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‘Andor’ Soars by Making a Galaxy Far, Far Away Feel Human

‘Andor’ Soars by Making a Galaxy Far, Far Away Feel Human

Disney’s time at the helm of Star Wars has been complicated. There have been considerable highs and considerable lows and, now, sprawl. On Disney Plus, George Lucas’ once pleasingly sparse space opera has become a source of near endless content. We’ve gone both forward (The Mandalorian), backward (Star Wars: Visions) and even kinda lateral (Obi-Wan Kenobi). But the most successful foray might be the one we never saw coming.

Andor picks up ahead of the events of Rogue One, following Cassian (Diego Luna) and a band of very Star Warsian misfits on their way to creating what would become the Rebel Alliance. Often, this sort of prequel, origin-story-to-a-thing-we-didn’t-really-need-an-origin-to can end up toiling in over-explanation and exceedingly dull lore. But Andor is a very different kind of Star War. It’s quiet, multi-dimensional, putting both its heroes and its villains under the microscope to see what they’re actually made of. Instead of the grand mythology of the Skywalker family or the familiar tropes of Mando and the Child, we get exceedingly human characters who talk, think and reason like people you actually know. You don’t realize how rare this is in a Star Wars property until you see it here.

Andor has a unique perspective on familiar Star Wars beats. From its lens, the Empire is less a singular engine of simple fascism than a broad mess of loosely connected bureaucratic administration and “just doing my job” law enforcement officials. This Empire is still the same Palpatine-led entity with the same ultimate impact on our heroes, but it’s a very different vision of what a fascistic empire might look like to the average person. The humanization lends an extra chill to just how inhumane the system ends up being.

And our collection of heroes feel more real too, by virtue of how unheroic many of them seem to be. These are the men and women who exist in the background of the various trilogies — the cannon fodder who get offed by storm trooper blaster fire while the main heroes take care of the important work of saving the world. Princess Leia isn’t going to drape a medal over their heads, but Andor makes it clear that their lives and actions are still meaningful in galaxy that is succumbing to the darkness.

All of this means Andor feels different than most other Star Wars movies and shows, mostly avoiding the familiar camera wipes, John Williams themes and familiar faces. It’s shot beautifully, lingering in delicate closeups of our characters so that we can really see them wrestle with enormous ethical quandaries. The dialog is rich and wonderfully performed, but the acting really stands out when there just isn’t much to say and we can see the interior struggle of people fighting the beginning of a war that feels bigger than any of them. But if you’re going to name your franchise Star Wars then sooner or later, you’ve got to take the war part seriously. And for Andor, the best way to do that is going small and focusing on the people instead of the stars.

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