I will start by showing my cards here and admitting that I can’t wait to see Andor, the latest of the Star Wars shows to premiere on Disney+. The only reason I haven’t already dipped back into the Star Wars universe is that my imagination is currently in Middle Earth, where the harfoots are undertaking a perilous journey and Sauron and his juicy, sunscreen-hoarding orcs are on the move. If I weren’t so deep into the story that Rings of Power is weaving, I would have settled down in front of the big screen with the lights off and watched for that familiar Star Wars logo that has brought joy to me since I was a kid. I’ve been waiting for a while for Andor to come out and I have greater expectations for this show than any of the previous Star Wars episodic TV shows (although I ended up enjoying them all).
The main reason that I’ve got such high hopes for Andor is that I loved the movie Rogue One, on which it is based. I enjoyed Rogue One so much that I read the prequel, Catalyst (which was the best Star Wars novel I’ve read). While Catalyst as a prequel focuses on the earlier history of the character Galen Erso and his friend who became his enemy, Orson Krennic, Andor focuses on the titular character of Cassian Andor. In Rogue One, it was hinted at several times that Andor had an eventful and adventurous backstory. Now audiences get to find out exactly how adventurous that backstory was and what events shaped Andor’s character.
For me, modern Star Wars movies peaked with Rogue One. Not longer after it debuted, we’ve now come to expect more television-style shows from the franchise than actual films. Moviegoing and television watching are completely different experiences. I remember vividly going to view the newer movies at Cinebistro, one of those theaters where you are served dinner before reclining in a luxurious oversized chair to watch the film you came to see. We would go as a development team from work and take up a few rows of the theater. I would always get the richest chocolate lava cake you can ever conceive of and deal with the stomach ache to go with it later. I loved seeing the movies as a group and then gathering around in the lobby later to discuss the merits of the films. We introduced more than one Star Wars newbie to the franchise that way, giving them homework of seeing the original trilogy.
Rogue One, a story of how the resistance against the Galactic Empire won its first victory, hit at a time when resistance seemed like a real thing that was brewing. Donald Trump had just been elected president, and already there were concerns about his ties with Russia and potential criminality. As I drove home from the theater, I heard then president Obama speaking about the allegations. “Resist” became a slogan, and the sci-fi story of the resistance that became a rebellion seemed timely and frankly, somewhat inspirational. Opposing a tyrannical government no longer seemed so abstract to those in America.
In a post for The Verge, Charles Pulliam-Moore summarizes Andor by way of describing how its preceding film set the stage.
Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards’ harrowing, shell-shocked, but ultimately optimistic story about the small group of freedom fighters who won the Rebel Alliance’s first victory against the Galactic Empire, was unlike any other Star Wars story when it debuted in 2016. As part of a franchise that — at the time — felt increasingly incapable of escaping the gravitational pull of its nostalgia-logged core mythology and its players, Rogue One was a sophisticated and hard-edged reminder that there’s always been so much more to Star Wars than the Skywalker saga. Andor, from Rogue One writer-turned-showrunner Tony Gilroy, doesn’t at all stray too far from the tone, scale, or frankness about the human costs of warring with fascists that defined the film it’s building up to.
Since becoming an adult, I've felt like war and violence are often depicted in a very glossy way on screen. Either that or they are gratuitously showcased. So war is glamorized or gritty, with reality settling somewhere outside the bounds of the cinematic universe from which the films come. Rogue One changed the way a Star Wars property treated war, with its painful casualties and disappointing losses. It felt like the first Star Wars film for adults. In a time when many "fans" accuse the changes in the Star Wars universe of retroactively ruining their childhoods, a subsequent series that's unashamedly aimed at adults seems almost necessary.
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