wars cartoons. The 16:9 picture is excellent, and likely represents the animation the best it can. Any deficiencies only come from the source, including some soft edges and very minor background aliasing. No one should really complain about the video for this release.
Given that Clone Wars and Rebels never got lossless soundtracks on disc, one cannot expect more here. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack certainly suffices, though. There are plenty of blasts, whizzes and bangs, all brought to full, impactful life through this audio presentation. Effects are pretty front-heavy, but the front surrounds get good use. There are also Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks for French and Spanish. Subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish; and English captioning for the hearing impaired.
I cannot say that I was blown away by this show, but it is fun and exciting, and does scratch that Star Wars itch sufficiently well. Being aimed at a younger audience, the stories stay pretty straight-forward, but I was pleased that the entire enterprise was not treated as a joke. In fact, I cringed a lot more at some of the awkward humor that George Lucas tried to place into the prequels. These stories actually fit well into the Star Wars universe. They may not be “canon,” but there is a good deal of Jedi lore, intrigue, and action, giving The Freemaker Adventures enough substance to make for solid family viewing.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?