Andor (Review): My Favourite Star Wars In 17 Years

Andor is freaking brilliant! That’s all you need to know? Oh, fine. I’ll tell you more…

Andor is the latest Star Wars prequel. Its 5 years before A New Hope, and the evil Empire crushes the galaxy in its fist. Cassian Andor prefers to survive alone and avoid the corruption on his own terms. But he’s left with few choices after he murders two security guards: let the Empire arrest him, or take his chances working for a shady gentleman whom the Empire ALSO hunts.

Holy crap, guys. This is the Star Wars project I’ve dreamed about since 2012! I had little faith Star Wars could be this good again, let alone GREAT, but Andor restored my faith in this fledgling franchise.

I’m also pleased to note that Andor will please non-Star Wars fans and franchise devotees alike. Its story is stand-alone enough, and well-explained enough, that one need not know the full context of what came before or after. TV fans can enjoy this show on its own merits. Hell, it might get some new fans into Star Wars if people give it a fair shot.

Diego Luna is stoic yet charming as Andor. His character progression, while inevitable (this being a prequel and all), fascinated me in its execution. The rebellion isn’t a movement he decides to join on a whim. His collective experiences, and the people he meets, slowly change his mind and heart. And every shift of his mental state is expertly choreographed!

I love how Andor is generally not a good dude, but we root for him anyway. He’s a murderer, liar, womanizer, manipulator, doesn’t repay his debts, and generally looks out for only himself. But we like Andor more for his soft side: he’s kind to droids (when we know people in Star Wars often are not), he and his ex remain cordial, and he’s a momma’s boy.

Arguably MORE compelling than Andor is his supporting cast and their stories. Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) smuggles money to anti-imperial groups, Bix (Adria Arjona) sells supplies to a shadow organization under the Empire’s nose, Vel and Cinta (Faye Marsay and Varada Sethu) engage in violent political activism, and Luthen (Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd) schemes to connect all parties into a cohesive movement.

On the other side is Dedra Meero (Denise Gough): a ruthless woman from the imperial security bureau who’s determined to advance her career by cracking a conspiracy of rebellion. There’s also Syril Karn (Kyle Soller): a by-the-books security officer with a black and white sense of justice, who refuses to let Andor get away with murder.

SIDE NOTE: Syril reminded me of Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. And he may be the most relatable character in the Star Wars franchise.

Dialogue is sharp, and efficiently builds character. And the monologues? My Lord, the monologues… Actors of high calibre delivering such powerful prose is enough to inspire even a tame man like me to acts of rebellion! They stirred emotions inside me which I can’t say I’ve ever felt while watching TV.

Andor‘s humor is sparse but mostly lands. The series took itself seriously enough that its rare attempts at humor actually broke tension, instead of undermined their respective moments.

Importantly, characters act like adults and make rational decisions (a rarity nowadays). They’re complex people who make mistakes, grow, and learn. And their choices have consequences which span further than they realize. Nothing they do is without reason or effect.

To the negatives now: Andor‘s snailish pace is tough to swallow. Many episodes feel as if nothing whatsoever happened. Though that isn’t true in the least. It’s just that, for every hour of action and emotional climaxes, we receive multiple hours of build-up and tension for the grand pay-offs.

I can’t knock the set-up episodes too badly though, because they still wowed me! I appreciate Andor‘s restraint in acquainting us with each of the worlds Cassian visits, the characters which inhabit them, and what they all aim to accomplish. The result: I gave a damn by the time gun-play began. And I genuinely worried for characters’ lives!

Still– Andor‘s first two episodes didn’t entirely sell me on the series. I hadn’t yet realized the formula, so I assumed the entire show would be as slow-paced. Then episode 3 hit and turned Andor into my favourite live action Star Wars show. My adoration for Andor grew every week from then on.

Andor features the galaxy’s regular ‘ol folks: junk traders, mercenaries, and politicians– not Jedi, Sith, or great heroes. And, in doing so, it effectively showcases the dread average Imperial citizens face daily. The Galactic Empire has never felt so imposing, disturbing, and real.

Yes, Andor feels real in a way which Star Wars never has… before now. The Empire’s tactics and politics frighteningly mirror our society’s slow slip into dystopia. Yet Andor‘s messages never feel heavy-handed or aimed at politically conscious people. It’s distinctly Star Wars in its themes. But it is, nonetheless, a timely story which inspires me to think critically about democracy’s sad state.

A Star Wars project ought to show some of the war part, right? For sure! But don’t go in expecting wall-to-wall thrills. What action sequences there are feature immersive settings, camera-work, and editing, adrenaline-pumping stakes, shocking twists, and fist-pumping conclusions. This ain’t no simple shoot-em-up turn-your-brain-off stuff; this is seriously good stuff.

What helps here is that Andor is Star Wars’ best-looking show by a parsec. It features REAL sets and real extras; location-shoots in exotic-looking places; characters wear exceptionally designed costumes which range in formality, functionality, and culture; its cinematography is exceptional; and its filmmaking craft rivals most films I’ve watched this year. All this to say Andor looks like it has a budget, unlike most Disney+ shows… Er– I mean it looks to be a lived-in, functioning world, which feels like classic Star Wars again.

Andor is the best Star Wars content since 1980. And it’s damn good TV in a broad sense too. I’m blown away!

Andor is a series to Watch A.S.A.P!

What’s your most anticipated Star Wars show, movie, or game? What did you think of Andor? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.

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Till next time,
Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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