As big franchises of science fiction and superheroes proliferated, their motto was that television was a place for diversity and creative freedom to do something different within reason. Hence Marvel’s seminal meta “WandaVision” or Paramount’s goofy and animated “Star Trek: Lower Deck.”
‘Andor’, the latest series in the ‘Star Wars’ universe (premiers Wednesday) Disney+), using none of these difficult detours. But it differs in its own way. In his four (12) episodes available for review, I feel like I’ve grown to love a lot: “Blade Runner,” “Avatar,” “Casablanca,” Vietnam War tropes. Star Wars. “
There’s nothing wrong with that. The defining characteristic of “Andor” is how it takes the story of “Star Wars” and replaces it visually and tonally without conceptualizing it. Aliens clad in copious amounts of latex, Storm his troopers in plastic his suits, and vast, exotic landscapes have, for the most part, disappeared. Humans (or humanoids) in unremarkable uniforms appear against the backdrop of a run-down urban industry. Saturday’s costume-heavy serial Space Opera is replaced by his outspoken sci-fi action on real-world anti-corporate themes.
The good news for Andor is that the new look and feel has been meticulously and evocatively rendered. Led by creator and showrunner Tony Gilroy, a lot of effort went into giving the show a gritty, realistic feel. An homage to “Blade Runner,” his scene in the opening leads to a dark, seamed version of the typical “Star Wars” cantina, but is a witty example of the show’s methods.
But making ‘Andor’ more like ‘Star Wars’ means making it more like many other sci-fi dramas, in this case. That superficial charm is important, but you might find yourself looking for what other his sci-fi stories have to offer, such as compelling characters and narrative heartbeats.
Following the usual pattern of serialized franchise expansions, ‘Andor’ takes us back in time, fleshing out and coloring it with small retrospective parts of the overall story. (Advancing the story is still the domain of the film.) In this case, it’s an even smaller piece than usual. Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, was a character created for the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is itself a standalone time capsule. To give is to embroider on embroideries.
Gilroy was brought in to rewrite “Rogue One,” but he may have had the feeling the job wasn’t done. Because the real challenge of putting Cassian at the center of the series is that he’s the film’s cypher. A ruthless plot and a seedy past that only serves as a foil for the film’s young heroine. When he joins her in her self-sacrificing haze of glory, it feels like his epiphany wasn’t quite taken.
There’s no reason a character like that couldn’t be turned into something more interesting for the series, but in the early days, “Andor” just doesn’t pull it off. is based on a childhood on a planet where indigenous people are being exploited by imperial licensed mining companies. (These forest and planetary flashbacks are a very clear representation of the old colonialist cliché “Star Wars” that we go to when describing the reach of an empire.)
But that new information doesn’t make him any more interesting. Humphrey Bogart’s attempt to make his adult character, a thief and black marketer cynical and romantic in his style, also refuses to choose a side until forced into his hand. A secret rebel leader, played by Stellan Skarsgård, tracks down Cassian and enlists him in a dangerous mission against the corporation that ravaged his home planet.
The scenes in which Skarsgard’s characters recruit Cassian while being chased by corporate goons are a large part of the fourth episode, and are an exciting and well-executed action set. It’s typical of ‘Andor’, the action and design are more than satisfying, and the thinness of the character setting leaves you unsatisfied. The same can be said about the school’s “Star Wars” movies, but they can constitute part of the balance between emotional and pure, propulsive entertainment value.)
“Y to Mama TambienA great actor in 2001, but he still can’t bring much more than an air of juvenile discontent to the very hard-to-care-for Cassian. is. People seem less important than depictions of political intrigue and corporate malfeasance. These are handled well, but not all that different from many other dystopian dramas. and possibly a love interest.
A typical “Star Wars” production, the best performances tend to be done by robots. That was the case in “Rogue One,” where the giant war droid voiced by Alan Tudyk was the best reason to be notable. and voiced by Dave Chapman, it’s kind of a cross between a toolbox and a shop vacuum cleaner. He doesn’t have much to do in the early episodes, but there are signs of personality. Keep an eye on him when the fight really breaks out.