Star Wars: Ahsoka is a rollicking dive into a beloved franchise - review

Former Jedi Ahsoka Tano joins Disney+’s Star Wars universe with a show guaranteed to please fans

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: Ahsoka. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd
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Last week, Disney announced it was to close Lucasfilm’s Singapore VFX and animation studio after two decades because of “economic factors”. Meanwhile, its $350 million Galactic Starcruiser immersive hotel in Florida is to close in September, after customers failed to rush to stump up around $1,000 a night to role-play the life of a rebel soldier.

In cinemas, the franchise is on something of a hiatus until at least 2026, after the studio reworked its schedules following lukewarm reactions to 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker.

You’d be forgiven for wondering if Disney is losing faith in the magical box office qualities it saw in Star Wars when it handed $4 billion to creator George Lucas in 2012 for ownership.

From the opening seconds of Star Wars: Ahsoka, however, it’s clear that the cutbacks haven’t extended to the small screen. A big-budget spaceship looms into view, a pair of mysterious hooded figures dispatch an entire security unit, half a planet is wiped out in an FX-heavy act of mass destruction, and we’ve barely had time to settle.

Star Wars: Ahsoka

Director: Various
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Lars Mikkelsen
Rating: 4/5

Regular viewers will recognise Ahsoka from her appearances in The Mandalorian, as well as a voice-over cameo in The Rise of Skywalker, while hardcore fans will know her well from frequent appearances in the vast Star Wars animated universe.

Rosario Dawson reprises her Mandalorian role for the new series, set in roughly the same period – during the first few years of the New Republic, immediately after the defeat of the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi.

The one-time Jedi, and Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice, now operates alone, although the series finds her reunited with her own former apprentice Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) in short order, and the pair set about hunting down Grand Admiral Thrawn, a powerful Imperial commander who threatens to destroy the fragile peace the Republic has established.

Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano and Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

That’s the briefest outline of the background to Ahsoka. It’s fair to say you can lose hours studying the timelines of the sprawling Star Wars universe, but thankfully that’s not necessary to enjoy this latest instalment.

Series creators Jon Favreau, who also created The Mandalorian, and Lucasfilm’s animation chief Dave Filoni, turning his hand to live action, know exactly where the right buttons for Star Wars fans are. They don’t waste any time pressing them.

If you find the franchise can be too conservative in its use of lightsabres – perhaps the most recognisable object in the entire Star Wars universe – Ahsoka could change your mind. The Jedi order may have been destroyed several years ago, during the events of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, but a few former Jedi survive.

Star Wars: Ahsoka starts off on a rollicking pace. Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd

Some, like Ahsoka, put their abilities to good use, helping the fledgling Republic establish itself. Others put their powers to more morally ambiguous purposes as lightsabres for hire. Unsurprisingly, the two approaches don’t sit comfortably together and we don’t have to wait long for the first unmistakable buzzing and crackling of a lightsabre duel.

Mandalorians are another firm fan favourite, ever since bounty hunter Boba Fett first suited up in 1980s The Empire Strikes Back. If you ever wondered what would happen if you gave a Mandalorian warrior Jedi powers and a lightsabre, Ahsoka has the answer: Sabine Wren, who seems a guaranteed hit with her combination of two of the franchise’s most popular tropes.

There’s much reverence for Star Wars lore on display, with Easter eggs aplenty for the devoted, while big-hitting newcomers include David Tennant as Jedi training droid Huyang and Lars Mikkelsen as the hunted Imperial admiral.

The result is a tantalising blend of some of the most-loved aspects of Star Wars’ past alongside some grade-A newcomers, all firing at a rollicking pace from the outset, and eschewing the slow burn of the last new entry to the Disney+ canon, Andor. It’s hard to see fans doing anything short of approve.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 7:20 AM
Star Wars: Ahsoka

Director: Various
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Lars Mikkelsen
Rating: 4/5