‘Andor’ review: ‘Star Wars’ prequel builds a darker world with a charismatic lead

Diego Luna returns as Cassian Andor in a 12-episode arc that reveals how the anti-hero in ‘Rogue One’ joined the rebellion

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It opens with rain. Appropriate weather for the seedy outpost of Morlana Corporate Zone to which Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) has flown in a borrowed ship and without the correct documentation on a mission to locate someone.

On arrival, he announces that his visit is business not pleasure, telling an alien in a bar that he is looking for a Kenari woman who has disappeared (“My sister”), establishing the first of many stakes, which will only multiply and climb higher.

From the outset, it feels like we’re not in Star Wars any more.

Where are the flashing computer consoles? The polished boots of the Imperial stooge? Even the elegance of the lightsabre is eschewed in favour of a scrappy jab to the throat when the two men try to shake down Andor and discover, to their detriment, that he may be small, but he packs a punch.

Rather too much of a punch, as he kills one of his pursuers, then shoots the other in the face, even as he begs for mercy. A colder approach than we’ve seen in other spin-off fare and one that sets the tone for the dark Han Solo vibe Luna serves up, with Harrison Ford-esque swagger, along with the hard-faced, black-eyed violence he brought to Narcos: Mexico as drug kingpin Miguel Gallardo.

Raymond Anum, Diego Luna and Ian Whyte in 'Andor', which peels back the layers on the anti-hero of 'Rogue One'. AP

Andor’s story unfurls with quick pacing in 40-minute episodes that whizz by far quicker than Obi-Wan Kenobi, and after this 12-episode arc, another season is promised.

Flashbacks to his childhood on Kenari sow the seeds of how a renegade is made as Andor and his sister watch Rebel ships in the skies over their riverside village. But it’s clear that his wide-eyed carefree attitude from childhood has been extinguished in his patched-together adult life, which is spent trying to keep his head both above water and under the radar.

Andor

Creator: Tony Gilroy
Stars: Diego Luna, Genevieve O'Reilly, Alex Ferns
Rating: 5/5

In classic Star Wars tradition, his friends and allies are loyal to this charismatic, yet slippery and prickly man. They like him but are under no illusions as to who he is — “You’ll do it the way you always do it. The Cassian way”. And in true rebel fashion, they’re right down there in the job trenches with him as miners, mechanics and junkyard workers, because Star Wars has always been about the Davids rather than the Goliaths.

Resident bad guy, inspector Syril Karn, comes courtesy of Poldark’s Kyle Soller and is a worthy challenger to Luna in a cheekbone-off. An Empire police officer, he embodies exactly the kind of uniformed, corporate ladder-climbing jobsworth who makes you wish for someone to shove him out the nearest airlock.

By this point, I know what you’re wondering.

Is there a cute yet sassy and/or wise droid sidekick to be found? Why, yes there is. B2EMO (voiced by Dave Chapman) worries about Andor the way a mother would, but doesn’t share a mother’s blinkers, telling him: “Sooner or later you’re going to get yourself into trouble you can’t talk your way out of.”

You might also be wondering how invested to get in a character whose fate was already sealed on that Scarif beach back in 2016 in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

To which I say that the answer is to be found in the fact of all the movies in George Lucas’s universe, Rogue One remains the film Star Wars fans never knew they wanted until it was served up to them, critically acclaimed, much-loved and grossing more than $1 billion at the box office.

Worry not. Cassian Andor delivers now, just as he did then.

The first three episodes of Andor are available to watch on Disney+. New episodes will be released every Wednesday

Updated: September 22, 2022, 4:17 AM
Andor

Creator: Tony Gilroy
Stars: Diego Luna, Genevieve O'Reilly, Alex Ferns
Rating: 5/5

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