“Star Wars: Andor”: A Unique Perspective on an Inconsistent Galaxy

two men on bridge of starship

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) in “Star Wars:Andor”
Photo credit: Star Wars.com

Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm, and with it, the Star Wars franchise, for $4 billion in 2012, it has found trouble in satisfying its audience. Certain films, such as 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi were well received by critics but panned by the general public (see The Last Jedi’s 91% critics score vs 42% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.) While others, such as 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker saw the exact opposite (52% critics vs 86% audience.) 

Despite this, one film that was very well received by both groups was 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards. Unlike previous Star Wars movies, which were based on Joseph Campbell’s theory of mythology and primarily focused on space fantasy, Rogue One instead placed heavy emphasis on the, admittedly overlooked, “war” aspect of Star Wars and told a story about a struggling militia of rebels forcibly stealing data from the all-encompassing Galactic Empire. Given the success of this film and the potential to explore a different side of the Star Wars universe, it seemed only natural that in 2022, Disney released its first Rogue One spinoff, the television series Star Wars: Andor. 

Andor, set 5 years before the events of Rogue One (as well as 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope), serves as an origin story for one of the film’s main protagonists, Cassian Andor (portrayed by Mexican actor Diego Luna.) The series examines Cassian’s life as a mercenary on the planet Ferrix as well as his childhood in an indigenous tribe on the planet Kenari, while simultaneously showcasing the growing conflict in the larger galaxy through deliberations in the Imperial Security Bureau and conversations in the Galactic Senate. This balance provides nicer context to the story of the overall saga, but often times makes Cassian feel like a background character in his own show. One could argue that this is a good thing, however, because Cassian Andor is fairly stoic and generally the least interesting personality in any given scene. Not to say that the rest of the ensemble is particularly engaging. With stone faced demeanors and names like “Luthen Rael” and “Bix Caleen”, the cast is far less memorable and charming than the Luke Skywalkers and Han Solos that came before them. 

What is memorable, however, is Andor’s actual story itself. Following a three episode arc format, the show has a series of two episode buildups before an action-packed third episode climax. The fourth through sixth episodes, in particular, are the show’s most engaging and accomplish something different for the Star Wars franchise. While most of Star Wars has the “fate of the galaxy” at hand (Rogue One included), Andor showcases a much more intimate, smaller scale heist on an imperial garrison pulled off by a team of seven rebels, of which Cassian is one. The fourth and fifth episode go into detail regarding the team’s planning and training for the mission, with the sixth episode serving as the big payoff. Unlike anything else in Star Wars before it, in which the villains are the heads of empires and the heroes are notable figures, the heists in Andor put the spotlight on the smaller victories from unknown heroes against low-ranking generals that take place in a larger war. Even in the context of the real world, it allows one to consider the smaller struggles that have taken place in wars, overlooked in favor of larger battles like Normandy or Gettysburg. This is most certainly the strength of Andor and that which sets it apart from the rest of the Star Wars franchise.

However, as much as uniqueness is Andor’s greatest asset, it is also its biggest weakness. Whereas the series explores new aspects of the Star Wars universe, it takes so many liberties with the established world, that it doesn’t feel like a natural continuation of all that came before. Scenes taking place in markets and villages feature an all human cast, with nary an alien or a droid in site, the imperial garrison is patrolled by soldiers in uniform – not the sleek white stormtroopers audiences have come to know for 40 years, and most egregious of all – it lacks the franchise’s timelessness. When George Lucas was working on the original trilogy in the late 70s and early 80s, he is quoted having told the costume designers “I don’t want to see any buttons or zippers on these costumes because it’s too close to Earth. If it’s going to be space fantasy, if it’s going to be another world, then there shouldn’t be things like zippers and buttons.” This simple rule established an important aspect of the style of the Star Wars universe – it is timeless – it exists beyond our time and place. When watching any of the previous films or television series, it is difficult to identify anything as something you may own in your home. Andor, unfortunately, plays fast and loose with this rule, and it greatly hurts the series. Characters use iPads and tablets frequently, a television news program is shown on a screen, people are shown drinking out of coffee cups, and one character’s costume is clearly just a hoodie, drawstrings and all. These design and costuming choices, coupled with the lack of aliens and droids, take the series out of the shared universe it is supposedly a part of and make it seem like little more than a generic sci-fi show. In addition, an extremely lackluster score by Nicholas Britell is a far cry from the memorable compositions written by John Williams, Ludwig Göransson, and Michael Giacchino in the franchise’s previous entries. These aspects are the weakest parts of Andor and will hopefully be improved in the show’s second (and final) season. 

At the time of this review’s writing, Star Wars: Andor is just passed its halfway point (episode 7 out of the planned 12.) Overall, the series is a solid sci-fi adventure that, despite its uninteresting characters and bland score, manages to tell a fairly engaging story about the overlooked aspects of a larger galactic war. Although it would benefit greatly by maintaining visual continuity with the rest of the Star Wars films and series, it works as a one off, introducing audiences to a previously unexplored part of the galaxy, outside of the struggle between the dark and the light sides of the force. 

Star Wars: Andor  releases weekly, Wednesdays on Disney+.

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