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Walt Disney Probably Wouldn't Have Liked 'Andor' Star Wars Show

A little bit of fan service goes a long way. But lately, it seems like the Star Wars franchise has been drowning in fan service.

It’s one thing to include a clever wink at a previous film or other aspects of the lore of a long-running film (and now television) franchise like Star Wars. These sorts of moments, like having Ewan McGregor repeating the line “Hello There,” in the recent Disney+ “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series, echicong the character’s line from the very first “Star Wars” film and the trilogy, is a nice moment for fans, and it fit seemly into the series’ largest story.

But too much fan service can make a film seem strained and laborious, which was one of many problems with the prequel film “Han Solo,” which thuddingly explained backstory points ranging from how Han Solo met Chewbacca to how he acquired the Millennium Falcon that just didn’t need to be explained, to the detriment of telling a memorable story.

The problem is that having acquired the Star Wars franchise from LucasFilm, Disney (DIS) seems downright afraid of upsetting fans in any way. It was understandable that director J.J. Abrams played it safe with the 2015 reboot “The Force Awakens,” as it was the first film in the series in a decade, and Disney wanted to win back fan loyalty after the often mocked prequel trilogy. But when director Rian Johnson tried to mess with the formula with 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” a portion of the fanbase reacted with rancor, upset that Johnson added shades of moral gray to Luke Skywalker and made the character Rey not part of the Skywalker bloodline. 

When Abrams returned to the director’s chair for 2019’s “The Rise of Skywalker,” it felt very much like Disney was running away from Johnson’s choices in an effort to mollify the most prickly fans. But the result lately has been a franchise that seems stuck in the past, unwilling to take risk or deviate from the Skywalker and Jedi storyline that’s been at the heart of the series, but which has arguably now run out of gas. 

While “The Mandalorian” has earned praise and fan loyalty for breaking the mold, the subsequent series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “The Book of Boba Fett,” have been focused on characters introduced four decades ago, a sign that Disney is afraid to move into the future.

But one way to move beyond fan service is to employ the services of a storyteller who is not a fan of the franchise, but knows what the franchise needs.

‘Rogue One’ Broke The Mold

At first, the Star Wars film “Rogue One,” seems destined to be more enjoyable if unnecessary fan service, a way to answer a fan question from the first “Star Wars” film (i.e. how it was possible for Luke to destroy the Death Star with a single shup) that didn’t need to really be filled in.

But when Disney saw the rough cut of “Rogue One,” directed by Gareth Edwards, the studio felt the move fell flat, so it recruited the in demand screenwriter and director Tony Gilroy (known for the 2007 classic “Michael Clayton,”) to fix the film.

As noted in a Rolling Stone feature, Gilroy once mentioned in an interview that “I’ve never been interested in Star Wars, ever. So I had no reverence for it whatsoever.” But this turned out to be a good thing. Gilroy pushed for the film to be less like a Star Wars film and more like a war film, with the characters engaging in a suicde mission with no survivors. It was a gutsy move, but Gilroy was vindicated when “Rogue One,” became a huge hit, both at the box office and with hardcore fans.

Disney+’s new streaming show “Andor,” tells the backstory of Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor. Gilroy has said he purposefully is avoiding any references to Jedi and other established aspects of Star Wars lore in order to tell a new story, as the prequel takes place five years before the Rebel Alliance forms to defeat the Empire.

It's a Gritty Story

Instead, Gilroy set out to create much grittier Star Wars tale than before (an opening scene takes place in a brothel, certainly a first for the chaste Star Wars universe), and one that explores everyday life under the fascist rule of Empire, while also telling the story of a migrant trying to find their way in their adopted home. 

But it’s still “Star Wars,” so Andor is a thief who steals to provide for his family and nonetheless becomes a hero on the run from the Empire, in the form of a stuffy bureaucrat, the security officer Syril Karn, played by Kyle Soller. There’s also a droid with the absurd name droid B2EMO, and a perhaps nefarious trader played by Stellan Skarsgård.

“Andor” is set to be a two season limited series that wills in the background on the events leading up to “Rogue One,” and therefore the original trilogy, while also exploring the unseen, seedier side of the franchise. In theory, it could be a welcome change. But whether “Andor” pulls it all off is another question entirely. 

What Are Critics Saying About 'Andor?'

The reviews for the first three episodes of the 12-episode season are now in. Critics mostly seem surprised with how much the show deviates from the Star Wars formula, but some have issues with the pacing.

Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall appreciates the change of pace for the series, but laments that the "treating a season of television like one big movie" approach leads to interesting but formless episodes, and feels like the season doesn't really kick in until the third installment.

Consequences' Liz Shannon Miller praises Luna's performance and the world building, but notes "it is genuinely frustrating to report how badly structured the first four episodes of 'Andor' are."

The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Feinberg also finds it a bit slow, but appreciates the darker tone and focus on "the gap between the haves and have-nots."

The Daily Beast thinks the show strains a bit to make Andor a Han Solo-level icon, but enjoys the grittier tone, compared to most Star Wars offerings.

The Mary Sue just can't say enough nice things about Luna's weathered, soulful performance, and isn't that concerned with the pacing.

Variety feels like "Andor" doesn't feel like a Star Wars show...and that's a good thing.

Collider loves "Andor" and thinks it's just what the Star Wars franchise needs at the moment.

Star Wars for grown-ups? IGN is down with that.

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