While it would be an overstatement to claim that the franchise is in trouble, few would argue that Star Wars is currently at its height. The excitement generated by the first season of The Mandalorian gave way to a mixed response to the lore-heavy second season and to the relatively unpopular The Book of Boba Fett. On the cinematic side of things, both the controversial The Last Jedi and the disappointing The Rise of Skywalker did well at the box office, but no new film is in production yet (and announced projects like Rogue Squadron have been shelved). Animated series such as The Bad Batch certainly continue to do well, and fans largely seemed to enjoy the live-action Obi-Wan Kenobi.
For many, the problem boils down to a matter of focus. Should Star Wars follow the path set by the nine main films and continue to be about the Skywalker family? Or should the franchise branch out and tell stories in a space-traveling world dealing with a galactic empire? Those who believe the latter will get some evidence to back up their point, as early reactions to Andor celebrate the show for its change in direction.
A spin-off of the prequel movie Rogue One, Andor follows Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, a morally dubious member of the rebellion in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. On press tours supporting the show, Luna and other stars have promised that showrunner Tony Gilroy has crafted a uniquely grounded Star Wars story, one that reflects the politics of our time. And if early reactions to the show are any indication, Gilroy has succeeded marvelously. Critics and fans call the show “different from the rest of modern Star Wars, for better & worse,” featuring a “very, very different kind of Star Wars protagonist.”
Consistently, viewers say that they found the show challenging at first, with the first two episodes feeling quite slow. However, they unanimously praise episode three as a highlight; the point at which they became completely hooked. Disney appears to have anticipated this complaint, choosing to release the first three episodes all on September 21.
Most reactions also singled out the show’s cast, with special attention going not only to star Luna, but also to veteran actors Stellan Skarsgård and Fiona Shaw. Acknowledging some of the visual problems with Obi-Wan Kenobi, reactions call the design of the new show grounded and lived in. Perhaps most importantly, early viewers admit that Andor doesn’t feel like a Star Wars show, describing it instead as “a completely new, adult sci-fi drama.”
Of course, it remains to be seen if the general audience will appreciate the change in approach. Though by no means homogenous, Star Wars has always had a large fan base, who have their expectation for the franchise. Will Andor create too much division? Or will fans and the general public appreciate a different type of Star Wars story? We’ll find out when Andor hits Disney+ on September 21.