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‘Andor’ Is A Complex Spy Thriller – Review

When the original Star Wars premiered back in 1977, it blew audiences away with something they’ve never seen before. It was a tapestry of a mystical and futuristic universe, with the vibes of an action-adventure film. Star Wars, essentially, originated an entirely new genre with its combination of sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, and adventure film qualities.

Recently, Lucasfilm, has been trying to slightly, stray away from that classic Star Wars formula to feature more variety in their films and series. Andor is the newest entry in the Star Wars line-up and it teases a change of pace and formula that will engage audiences with its distinct vision.

Diego Luna in Andor.
(Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Back when Philip Lord and Christopher Miller were attached to Solo: A Star Wars Story, the film was initially set to be a more comedic take on Star Wars. Obviously, they moved on from that to create a more familiar feel. The fear was that it was “too different” from previous entries. Rogue One was also said to be a departure with a more grounded perspective, and while it delivered on that, it still felt recognizable due to its easter eggs, references, and original trilogy characters (such as Tarkin and Vader) making memorable appearances. Star Wars has a very specific feel and its success is greatly due to it. Naturally, there comes a hesitation to deviate too far away from this blueprint, yet Tony Gilroy threw all that outside the window with Andor.

I was blown away by Andor. It’s a deliberately paced espionage thriller living inside the Star Wars universe. The pacing is clearly the most notable change from the formula. Star Wars is known for its high energy, kinetic pace. It’s constantly giving the audience something exhilarating to engage with. In A New Hope, once the crew escape the Death Star, Luke starts to mourn the death of Ben Kenobi when he is quickly interrupted by Han Solo exclaiming, “Come on, buddy. We’re not out of this yet!” They realize that they’re being pursued by TIE fighters and another flashy action scene begins.

This is reiterated in The Empire Strikes Back, with the constant mechanical issues of the Millennium Falcon. Every time the squad thinks they’re in the clear, something else goes wrong. There’s always an immediate complication; whether it’s enemy pursuers, problems with the ship, or any other concoction of high stakes, thrilling sequences. This concept was a George Lucas speciality. He specifically wanted to make exciting movies. George’s love of racing and fast cars dictated his design of high intensity and non-stop movement on screen. This is why Andor is incredibly bold in its decision to set-up a gradual unraveling of its story. The pacing is measured and conscious of its characters and world. It never hastily jumps into an aimless action sequence or creates a false sense of tension. The suspense is built gradually over the span of each episode rather than each scene. 

(Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Andor is a significant departure from the fantastical side of Star Wars, focusing instead on world-building and the political dynamics of the rebellion. It doesn’t lean too hard into the sci-fi aspect either, preferring to keep everything remarkably grounded for a Star Wars series. Everything feels lived-in and textured, creating an environment that looks the most tactile and natural of any Star Wars film or show. Every weapon or technological advancement has a practical purpose and use instead of simply looking cool. Nothing feels exaggerated or eccentric, rather the atmosphere is that of a captivating spy thriller that happens to be set in Star Wars. All this creates an ambience that is prime for a ground-breaking Star Wars story. 

In addition to all the change Andor promises, it also features a true character exploration with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Tony Gilroy dives head-first into the Andor character; complete with a compelling backstory and steady transformation into a rebel legend. There is no quick spark that gets Cassian on board with the rebellion, rather it’s a slow-burn of disillusion and dire circumstances. It’s fascinating to see the character slowly evolve as we learn more about the damage the Empire caused him. Gilroy lets Andor breathe and not rush into hasty action sequences. It’s a calculated, layered series that is concentrated on world-building and character analysis.

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. (Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The series also dives into a realistic perspective of imperial officers, showing the effective brain-washing of the Empire and their morbidly sincere intentions for “order and justice.” There are no mustache-twirling caricatures; instead, there are indoctrinated soldiers believing in their all encompassing ideals. This creates a somber look into the Empire which grounds it in a reality that feels all too familiar to our own world. The natural feel of the story sets up some of the most relatable Star Wars characters. From Cassian to Bix, they all feel like real people raised in this hectic world. By the fourth episode, we get to the political machinations of the Empire and even more of a logistical look into the galactic rule during this time. This is all incredibly fascinating inside the Star Wars universe! We’ve seen all types of space battles and wild force powers, but an introspective diagnosis of this world is something that can be just as exhilarating.

Andor is truly spectacular. An unadulterated, conscious exploration of the impact of the Empire, and how their power grows on the backs of apathy and complacency. The series is laser focused on setting up the story the right way instead of the most marketable way. It’s a true departure from the Star Wars formula and it thrives because of it. Gilroy created a story that is the most cognizant Star Wars story. An authentic, lived-in world that sets up stakes in a deliberate manner which feels natural to the story. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe. A truly original take on a franchise that has seen all kinds of perspectives. Andor is an exciting and intriguing exploration of a galaxy far, far, away!

Rating: 9/10

The first three episodes of Andor begin streaming on Disney+ on September 21.


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