Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 13, 2016)
As Star Wars returns to theaters with the spinoff movie Rogue One, a small screen adventure gives us another parallel tale. Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures provides an animated series that looks at tales set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
This two-disc Blu-ray set offers all 13 Season One episodes. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
A Hero Discovered: “Rowan (Nicolas Cantu) meets a Jedi named Naare (Grey Griffin) and learns of the Kyber Saber.”
“Hero” offers a decent introduction to the series. I like the opening with Darth Vader (Matt Sloan) and the Emperor (Trevor Devall) but the show seems less compelling when it concentrates on its new leads.
Maybe too much Anakin in Phantom Menace left me with a low tolerance for little kids who train as Jedi. All this leaves “Discovered” as a reasonable but up and down pilot.
The Mines of Graballa: “While attempting to retrieve a Kyber Saber crystal from an asteroid field, Rowan is captured by Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder).”
For its first act, “Mines” feels lackluster, but once Graballa gets involved, it picks up considerably, as he offers a funny branch of the Hutt clan. Throw in obscure bounty hunter Dengar (James Patrick Stuart) and the episode works pretty well after its slow start.
Zander’s Joyride: “When Zander (Eugene Byrd) takes a classic starfighter out for a joyride, he winds up in the clutches of Darth Vader.”
Perhaps the highlight of “Joyride” comes from Thomas Lennon’s turn as a picky starfighter owner – he adds an amusing take on the role. Otherwise, this seems like an ordinary episode, as it creates a minor disappointment after the wacky fun of “Mines”.
The Lost Treasure of Cloud City: “A hunt for precious cargo brings the Freemakers to Cloud City.”
Hey hey – an actual Star Wars actor appears here, as Billy Dee Williams reprises his role as Lando Calrissian. Williams’ presence adds a nice touch to the show – throw in the fun on Cloud City as well as the return of Dengar and “Treasure” delivers a winner. Heck, it even tosses in a subtle reference to Pulp Fiction - how many Disney shows do that?
Peril on Kashyyyk: “Kordi's (Vanessa Lengies) attempts to save money force the Freemakers into trouble on Kashyyyk.”
Another guest star brings spark to “Peril”, as I love Richard Kind’s take on an Imperial officer who wants to remain as anonymous as possible. A visit to the Wookiee home planet offers fun as well, and the various components combine for a solid show.
Crossing Paths: “While on the run from Imperials, Luke (Eric Bauza) and Leia (Julie Dolan) show the Freemakers the selfless nature of the Force and the Rebellion.”
In theory, the introduction of Luke and Leia to the series should be worthwhile, but as depicted in “Paths”, their use doesn’t work all that well. For one, Bauza and Dolan don’t offer very good representations of the original actors, and the story itself falls a bit flat. This isn’t a bad show but it’s a letdown after the last few.
Race on Tattooine: “Graballa lures the Freemakers into a trap.”
Yay – more Graballa! My new favorite Hutt contributes to the show’s sense of wackiness and helps it overcome potentially damaging callbacks to Phantom Menace. I’m also happy to see the series’ intro of Boba Fett.
The Test: “It is time for Rowan to test his powers of the Force.”
I think “Test” offers the series’ first reference to The Force Awakens when the Freemakers wind up at Maz Kanada’s place. I like this, as I enjoy the way the series involves components from all generations of Star Wars: Prequels, Originals and Sequels. “Test” manages some creative avenues and becomes another good episode.
The Kyber Saber Chase: “The Freemakers go to find more Kyber Saber crystals.”
After the last episode reflected Episode VII, “Chase” offers undersea elements that hearken back to Episode I. At least this brings us another change of scenery and adds new opportunities for adventure. Bring in the return of General Durpin and “Chase” becomes a winner.
The Maker of Zoh: “The Freemakers travel to Zoh where they meet the Maker (Brian Dobson), who teaches Rowan how to build using the Force.”
As much as I enjoy the series’ visits to familiar Star Wars locations, I like it when we get new characters/situations as well. Granted, Zoh reminds me more than a little of the “Island of Misfit Toys” from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but it allows for creative expansions of the Star Wars universe.
Showdown on Hoth: “The race for the Kyber Saber Crystals comes to an exciting finish on Hoth.”
Another show, another classic Star Wars location. I worry that Freemaker will run out of new spots to visit before we get to Season Two.
That minor concern aside, “Showdown” offers another fun adventure. It integrates the usual Hoth-related elements – Wampas, AT-ATs – in an inventive manner and provides a worthwhile progression of the series’ main story.
Duel of Destiny: “Rowan & Naare engage in a light saber duel that has galactic consequences.”
Going into Freemaker, I feared that the goofy Lego visuals/styling might get old quickly. To the series’ credit, though, it comes with such strong storytelling that I barely notice the Lego look at this point.
Honestly, it wouldn’t take a lot of modification to turn Freemaker into a live-action Star Wars tale – it’d need to lose some of the comedy but I think it’s a terrific narrative that fits the franchise’s universe well. “Destiny” provides the lightsaber battle we’ve waited to see any builds toward S1’s conclusion well.
Return of the Kyber Saber: “The explosive final battle for the Kyber Saber comes down to Rowan vs Naare vs the Emperor!”
Season One wraps up in satisfying fashion with “Return”. Actually, it comes with a few minor missteps – like Naare leaping onto her ship to fight in space – but it still comes with enough excitement and action to form a good conclusion.
Chalk up Freemaker Adventures as a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t sure five hours of Lego Star Wars would remain interesting, as I thought the gimmick might get old, but Season One comes with so much invention and cleverness that it delights from start to finish.