There’s an old expression used among artists at Lucasfilm: “To make Star Wars, you’ve got to hate Star Wars.” OK, maybe hate is a bit extreme (thanks, Yoda). But clearly, modern makers need to be restless and dissatisfied with the ways this 43-year-old franchise has explored its galaxy-sized potential so far if they are to keep growing and satisfying audiences in the long term.
We’ve noted the weird, anxious sense of fan service that pervaded Book of Boba Fett, blowing its plot off-course until it was basically The Mandalorian season 2.5. Obi-Wan Kenobi offered a tighter, better, more meaningful story — but given the actors and the timeline, often felt like one more prequel movie for the road. Revenge of the Sith 2.0 isn’t exactly groundbreaking Star Wars.
Now here comes the new Disney+ Star Wars series, Andor. Technically, it too is a prequel. It tells the backstory of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) from Rogue One — a spy, haunted by his past actions, who helps Jyn Erso steal the Death Star plans. But here’s what Diego Luna wants you to know: This is no “Rogue Zero Point Five.”
Starting five years prior to Rogue One and ending immediately before it, the sprawling 24 episodes of Andor (split over two seasons) represent a brand new Star Wars blend, something we’ve not seen before. Rogue One is a signpost to Andor; it’s not the territory.
“From the moment [writer-director Tony Gilroy and team] pitched me the idea, I was into it— it sounded really smart,” says Luna, also an executive producer on the project that has taken four long, hard, COVID-filled years to bring to screen.
Giving so much space over to the story of one character we saw die an unknown, with no Jedi or Skywalkers in sight, “just triggers creativity in a different way,” Luna adds — allowing for more mature and, for many, more satisfying themes.
“It’s different,” Luna insists. “It’s supposed to be different. I mean, it has to deliver the action-adventure that you always expect from Star Wars. But at the same time, it can be grittier. It can be more of a spy-ish thriller. It can be very political, very character-driven and dark. We can allow ourselves to go there, you know?”
As our reviewer noted, Andor does take a little time to get moving in its first two episodes. There’s a lot of scene-setting from two phases of Cassian’s life: his childhood in an Indigenous tribe on a beautiful homeworld that gets rudely interrupted by the Empire, and his early adulthood, where he’s a killer in the proto-rebel underground, searching for one of his former tribemates.
But stick out the slowness. This is building to something big. Before the end of episode 3, these two strands will come together in a satisfying way to illustrate a theme of Cassian’s life so far: He keeps getting drawn, almost by accident, deeper into a galactic maelstrom. (One of which involves another great reason to watch Andor: Stellan Skarsgård.)
‘Why did he have the energy of someone who has been migrating, like a refugee?’
“Cassian is a character who’s been forced to move,” Luna says. “In Rogue One, you know, no one has his accent [Luna’s own]. He feels part of a team, but clearly he’s different. Where is he coming from? What did he have to leave behind? Why did he have the energy of someone who has been migrating, like a refugee? Someone fighting because something was taken away from him: That’s the thing that moves Cassian.”
A Star Wars series that takes its time and talks to the refugee experience of anger, frustration and loss: This definitely counts as something new and timely in the galaxy. Somewhere, you can imagine those old Lucasfilm artists — and perhaps the ghost of Yoda, who explicitly encouraged the next generation of Star Wars to grow beyond him — nodding with approval.