‘Andor’ review: ‘Star Wars’ revives Diego Luna’s character in slow-motion prequel to ‘Rogue One’




CNN

A prequel to a prequel, “Andor” has a stark tone and looks to the “Star Wars” universe as much to the washed-out landscape of “Blade Runner” as to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. However, the promise that comes with it is mostly lost in the weak story, essentially stretching out what would have been a 10-minute movie prologue for the first three episodes.

Disney+ has wisely decided to launch a 12-episode prequel to “Rogue One,” starring Diego Luna as spy Cassian Andor, with those three episodes giving a slightly better sense of the series’ framework than the heavy-handed first half. It takes until the fourth episode, however, to focus the plot of this origin story, and by then “Andor” has already become a bit snoring.

Created by veteran screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who was credited with the screenplay for “Rogue One” and played a role in its sequels, “Andor” proudly wears on its sleeve the fact that it’s not a “Star Wars” series meant to wow fans with cameos (though there will be some of those) or sell plush toys. Gilroy is more interested in telling if the short spystone has a chapel component; think “The Guns of Navarone,” only with spaceships, droids, and the occasional alien.

Following a path less trodden, however, doesn’t excuse moving at the pace of a wounded Bantha, haunted by flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood. Even these opening episodes don’t do enough to distinguish the shifting cast of supporting characters, a group that doesn’t provoke much more than indifference.

Andor’s ultimate fate is already known, so the thrust of the show is to unravel how he made the leap from hating the Empire and its arrogance to fighting against it.

Stellan Skarsgård plays the lead in that regard, at least initially, and Genevieve O’Reilly makes an appearance as Mon Mothma, reprising her role from “Rogue One,” though don’t expect to see her right away. .

As far as the Empire goes, the organization is less about the Sith in this incarnation than the front-line soldiers, a group characterized by more than a little bit of bureaucratic infighting and middle management incompetence. While this conveys its own message about totalitarian states, like the good guys, few criminals make a big impression.

The vastness of the “Star Wars” galaxy and the different time periods it occupies create a canvas that lends itself to all kinds of stories, perhaps more easily than its Disney brethren at Marvel, given the interconnected nature of its universe. Clearly this isn’t “The Mandalorian” or “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” with all those moments designed to steamroll die-hard fans, and in theory, that’s fine.

The problem is that there’s little to get excited about at first about “Andor,” and mostly it feels like an interesting test of how and where Lucasfilm can push those parameters and bend the mold, in this case, producing the antithesis of “The Star.” Wars” “Star Wars” series. Unlike the thrilling action of “Rogue One,” the series lacks the excitement needed to sustain such a long diversion, as it methodically sets up the story.

Charitably, it represents an act of creative independence worthy of praise just for trying experiments. Less charitably, “Andor” feels like a series affected by a touch of its own imperial arrogance.

“Andor” will premiere with the first three episodes on September 21 on Disney+.