Andor, Disney+ review: believe the hype, it’s amazing

The prequel to 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story offers nuanced, scathing allegories and masterful production design.

Believe the hype: the new Star Wars show Andor really is that good.

Andor is a prequel to the acclaimed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Inspired by a throwaway line in the opening crawl of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Rogue One followed the wily team of Rebels who stole the evil Galactic Empire’s plans for the Death Star (you might remember Luke Skywalker blew it up at the end of the original movie). Instead of updating us on the family dramas of the Skywalkers, Rogue One had no chosen ones and no survivors. Leading man Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) was an embittered spy questioning the atrocities he’d committed in the service of the noble Rebellion.

Andor traces Cassian’s origins, picking up five years before his death at the height of the Empire’s oppressive regime. A thief and grifter by trade, Cassian – who once went by the name Kassa – survives on his wit and charm. Taken from his home planet Kenari as a child, he’s lived in the scrapyard world of Ferrix under falsified papers. Ferrix is controlled by an Imperial-affiliated mining corporation. The corporation’s might is enforced by puffed-up private security organisation called the ‘Corpos’ (a deliberate synonym for ‘cops’), who wisely leave the people of Ferrix to their own devices – until Cassian draws their ire by killing two guards who harass him.

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The story opens in a brothel: a mature choice for the family-friendly franchise. Cassian is searching for his long-lost sister from Kenari, a colonised planet devastated by industrial mining. As many have noted, there are some weighted allusions when the corporate guards start harassing him. The wannabe-cops demand Cassian’s documents, asking if he ‘swum here.’ Knowing how proud Luna was to keep his distinctive Mexican accent for Cassian , it’s refreshing to see a sensitive scene like this handled thoughtfully.

Andor has attracted praise for its maturity , from the complex dialogue (and the first-ever ‘shit’ uttered in Star Wars) to the narrative themes. The three episodes streaming now on Disney+ chart the rising tensions between the tight-knit community on Ferrix and the power-hungry corporate police. The social allegories are both nuanced and scathing, supported by masterful production design.

Lower The Volume

Previous Star Wars shows were criticised for their reliance on The Volume, a LED-projection soundstage. The technology is revolutionary, but like many VFX experiments, it has teething problems. Andor avoids this: the producers proudly went ‘old school’ by shooting on-location in the UK .

While this risks the problem of looking like England with some bits glued on, Andor leans into it. The bricks of Ferrix have a real history: as the workers hold their ground against the mining corporations, we instantly recognise what a union town looks like. When the Corpos invade, metal fixtures that looked like junk are used by townspeople to drum out a secret warning. It’s one of the most riveting moments in the show, heralding the dawn of a mass rebellion.

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Ferrix feels like a living, breathing world, with deep and complicated relationships. Cassian’s adoptive mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw) is a retired pirate beloved by her neighbours. Cassian quickly persuades his exasperated boss Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) to give him an alibi, despite the strain on their friendship. Rising star Adria Arjona plays Bix, Cassian’s smuggler friend – she’s perhaps something more, as her new boyfriend Timm (James McArdle) suspects.

On the corporate side is Karn, a heel-clicking Deputy Inspector desperate to enforce every rule to the letter. He’s surrounded by laconic guards who eat takeaway on the job and understand that soft power lasts longer. Karn’s only kindred spirit is the gung-ho Sergeant Mosk, who treats a manhunt like a military invasion.

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Karn and Mosk get more than they bargained for when Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) shows up to recruit Cassian into the Rebellion: the guards start attacking civilians, and the people of Ferrix fight back. Rather than hold them up as heroes on the wrong side, Andor leaves the Corpos blundering and tearful at the violence they’ve instigated. Karn ends up at Cassian’s mercy, allowing Luna to perform one of his uncanny shifts between cruelty and tenderness: Cassian chooses to leave Karn and all of Ferrix behind.

Cassian’s momentary ambivalence is the sort of character development a movie rushes through, but the scene lingers. It’s true to the core premise of Andor: the little things matter.

Andor is currently streaming on Disney+.


5 out of 5 stars



Format: Movie