Star Wars Andor Breaks From the Disney+ Playbook in One Surprising Way
The story may take place a long time ago, but Andor promises a socially relevant and politically charged Star Wars story.
Andor always promised to be a different type of Star Wars show. Where series such as The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi rely heavily on nostalgia, harkening back to the Original Trilogy or the Prequels, Andor fleshes out a movie from the Disney era, Rogue One. Very few people will be tuning in because they have fond childhood memories of watching Diego Luna’s spy Cassian Andor conduct black ops for the Rebellion.
But if Andor‘s Fiona Shaw is to be believed, the series will also separate itself from other Disney+ shows in a more substantial way: “Our world is exploding in different places right now, people’s rights are disappearing, and Andor reflects that,” the actor told Empire Magazine. For Shaw, this quality comes from showrunner Tony Gilroy, who also directed extensive reshoots for Rogue One. “Tony has written a great, scurrilous [take] on the Trumpian world,” Shaw declared.
That seems like a far cry from the nostalgia-obsessed Western trappings of The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett. But it’s not a far cry from Star Wars. In fact, George Lucas often cited the political sources that inspired the Original Trilogy, from borrowing Leni Riefenstahl’s fascist imagery when shooting stormtrooper formations to mirroring Viet Cong guerilla tactics in the Ewok’s rebellion. More than just sci-fi fairy tales set in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars began entrenched in the politics of the 1970s and 80s.
Such an approach shouldn’t be unexpected from Gilroy. Before Gilroy joined the production of Rogue One, he established himself as one of the best writers of political thrillers. In addition to scripting the first three movies in the Bourne series, Gilroy also wrote and directed the acclaimed legal thriller Michael Clayton, which starred George Clooney as a morally compromised lawyer.
Gilroy brings that same complexity to Star Wars, according to Shaw, who was “was impressed by Tony’s social-realist intentions.” For Andor, Shaw stated, Gilroy “created a whole new morality. It’s very deep and humane – there is grief, mourning, hope, fear.”
Andor star Diego Luna echoed these sentiments in a recent conversation with Den of Geek magazine. Looking at the character’s death in Rogue One as “a beginning,” Luna approached the role as a puzzle: “We know where this character ends, but how complicated can we make it for him to get there?” That word “complicated” is key, as it captures Andor’s position as an anti-hero. In his very first scene, Andor revealed himself as a person willing to cross boundaries in pursuit of the greater good, gunning down an informant to close a trail that could harm the Rebellion.
In Andor, we’ll learn that part of that attitude stems from the character’s unmoored past. Speaking of Cassian’s history, Luna told Den of Geek that, “It’s difficult to find out where he comes from because obviously he’s been forced to move.” Even that aspect has modern political resonance, Luna notes. “And today, the story of a refugee is a story that is very pertinent to the world and where we find it.”
While it’s clear that the prospect of a socially-relevant Star Wars excites Shaw and Luna, it remains to be seen if fans will come along. For some, the Disney-era movies and streaming shows have been too indebted to what came before, commenting upon past intellectual properties instead of engaging with the world as it is today. Long missing has been the social commentary that is a central building block of Star Wars, in favor of Disney+ shows full of fan service-y cameos and easter eggs that lack much actual substance. To see Andor embrace the former and ditch a bit of the latter would certainly feel like a breath of fresh air in 2022.
But for a small section of the fandom who first watched Star Wars as children and want to keep things the way they were back in 1977, the franchise is already too political. Given their absolute seething over just the inclusion of heroes who aren’t straight white men, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be onboard for a sci-fi series that underscores the clear similarities between the fascist Galactic Empire and the Trump Administration.
Whether Andor will push modern Star Wars out of its nostalgic slump or further upset those stuck in the past, it seems that this series will do something very different from other recent entries in the franchise. We’ll get to see that for ourselves when the first three episodes of Andor come to Disney+ on Sept. 21, 2022.