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The Hollywood Insider Andor Review

Photo: ‘Andor’

Many Star Wars fans, casual or diehard, will generally agree that Disney has milked the franchise cash cow dry a long time ago.  In 2012, when Disney announced that it was developing a new Star Wars movie, the level of anticipation across American pop culture was something never seen before.  We then got ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and while the film was not bad by any means, its recollection in hindsight, even amongst Star Wars fans, is almost nonexistent in comparison to the anticipation of its release.  We then got two sequels in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’, the former divisive, the latter panned, and both long forgotten.  We also got a couple of spin-offs in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ and ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, both also forgotten. 

With the arrival of Disney Plus, we then got ‘The Mandalorian’ which is alright for what it is and a story that tries to stand on its own.  But then we got ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ which nobody outside of die hard Star Wars fans asked for.  ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ sounded promising as fans would get to see Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen back on screen together again, but it left a lot of potential on the table.  This is not even to mention the slew of other spin-offs, prequels, and other projects that Lucasfilm has in development.  At this point, it should not be surprising if Jabba the Hutt got his own spinoff.  To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with giving any character their own spinoff project, as long as they can hold their own as a main character and if there’s an engaging story to be told.

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And now, we have ‘Andor’, a series following soon to be rebel spy Cassian Andor, taking place about 5 years before the events of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, in which Andor was a main character.  In all fairness to the show, it is safe to say that this was a project almost nobody asked for.  Especially amongst a slew of subpar spin-offs and prequels, a series focused on one of the characters in a forgotten film would understandably be of little interest to fans.  That being said, the show is pretty damn good.  To echo what has already been said by many, this is very different from what we are used to seeing in Star Wars.  It is a lot more grounded and very in the moment for a Star Wars show.  There are some pacing and structural aspects that weigh the show down a bit, but it is still a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe and a solid guide as to the direction the franchise must follow.  

Full Rendezvous at the Premiere of ‘Andor’

‘Andor’ – A Contemporary Story With Stakes

Those behind the series have previously said that it would be almost entirely free of anything that could be labeled as “fan service”.  And it looks like they were not bluffing.  Other than mentions here and there of the Empire or an Imperial something, there is absolutely no mention of anything else previously established in the Star Wars universe.  The show gives us probably the grittiest take on the galaxy far, far away to date.  The lighting, color palette, and most importantly, the cinematography, bring the audience away from the endless and redundant space battles and into the actual world and lives of these characters.  The performances from the likes of Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Kyle Soller, and Stellan Skarsgard all contribute to the relatively grounded series of events transpiring in this story.   Aunt Petunia herself, Fiona Shaw, also has a small role in the series, which she is absolutely fantastic in.  Her character, Maarva, rescued Cassian as a boy and has looked after him ever since.  Shaw enigmatically conveys the same grief and anxiety as that of an actual mother worried about her child.

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Another notable element of the show that deserves recognition is its incorporation of themes and subject matter surrounding indigenous and environmental rights.  To briefly touch on one part of the story, in a flashback, we discover that Cassian was born into a tribe on a planet called Kenari where he and his tribe discover an Imperial mining plant that threatens their home.  This is something unfortunately still all too familiar to us.  Even today, indigenous communities have their homes and land destroyed due to fossil fuel projects and mining ventures, as is currently the case in Brazil at the behest of the country’s neo fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro. For ‘Andor’ to touch on an issue like this, especially in a non-simplified way, is something definitely worth noting.

Room For Retooling

The show is not without areas of growth, however.  While the writing is solid, the dialogue is kept crisp, and the plot is relatively interesting, there’s something about the show that may have the viewer zoning out every now and then.  The best explanation is that the series may have an issue with pacing and holding tension.  Many scenes feel like they linger for a bit too long and could be much shorter and straight to the point without rushing the events or some of the character decisions.  The show also jumps between two different time periods.  The scenes in the past storyline really do not need to be spread out across multiple episodes, but could have easily been one sequence at the beginning of the pilot.  There are ways to effectively jump back and forth between two timelines, but here it felt unnecessary and a bit jarring.

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Some Promise

Despite the issues with this first batch of episodes, however, the rest of the series definitely looks promising.  One last thing that the series should be commended for is keeping its upbeat action sequences few, far between, and at a minimum.  Unlike other Star Wars projects as well as other blockbuster films and shows, this series so far understands that if you establish a captivating story and put complicated characters first, if you focus on developing those elements, and then if you bring them to a head in what should be an exciting action sequence then you can create a high functioning and entertaining drama. Establish the stakes first, make the audience care about the stakes, then put the pieces together.  

In other words, the series accomplished the main goal of any television program which is to get your audience to want to tune in to the following episode.

Cast: Diego Luna, Adria Arjona, Kyle Soller, Stellan Skarsgard, Fiona Shaw

Written by: Tony Gilroy

Created by: Tony Gilroy

Directed by: Toby Haynes

By Nader Chamas

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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