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It's official: Tony Gilroy has brought the sexiness and multi-layered political and espionage intrigue of the Bourne franchise to the galaxy far, far away with Andor. Lucky journalists who got a chance to view the first four episodes ahead of the show's three-episode premiere on Disney+ next week are hailing the hotly-anticipated Rogue One prequel as a mature, gritty, and nuanced departure from anything fans have seen in the Star Wars universe thus far.
SYFY WIRE was let into the sneak peek fold and we can say that the writing and acting in Episodes 1-4 are both top-notch, while composer Nicholas Britell (Don't Look Up) turns in a beautifully experimental score that feels refreshingly separate from the musical work of John Williams, Ludwig Göransson, John Powell, and Michael Giacchino.
Diego Luna comfortably steps back into the boots of Cassian Andor, a downtrodden citizen of the galaxy who works his way up from petty thief to actually making a difference as a lead spy for the blossoming Rebel Alliance. Luna is unquestionably superb and makes it feels like no time has passed since he played the character a whopping six years ago. Not interested in giving us the legacy characters for the umpteenth time, Gilroy gets down and dirty here, showing us what life is like under the Empire at ground level. There's a genuine sense of grit and grime to the world of Andor, which perfectly harkens back to the analog retro-futurism of the late '70s when A New Hope was first released in theaters.
"The scope and practical visuals are immense, perhaps the best-looking Disney+ original yet!" declared Sam Hargrave of The Direct, referring to the production's commitment to shooting on real locations rather than rely on the groundbreaking Volume technology created for The Mandalorian.
"The first live-action Star Wars show to rival The Mandalorian but it's soooooooo different," said The Reel Rejects host Greg Alba. "Driven by mood, atmosphere, and character - feels more akin to a dark Ridley Scott sci-fi joint. LOVED the first few episodes!"
Collider news editor Maggie Lovitt described the series as "the most intelligent and well-informed story we've had to date. Tony Gilroy is a genius." She continued: "Andor has shaken the very bedrock of Disney+ storytelling. It is a clear testament to what the franchise can do if it gives the keys to the kingdom to storytellers committed to telling good stories and not just the stories they think audiences want to see."
Decider's Brett White tweeted that Andor takes the distinctness of Rogue One and goes all in on the espionage genre concept: "[It's] really the first Star Wars show or film to actually feel like a different genre."
The show feels so unique, in fact, that some audience members (like Star Wars Holocron and Jordan Maison, for instance) have compared it to a "prestige," adult-oriented drama on HBO. "Tonally, visually, sonically, if I didn't know Andor was a Star Wars show, I would have thought it was a completely new, adult sci-fi drama," echoed Alex Zalban of Decider. "That's a good thing (maybe a great thing) that pays off on the promise of allowing other creators to play in the sandbox. Promising start."
"I'm loving its more simple ground-level approach. It's different from the other shows, less humor," added Fandango's Erik Davis. "Plays like a crime drama more than a space opera. I dug how it highlights low-level Empire leaders as it reveals a rebel alliance slowly forming."
It is worth noting that the first few episodes do take their time building up the characters and story, leading many to describe Andor as "a slow burn" rather than giving us a ton of action right out of the gate. Nothing wrong with that, of course — just an observation. That narrative patience will certainly appeal to Star Wars fans looking for more thematic heft in the 45-year-old franchise. "After a few recent misfires, Andor is the Star Wars show we need and deserve," tweeted Digital Spy's David Opie. "Some fans won’t like its slower pace, but the grounded character work anchored by Diego Luna's bruised, battered performance is lightyears ahead of what we’ve seen recently in other Disney+ shows."
The first three episodes of Andor premiere on Disney+ next Wednesday — Sep. 21. The first season takes place five years before Cassian and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) hatch a brazen plan to steal the Death Star blueprints on Scarif. A second season is set to span a total of four years and lead directly into the events of Rogue One.