Why Andor Is Exactly What The Star Wars Franchise Has Been Needing For A Long Time


On paper, Star Wars: Andor isn’t necessarily the most exciting new project to come out of Disney’s Star Wars franchise. It is a series that acts as a prequel to a prequel. It doesn’t feature epic battles between Jedi and Sith, nor many familiar faces from the films beyond the titular hero himself. It’s a very different series than Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Boba Fett Book. And precisely for that reason it is a breath of fresh air for the franchise.

With the first three episodes finally on Disney+, let’s take a look at what sets Star Wars: Andor apart from its siblings and why this dark origin story is exactly what Star Wars has been needing.

Note: this article is free of spoilers for the series. You can also take a look at our review of the first episodes of Star Wars: Andor.

The shortest range of Star Wars: Andor

One of the biggest selling points of Rogue One (along with what may well be the most exciting space combat in franchise history) was the opportunity to see the unsung heroes of the galaxy rising to fight against the Empire. Much of the Star Wars mythos centers around the “chosen” heroes like Luke, Anakin, and Rey. They have great destinies and the power to change the course of the galaxy. But what about the countless people who want to fight evil but have no supernatural abilities or lightsabers to defend themselves with?

That’s a quality that Andor immediately taps into in its three-episode premiere. The scope of the series is quite small by Star Wars standards. There are no legions of stormtroopers or flaming Sith Inquisitors hunting fugitive Jedi. There’s only Cassian Andor, a con artist struggling to stay one step ahead of his problems. His nemesis, Syril Karn, is not a high-ranking Imperial officer, but simply a low-level security officer hell-bent on making a name for himself.

There are no legions of stormtroopers or flaming Sith Inquisitors hunting fugitive Jedi. There’s only Cassian Andor, a ruthless con man struggling to stay one step ahead of his troubles.

Again, that may not sound very exciting in concept. But in practice, there is something special in seeing such an intimate vision of the struggles faced by ordinary citizens of a galaxy far, far away. Although we know where Cassian’s story ends, the series immediately makes us worry about her money problems and her run-ins with the law. The same goes for the flashbacks, where we see a young Cassian as a scavenger eking out a living. The Cassian that Diego Luna plays right now is so far removed from the single-minded soldier from Rogue One that he might as well be a different character.

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Even more than Rogue One or Star Wars Rebels, Andor shows us what it’s like trying to live in the age of the Galactic Empireand the many sacrifices that had to be made before the rebellion could truly break out.

Leaving Volume behind

The Mandalorian blazed a trail in 2019 as the first live-action Star Wars series. As we learned with the abandoned Star Wars: Underworld series, that’s a feat not even George Lucas could pull off. The Mandalorian and his Disney+ companions have managed to recreate that Star Wars aesthetic on the small screen in a big way. thanks to the help of Volume, a digital set that projects detailed backgrounds and lighting against a video wall. But, especially in The Book of Boba Fett, Volume’s limitations have become apparent. Sometimes there is no substitute for actors occupying real physical spaces with fully constructed sets.

Watching Andor, one can’t help but be amazed at how different (and frankly, much more expensive) the series looks compared to its predecessors. More than any other Star Wars series to date, Andor really looks like a Star Wars movie. The team even built a set the size of several city blocks, all to create that grungy, lived-in quality we associate with Star Wars. Volume just wasn’t up to the task.

There is no way to do both“series director Tony Gilroy told reporters at the TCAs.”Either you are a Volume series or you are not a Volume series. It just didn’t lend itself to that type of production and you can’t choose between them.

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That quality of life is essential when the story of Cassian Andor and other freedom fighters living on the fringes of the Empire is told. Volume is fine for barren, desolate worlds like Tatooine, but not for the dilapidated buildings and neon-drenched alleyways of this series.

But even as Andor captures the dirty side of Star Wars, it also manages to open his own stylistic path. The first three episodes are basically Star Wars by way of Blade Runner: a neo-noir take on the universe with a vibe of its own.

Even the music fades of the traditional marches and fanfares of John Williams. Succession’s Nicholas Britell may not be the first name that comes to mind for a Star Wars series, but Britell’s music really captures the haunting yet elegant tone the series is aiming for. Not since the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith has diegetic music been so essential to the Star Wars setting.

Moving away from the Skywalker Saga

Star Wars: Andor works because moves away from the Skywalker Saga movies and all the tropes and expectations that go with it. It’s a clean break for a franchise that’s usually so preoccupied with the same handful of characters. Andor is like the first season of The Mandalorian, in that it’s a Star Wars spin-off that doesn’t require familiarity with the broader franchise.

Make no mistake, this is all definitely intentional. Gilroy recently told IGN that the goal is specifically to avoid “fan service” or overloading the story with useless Star Wars cameos.

We will introduce people along the wayGilroy said at D23.I don’t think it’s any secret that Forest Whitaker is on the show… Saw Gerrera is on the show. He will be some other people. But when we bring them, we bring them because we need them and because there really is something they contribute.

Even The Mandalorian took a detour in the second season with the last-minute appearance of an important character in the saga who went on to play a very important role in The Book of Boba Fett, bringing both series closer to the orbit of the Skywalker family. Meanwhile, a young Princess Leia turned out to be a pivotal character in Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, a series steeped in the Skywalker/Kenobi dynamic and the loose ends of the prequels. Andor is one of the few Star Wars projects that is carving its own path and which tells a story with no connections to the Skywalker family.

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Frankly, Star Wars needs a series like this. Yes, there is still uncharted ground to cover between the Original Trilogy and the sequels, and we have no doubt that Disney has several movies, series and books in the works that will do just that. But sooner or later, Star Wars has to go beyond the Skywalker family and explore some really new conflicts. We need more than The Mandalorian was doing before that Jedi crashed the party. Disney has to prove that the Star Wars formula works even if there are no familiar characters to cling to.

It looked like Disney was going to do just that. with Rian Johnson’s planned film trilogya series Johnson teased once that “would introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars history had never exploredBut thanks to the divisive reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the jury is still out on whether Johnson’s trilogy will ever come to fruition. Though Johnson at least continues to sound optimistic.

But for now, At least we have Star Wars: Andor. This series only has a tenuous tie to the main trilogies, but is quickly becoming the best live-action Star Wars series to date. It is, without a doubt, the most daring. We can only hope that this prequel is a taste of what is to come when Disney finally walks away from the Skywalker Saga.

How about? Is Star Wars: Andor just what the saga needs, or is the franchise better when a Skywalker is at the helm?