“Andor” First Reactions: A Gritty, Grounded “Star Wars” Series Unlike Any That Have Come Before
Andor is a major departure from the first three live-action Star Wars series that have aired on Disney+. This is one of the major through-lines of the initial, very positive reviews of the show, which follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as he becomes a key player in the Rebel Alliance’s stand against the Galactic Empire. Unlike The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi before it, Andor is a darker, grittier affair, a slow burn that pays off big time for those looking for a Star Wars series unlike any that have come before.
Andor comes to us as a prequel to the 2016 Star Wars spinoff film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that had a boldness and originality that surprised many (and upset some people, too). Rogue One introduced us to Luna’s thief-turned-Rebel Alliance intelligence agent as he was part of a team that was attempting to steal the Death Star plans. Not only was Rogue One the grungiest, most street-level Star Wars film ever made, but it also delivered the most bittersweet ending in the entire franchise. While The Empire Strikes Back famously ended on a downbeat (Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Darth Vader close to crushing the rebellion for good), Rogue One ended in a sacrificial victory that still seems shocking today. Spoiler alert, all of its heroes, including Andor, died, but not before they managed to deliver the Death Star plans to Princes Leia. These little-known heroes helped save the entire galaxy.
Another striking thing about both Rogue One and now Andor—despite the fact we now know who Cassian Andor is—is the fact that it deals with a large number of regular people within the galaxy. This means it’s not relying on the iconic names within the Star Wars franchise to lure viewers and satisfy that seemingly insatiable collective desire to get fresh angles on old friends and enemies within the galaxy. “Where The Mandalorian, Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi wove their biggest reveals into the larger fabric of the Lucasfilm universe, Andor doesn’t rush toward those moments that might make fans gasp out of pure recognition,” writes Variety‘s Caroline Framke. “Instead, it does something more surprising still: it tells the story of people who have nothing to do with Solos, Skywalkers, or Palpatines, but whose lives matter nonetheless.”
Andor takes us back to the first initial sparks of that rebellion and the people who led the way. Created by Tony Gilroy, the man who helped land Rogue One (the initial director of that film was Gareth Edwards), Andor largely eschews the usual Star Wars aesthetics—bizarre aliens, vast exotic vistas, space opera vibes—for a sci-fi world that owes as much of its influence to Blade Runner as it does to Return of the Jedi or The Mandalorian.
“And the good news about Andor is that the new look and feel are rendered meticulously and evocatively; a lot of effort, led by the creator and showrunner Tony Gilroy, has been spent on giving the show a gritty and realistic texture,” says The New York Times Mike Hale. “Moment to moment, it’s easy to just relax and enjoy the change. The opening scene, a Blade Runner homage that leads into a dark, seamy version of the typical Star Wars cantina, is a witty example of the show’s method.”
That method means keeping the action firmly focused on the growing rebellion and the increasingly brutal Empire as these two forces inch ever closer to all-out war. Andor is set roughly four years after the events in Obi-Wan Kenobi, long before the original Star Wars, when Luke and Leia become the Galaxy’s shining beacons of hope.
“The comforting nostalgia of the most recent Star Wars series, Obi-Wan Kenobi, has been replaced with something gnarlier,” writes The Guardian‘s Jack Seal. “This has more dirt under its nails and colder blood in its veins. Those first two episodes are almost all atmosphere, but they evoke a convincingly shadowy dystopia.”
With the first three episodes of Andor now available on Disney+, viewers can, if they like, absorb the slow-burn early episodes until things really catch fire in episode three. This approach, unique to the Star Wars world, is a good thing.
“The first four episodes of Andor present a story that is unlike any Star Wars series that has come before it,” writes Collider‘s Maggie Lovitt. “It opts to approach its protagonist from a distance, giving its story the chance to organically evolve as the world at large starts to come into focus. While series like The Mandalorian chose to go in guns blazing, Andor leans into the uneasiness of a slow-burning story thread that is unraveling at both ends.”
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Featured image: Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.