An article from Fulcrum agent Ashla.
There was a world before Star Wars, and there is the world since.
45 years after the release of George Lucas’ “New Hope” the galaxy far, far away is as ubiquitous as taxes and pancakes. The way we consume entertainment has changed, sure, in part because of the creative, technical and commercial revolution Star Wars itself ushered in – an irony not lost on me. We have access to more content than ever and live in a golden age of escapism; block-busting intellectual properties are on every screen, every channel, every week. This also means a crowded landscape and desensitized viewership that makes it harder for daring storytelling to stand out. In a world where each new series or movie is ‘an event’, how can anything stand out and make an impact?
First off, the series features some of, if not the best filmmaking on streaming this year. A storyteller is god of the world they build. As such they have the power and responsibility to leave nothing to chance. Because visual storytelling combines so many creative and technical disciplines, the task in that medium is even more critical and Herculean. Identifying the purpose is an objective means of judging the skills of a filmmaker as well as the quality of their work, and Andor’s score is nearly perfect on every one of those levels.
From writing to the final touches of post production, everything informs a point: the blocking of characters in a scene, the timing of a cut, the varying styles of each opening music cue – even the choice of color schemes in costumes… The whole series is driven by a sense of purpose that speaks of an artist in full control of their craft. There is no fan service here, no gimmick.
When a TIE fighter appears on screen for the first time, the preceding sound of its engines in an otherwise quiet scene compounds the reaction of the characters on the ground, and underlines the threat. The menace is real, evil is an invisible mechanized steamroller that doesn’t discriminate between targets, like a killer drone over the skies of Kabul or Kiev.
Now let’s explore Andor’s place on the Star Wars canvas. Some say the series doesn’t fall in with the tone of Star Wars stories, that Andor is too dark, too serious.
I wouldn’t watch the series with a seven year old, no – but not because it’s “too grown-up”. Andor is no more violent or graphic than other Star Wars series or movies, in fact less so. There’s not a severed limb, smoldering skeleton or murdered child in sight in any episode. A young child would likely just miss the finer, more important points of the story. At ten or twelve years of age however, I would argue the series is must-see viewing and provides a critical gateway for children to understand the world they are growing into.
Star Wars is a modern reimagining of Flash Gordon, yes. It’s romance, it’s fast and fun, even goofy sometimes. But Star Wars is also politics, mythology, spirituality, moral ethics and life lessons. Star Wars is unafraid to tackle big ideas. It’s a story meant for children first, but one that does not talk down to them or shy from showing life for what it is.
It can be as straightforward as rescuing a princess, or as heady as learning your own father is a mass murderer. George Lucas’ two trilogies and their animated companion piece, The Clone Wars, defined the boundaries of the Star Wars sand box as a vast well of ideas bound by rules and a language that Andor identifies to perfection.
One of the central tenets of Star Wars is the question of ends justifying the means. Right is right and wrong is wrong, but man slides between the two like a dancing flame. The saga is replete with examples of bad people capable of redemption, and good people falling from grace. Andor seizes on this notion and makes it the driving heart of its story, building a game board on which every character and decision becomes an opportunity to showcase a repeating Star Wars coda: “you’ll find many of the truths we cling to, depend on our point of view”; “there are heroes and villains on both sides”.
Andor also features another cornerstone theme of the greater Star Wars story, the influence of role models on who we become. The first principal characters we are introduced to are Cassian Andor and Syril Karn. They are antagonists and polar opposites on the story’s axis. One believes in nothing, the other is a fanatic. While Andor follows an organic route to commitment and a cause, Syril keeps the blinds up and doubles down against all odds. In both cases, the characters are molded and their destiny is set in motion by a parent: one who inspires, the other who beats down.
But the best thing about Andor is perhaps not the skill behind its making, or its tasteful understanding of Star Wars thematics. No, the best thing about Andor is that it expands the boundaries of the Star Wars language.
George Lucas gave us a timeless mythology to live by. Andor shows us how that message applies to real life, today. When “A New Hope” came out in 1977 the world was coming out of a series of storms. Star Wars was a takeaway, a blueprint to show us how to pick ourselves up and move on.
Today the storm looms ahead, not behind and Andor is a call to arms as much as a warning: like Karis Nemik’s manifesto or Maarva’s poignant speech in the season finale, the story of Andor identifies the threat we face, what it will take, reminding us that if we keep faith, the battle is already won no matter the cost.
If that isn’t the pure spirit of Star Wars, I don’t know what is.
You can listen to The 602 Club review of Andor: Season One here.