Friday, September 30

‘Andor’ gets it right in the most unexpected way for a ‘Star Wars’ series: proposing an ‘Anti-Mandalorian’


‘Andor’ may like it more or less, but without a doubt the most attractive thing about her proposal is to continually stay at the opposite extreme of what is expected of her. In these first three episodes that Disney has released, it is not only that the action is concise, brutal and little given to spectacularity and fireworks, but even the humor is low intensity, listless and with a strange point, which seems more in tune with an independent production than with a spinoff from ‘Star Wars’.

There’s a moment in the second episode where the human sub-inspector hunting Cassian Andor in this Disney+ series, Syril Karn, gives a strangely introspective pep talk to his men. The contrast of his martial rigidity – inappropriate for a second-rate mission – with his loud-mouthed lieutenant is not overtly comical, but there is some surreptitious criticism of the Pre-Mor Authority’s ridiculous mannerisms, something like security guards in the employ of the Empire, which is not entirely serious either.

So ‘Andor’ works all the time: the comedy, the adventure, the action, the epic, everything has been reduced the gas. The result is an adventure that is not as immediate and accessible as most of the Star Wars ones, but instead requires a certain predisposition on the part of the viewer. Exactly the same as what happened with ‘Rogue One’, perhaps the most unpleasant movie (and one of the best) of the entire franchise, but accentuated at times, since the structure of the series allows the action to be delayed.

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In that sense, ‘Andor’ is revealed as a kind of ‘Anti-Mandalorian’, a series that does not immediately aim to dazzle the viewer with cuteness. ‘Andor’ is not complex and heavy science fiction, but it requires a certain acquired taste for the genre, for the resources of the space opera, for the sinister undertones of the galactic rebel and star wars, for ships as big as planets, and for the conflicts of the future as a reflection of the problems of the present. ‘The Mandalorian’ was a success precisely because it did not demand a toll from newcomers to the saga.

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In these first episodes we will see Cassian Andor, five years before what happened in ‘Rogue One’, on the planet Morlana One, following in the footsteps of his lost sister. A skirmish with a pair of drones working for the Pre-Mor Authority ends in their semi-accidental deaths in an alley, making Cassian Andor the target of an officer working for the organization. Meanwhile, she tries to sell an Imperial sailing piece on the black market.

All this is described almost without separating from Andor and with some very well chosen scenarios, mainly the industrial planet Ferrix, dirty and gray. It is a scenario where the Jedi have no place, but rather we go to working and exploited classes (in very little cosmic things: the workers we see could perfectly be working in an oil company) and cruel environments and where death lurks in each alley. Sophisticated vehicles are hardly seen and the characters in this series go a lot on foot through open fields and mudflats. And there are no Jedi in sight.

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And I hope it stays that way, because the almost magical tone of ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ is taking over ‘Star Wars’ like a steamroller, unifying a fictional cosmos that accepts many more points of view. For example, from ‘Andor’ I am interested in the ground-level vision of technology: everything dirty, everything built with cheap parts. It’s almost a throwback to the first film, where half budget constraints, half creative vision, everything was anti-futuristic, and indeed the planet Tatooine seemed swept up in an apocalypse.

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Some of that had the best moments of ‘The Mandalorian’, but playing that with Tatooine is doing it with marked cards, because the fan already knows that what he plays there is sand and heat. ‘Andor’ dares to take this non-technology to other environments and other planets, and to show us the fight between good and bad, as always; but not between rebels and imperials, but between bakalas and security. Of course, that perspective will change, but for now, we’re enjoying this delightfully awkward and unusual setting.

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