Tony Gilroy is creating something special with new Star Wars show Andor, and in the process, he’s wiping the slate clean for those who disliked the prequels, and potentially replacing them with an all-new trilogy.
As someone who was born a year after Star Wars was released, the franchise has always been a part of my life. Seeing A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back on TV at Christmas were family events, while watching Return of the Jedi at the cinema remains a formative memory.
So after years and years of eager anticipation – consuming every rumor and morsel of info about The Phantom Menace in the run-up to release – I was there opening day. Which I thought it was OK, at first. But once the excitement of seeing a new Star Wars film had subsided, I felt empty inside. Had all my anticipation been for this?
I gave George Lucas the benefit of the doubt however, and I was there on opening day for Attack of the Clones, popcorn in hand; optimism in my heart. And if anything, it was worse.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” is a phrase I hadn’t heard in 2005, so guess what? I was there opening day for Revenge of the Sith too, and when the credits rolled, I wasn’t sad, or disappointed. No, this time, I was angry.
What’s wrong with the Star Wars prequels?
There’s more wrong than right with the Star Wars prequels. Indeed, it would be quicker to list the good stuff. The action is frequently exhilarating, especially a couple of spectacular lightsabre battles. Darth Maul is a cool villain. The sound design is amazing. And Ian McDiarmid is genuinely compelling as Palpatine.
But pretty much everything else is bad. The characters are lifeless, with few having anything approaching an interesting or satisfying arc. The tone is off, the films aimed at kids one minute, then turned weirdly adult the next. The story is confused, getting bogged down in boring bureaucracy, failing to nail down a protagonist, and featuring hours upon hours of flat exposition. The humor is dire, at times puerile, and frequently using racial stereotypes for a for a cheap laugh. The computer-generated effects look pretty, but are shiny and artificial, lacking the lived in realism of the OG trilogy. And several of the key performances are downright cataclysmic.
That might be down to the terrible and at times bizarre dialogue they are forced to say, with humans sounding more like aliens than the actual aliens in the prequels. But Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, and Natalie Portman are monumentally bad in these movies, making them very tough to watch.
What makes all this even worse is the climax. This series has come to be known as the ‘Skywalker Saga,’ and the prequels build up to a pair of pivotal moments across the first six films – Anakin’s doomed love affair with Padme, and his transformation into Darth Vader.
But the romance never once rings true, and emo Anakin’s turn feels rushed, resulting in a single exclamation of “Nooooooo!” that turns what should have been an emotionally devastating scene into a moment that only elicits laughs. In the end, it was a disaster.
I rewatched the prequels – followed by the original trilogy – in preparation for The Force Awakens in 2015, and they were even worse than I remembered. So I made a decision then and there – they don’t exist. Meaning in my mind, from that point onwards, Star Wars starts with A New Hope.
What’s right with Andor
I like Rogue One. Granted, the film – like its characters – was fighting a losing battle, meaning that since I was sure that everyone would die, it made it hard to fully give myself over to their story. But the characters are rich, the acting superb, and the stakes couldn’t be higher, all of which makes for a rip-roaring adventure.
Tony Gilroy did a fine job rescuing the film from what was apparently shaping up to be an all-new Star Wars disaster, so I was excited to watch his new series. And while Andor started slow, it gradually morphed into something special, telling the tale of how the titular thief transformed into a brave rebel who is willing to die for a cause.
His story plays out against the creeping rise of fascism, but rather than focus on the main players, Andor is all about the minutiae, telling small stories about bit-part players fighting oppression, corruption and police brutality – real-world issues that are much easier to appreciate and relate to.
Like those previous prequels, the show is filled with bureaucracy, but where the negotiating of trade routes was deeply dull in the prequels, here the juggling of bank accounts to help fund a rebellion is fascinating. Which is down to great world-building, great storytelling, and great acting by the show’s huge ensemble.
The new Star Wars prequels, and how to watch them in the future
It sounds like fans will have to wait until late 2024 for Season 2 of Andor, so at this point, we don’t know if Tony Gilroy sticks the landing, or if Cassian’s story goes out with a whimper rather than a bang.
If Gilroy nails it however, I’m hoping we’ll have a new prequel trilogy to replace the old, and a new way of watching Star Wars. Which is as follows…
- Episode I: Andor S1
- Episode II: Andor S2
- Episode III: Rogue One
- Episode IV: A New Hope
- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
By kicking off with approximately 26 hours of Cassian, followed by around just 10 hours of Luke, it might turn the ‘Skywalker Saga’ into the ‘Andor Adventure.’ But I’ll take that over Jar-Jar’s folly filling the same spot, and if Season 2 is as good as Season 1, this approach should make for a much more satisfying Star Wars watch.