Bam! Bam! Bam! In one of the opening scenes of the second episode of ‘Andor’, a stout man climbs the stone steps of a tower staircase. In the ridge of the tower, high above the city, he reaches for two bronze hammers that look at least as impressive as Thor’s hammer.
The man checks for a moment that his worn-out noise-canceling headphones are firmly on his ears, then starts pounding a giant cast-iron anvil with pure hand force with his two hammers: bám! Bam! Bam! The clattering hammers, whose mighty sound echoes all over the city, have been used to usher in the evening on the planet Ferrix since time immemorial. For the workers, this is the signal to hang their gloves on the hook, the lights are extinguished in the gigantic spaceship hangars, everyone rushes home in the evening twilight. But as far as we’re concerned, those hammer sounds can also be interpreted in a different way: they form the melodious signal that a masterly ‘Star Wars’ series has finally started on Disney +.
It’s as if that stout man with his thunderous blows is shaking up the entire doomed ‘Star Wars’ franchise again: bám! Bam! Bam! Because yes: after the somewhat childish ‘The Mandalorian’, the deadly brave ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ and the quickly collapsed ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ we finally get a ‘Andor’, of which we were allowed to watch the first four episodes, ‘ Star Wars’ series that not only lives up to the high expectations, but exceeds in almost every area – the visuals, the dialogues, the music, the story, the performances, the character drawings – magnificently.
That timid figure who, like all the other inhabitants, hastens through the streets of Ferrix at dusk, is Cassian (Diego Luna), a poacher who makes a living selling stolen spaceship parts. We are Cassian in a galaxy far, far away We’ve run into him before: at the beginning of the fantastic ‘Rogue One’ (2016) we saw him walking around a bazaar on the Ring of Kafrene with determined pace. In ‘Rogue One’, Cassian showed himself not only as a ruthless killer, but also as a brave rebel, who Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) helped loot the Death Star building plans. Set up as a prequel to ‘Rogue One’, ‘Andor’ sees Cassian rise from common petty thief to captain of the Rebel Alliance’s intelligence service.
The hammer scene described above also makes something else clear: namely that ‘Andor’, more than the other ‘Star Wars’ series on Disney +, was deeply grounded by its creators in the rituals, customs and daily life on the planets. where the story takes place. The hammerman who beats his anvil every night. The mechanics who hang their welding machines in a dilapidated warehouse under the body of rusty spaceships. A passenger who grumbles that the shuttle has to make a few rounds again before it can start landing, just like passenger planes sometimes have to circle above the airport for a while when busy. While the other ‘Star Wars’ series made us feel just a little too much like we were watching digital pixels, ‘Andor’ shot on physical film sets, with a lot of drab realism and a wonderful eye for detail, immerses us in a tangible reality: that city on the planet Ferrix, for example, was completely recreated in England. The locations we visit in the first four episodes – the pale grays of Ferrix, the forests of Cassian’s home planet Kenari, the landscapes of Aldhani resembling the Scottish highlands – are a welcome change from the completely worn-out sands of Tatooine.
Another plus is the surprisingly neat photography: see for example the magnificent shot of the speeder that, leaving behind a streak of splashing water, zooms through a rice field-like landscape. A remarkably beautiful score from Nicholas Britello also: just listen to that short, melancholy fragment of music that blows by when Cassian is commissioned by the mysterious Luthen (Stellan Skarsgard) accepts a job on the planet Aldhani. Who’s Seen ‘Rogue One’ – And Now Here’s A Spoiler! – know why the music in that crucial scene doesn’t sound too elated: because Cassian, the moment he says yes to Luthen and thus effectively joins the rebel army, seals his own fate. Dead man walking! There is talent behind this, so we can only conclude after the first four episodes, and yes: the showrunner and screenwriter of ‘Andor’ is none other than Tony Gilroythe man who previously penned ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, ‘Dolores Claiborne’, ‘State of Play’, ‘Rogue One’ and the entire Jason Bourne franchise.
With ‘Andor’ Gilroy finally gives us a ‘Star Wars’ series that (at least in the first four episodes!) cuts the ties with the boredom Jedi and the Sith with a heavy blow of the lightsaber. A series that for once does not deal with excessive fan service, which does not feel like a lukewarm extract of the films we love so much, and those – thank the Jawas! – really light years away from the cowie-koedie-koedie series with Baby Yoda and Grandpa Fett meant for bottle kids. In fact, ‘Andor’ stands alone in the ‘Star Wars’ universe so much that it would feel completely out of place if Darth Vader or a digitally rejuvenated Luke Skywalker suddenly appeared later in the season for some reason. As far as we’re concerned, ‘Andor’ thus far gives us everything we love so much, from the magical sound of a spaceship starting up over crackling laser guns to the beautiful image of good old Stellan Skarsgård on a speeder (that we may experience that! And even better: that Stellan may still experience that!).
You know, it would take us a hundred thousand words to define the ‘Star Wars’ feeling, but really it comes down to this: just like ‘A New Hope’, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘ Rogue One’, just like the very best ‘Star Wars’ movies, we sat enchanted, breathless and – bám! Bam! Bam! – wide awake, glued to the screen.
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