Even though the standalone Star Wars flick ‘Rogue One’ came out over half a decade ago, ‘Andor’ is ready to be released in just under two weeks. And it’s generating a lot of excitement. It’s already been slated for two seasons.
And production is due to start on the second season in November – mere months after the first release. The sheer amount of money being poured into ‘Andor’ suggests Disney thinks (or maybe, they know) it’s going to be a big hit. So, it begs the question, why? The answer is: ‘Rogue One’.
“…Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.” These are the two lines from the opening scrawl of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ (1977) that influenced ‘Rogue One’. The film follows a rebel ensemble as they band together to steal plans for the Death Star. The Galactic Empire’s new weapon of mass destruction holds within it the fate of the entire universe.
‘Rogue One’ is a film about hope, albeit a rather dark one. And despite being the first ever standalone Star Wars film, it is a proper Star Wars tale in this regard. Plus, I’m assuming it does help Disney that the film proved to be a quick success when it was first released. It grossed over $1 billion worldwide – making it the second-highest-grossing film of 2016. And it was well-received by critics and fans alike – a slightly unexpected outcome. Especially after the release of the contentious ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (2015).
It may be no surprise then that Disney is keen to push ‘Andor’ to fans. ‘Andor’ is the prequel to ‘Rogue One’. And it follows Cassian Andor (our eponymous hero) as he embarks on a path destined to turn him into a Rebel hero. ‘Andor’ follows directly on from the success of ‘Rogue One’ – the pair are inseparable as pieces of Star Wars media. So, I guess the real question is what exactly continues to draw fans to ‘Rogue One’? And what will draw them to ‘Andor’? I think the only real answer is that ‘Rogue One’ is an epic spectacle – and ‘Andor’ might be too.
A Darker Side to Star Wars
‘Rogue One’ is a war movie. Naturally, this means it’s much darker than a lot of the other Star Wars films. Quick spoiler alert: everyone dies by the end of the movie. The main ensemble cast sacrifices everything to ensure peace and the destruction of tyranny. ‘Rogue One’ revolves around the idea of hope – but observes it in its darkest moments.
This darkness is an important part of why the film is particularly great. ‘Rogue One’ is quite a nuanced movie. And it uses every second of its 133-minute runtime to really consider the foundations of the Star Wars franchise: what it means to be a rebel. The notion of righteousness. Individual culpability. And the limited binary of ‘good versus evil’.
For example, the rebellion shown in the movie isn’t all good. (Despite being the cause to which Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker later pledge themselves to). It is, instead, brutal and violent. And often, scarily apathetic. One scene stands out where the council of the rebellion is engaged in debate. They consider whether to capture the plans to the Death Star – but seem almost apathetic to the (seeming) inevitability of war and death. One councillor’s proclamation hangs over the scene: “Despite what the others say, war is inevitable.”
‘Rogue One’ interrogates the righteousness model that persists throughout Star Wars. And questions the simplicity of strict good and evil – especially amid a universal war. In this regard, the film tackles the much darker aspects of the franchise. It leads strongly with the image of apathetic leaders. And the innocent lives put in the hands of a small group of (largely unaccountable) people. It’s strikingly familiar – and a haunting snapshot of modern warfare and politics.
Epic Cinematography and Score
Beyond this moral pondering, it helps that the film is also stunning. The landscapes of ‘Rogue One’ are simply beautiful. Every shot is full of immense depth. And the cinematography does real justice to the space setting. It is truly grand – traversing from Jedha to Scarif, and capturing the cold magnificence of the Death Star.
The Battle of Scarif, at the movie’s end, stands amongst the Battle of Hoth or Endor in terms of sheer scale. ‘Rogue One’ is simply immense. And it’s this fact, coupled with Michael Giacchino’s lucid and suitably grand score, that makes ‘Rogue One’ a truly epic film.
The Case for ‘Andor’
In my (very) humble opinion, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to label ‘Rogue One’ as one of the best Star Wars films ever made. It sits comfortably alongside the original trilogy. And is a worthy spin-off. I mean, how couldn’t be? It’s dark and really gritty while also managing to be immensely hopeful.
Even on its own, ‘Rogue One’ proves that ‘Andor’ will be worth the watch. ‘Andor’ offers the opportunity to gain even more insight into the rebellion’s murky beginnings. And explore more of the Star Wars universe outside the Skywalker pipeline. I think it’s safe to say that ‘Andor’ will not be an event to miss.