An Andor, “Reckoning” Review

SERIES: Star Wars: Andor
EPISODE:
S1:E3 – “Reckoning”
STARRING:
Diego Luna, Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Adria Arjona, Antonio Viña
WRITERS:
Tony Gilroy
DIRECTOR:
Toby Haynes
PREMIERE DATE:
September 21, 2022
SYNOPSIS:
As the manhunt for Cassian comes to a head, he gains a new ally in Luthen Rael.

***New around here? Check out our Star Wars review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Our opening scene with young Cassian (Or are we just flat out calling him Kassa?) inside the ship features a nice contrast between the boy’s ragged clothes and the highly technological spaceship interior. Oddly enough, I really like his shoes, and that hey have to be held together with a rope or a vine or whatever that is. It’s nice visual storytelling.

That first scene between Cassian Andor and Luthen Rael is a strong one, as the two characters feel each other out. I liked their dynamic immediately. Very well acted by Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgård.

I usually don’t like Disney+ releasing more than one episode at a time. The Obi-Wan Kenobi premiere, for instance, consisted of two episodes. In that same vein, these first three episodes of Andor all came out on September 21. But while I’m not a fan of the tactic, I can see why they did it in this case. It takes three episodes for the plot of Andor to really get going, which doesn’t happen until Cassian and Luthen meet.

“Rule number one: Never carry anything you don’t control.” That’s a good line from Luthen. Very apt for Star Wars, particularly this type of Star Wars content.

So Stellan Skarsgård’s character is obviously going to be a mentor of sorts for Cassian, as evidenced by the various rules he starts spitting out quite early on.

Perhaps this is a weird thing to notice, but I liked Cassian’s blaster in this episode. It reminds me a little of Rick Grimes’ gun on The Walking Dead.

The falling debris sequence in the warehouse was memorable. Probably the first truly memorable thing about Andor. I enjoyed it.

Great character moments for Syril Karn, as he quivers at having a blaster held to his head by Cassian, then gets tied up. I wouldn’t be surprised if that serves as a motivator for him this season.

This episode is a marked improvement over the first two. It felt like business really picked up, and the plot started moving along. As I’ve discussed, my big desire for this series is that it make me like and care about Cassian Andor. I can’t say it’s done that yet. But at least I had a decent time watching this episode.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

An Andor, “That Would Be Me” Review

SERIES: Star Wars: Andor
EPISODE:
S1:E2 – “That Would Be Me”
STARRING:
Diego Luna, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, James McArdle, Antonio Viña
WRITERS:
Tony Gilroy
DIRECTOR:
Toby Haynes
PREMIERE DATE:
September 21, 2022
SYNOPSIS:
Cassian must work discretely in the shadow of the Pre-Mor Authority.

***New around here? Check out our Star Wars review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

About 15 minutes in, I had to stop the episode because I was falling asleep. I think this is the first Star Wars movie or show to get me to do that. That’s not exactly an honorable distinction…

But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say I was tired.

Fiona Shaw plays Maarva Andor, Cassian’s (presumably adoptive) mother. She’s been in a variety of things. But Harry Potter fans will recognize her as the actress who played Petunia Dursley, Harry’s aunt.

If I’m not mistaken, Shaw and Warwick Davis are the only two actors to have been in both Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. Jude Law will join them when Star Wars: Skeleton Crew comes out next year.

Alex Ferns plays Sergeant Linus Mosk. He has a pretty decorated resume. Most people might recognize him as Commissioner Pete Savage in The Batman.

It’s a little frustrating that these flashback scenes with young Cassian don’t have subtitles. Generally they’re used when someone speaks a different language in Star Wars. I’m not sure why they aren’t being used here.

I don’t dislike the tribe stuff itself, though. Occasionally I’ve pictured young Anakin being from a tight-knit tribe and jungle environment like this in Episode I, as opposed to recycling Tatooine from the original trilogy. It might have been a very different movie. Perhaps a better one?

Stellan Skarsgård joins the Star Wars universe as Luthen Rael. He’s a solid addition to any cast. Granted, he doesn’t do much of anything. But he’s there…

That’s more or less the story of this episode, actually. Nothing really happens. We set a few things up, like the alliance between Syril Karn and Linus Mosk, Bix lying to Timm about what she’d been doing, etc. We also introduce Luthen Rael and Maarva Andor. But as far as the plot actually moving along? The spot we’re in at the end of this episode isn’t much different from where we were at the end of the premiere.

I can’t deny that there’s an audience for this darker, more gritty side of Star Wars. One might, tongue in cheek, call it “the dark side of Star Wars.” A lot of people liked Rogue One. And as we now have various Star Wars TV shows coming out, there’s a place for this kind of thing. But here’s one thing I’ll say…

Mrs. Primary Ignition is a casual Star Wars fan. She really liked The Mandalorian. She tolerated The Book of Boba Fett until it essentially became The Mandalorian, at which point she enjoyed it. She was initially interested in Obi-Wan Kenobi, but eventually lost interest. After seeing these first two episodes of Andor, I realized I can’t put this show on for her because she’ll fall asleep. I’m the big Star Wars fan in the house, and if it put me to sleep, what hopes does she have?

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

An Andor, “Kassa” Review

SERIES: Star Wars: Andor
EPISODE:
S1:E1. “Episode 1”
STARRING:
Diego Luna, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, James McArdle, Antonio Viña
WRITERS:
Tony Gilroy
DIRECTOR:
Toby Haynes
PREMIERE DATE:
September 21, 2022
SYNOPSIS:
Cassian Andor becomes a wanted man.

***New around here? Check out our Star Wars review archive!***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Let me say this straight away: I did not like Rogue One, the movie to which Andor acts as a prequel. I didn’t think any of the characters were sufficiently developed. The only one with any charm or heart was the robot, K-2SO. It’s always seemed to me like people were fooled into thinking they liked the movie because of all the classic Star Wars stuff in it, along with its darker tone, which I admit does appeal to a large group of fans. But for me, a dark tone by itself doesn’t cut it. I need something underneath the dark packaging to sink my teeth into.

I don’t expect to change people’s minds about Rogue One. At this point, people believe what they believe. Furthermore, I don’t expect Andor to change my mind about Rogue One. But the good news is, changing my mind about Rogue One isn’t what Andor needs to do. This show’s job is to be good in and of itself. What I hope for Andor more than anything is that it does something Rogue One didn’t do: Make me like and care about Cassian Andor.

Disney+ premiered Andor with its first three episodes. It did something similar with Obi-Wan Kenobi, dropping the show’s first two episodes on its premiere date. Apparently, releasing multiple episodes out of the gate helps the show make a bigger splash in terms of viewership. Me? I’d be happy with a single episode premiere. It draws things out, makes the experience of the show last longer, etc. (Plus, it makes it easier to review.)

In our opening scene, we get the time stamp “BBY 5.” Star Wars geeks know this means five years before the Battle of Yavin, i.e. five years before the original Star Wars film. But more casual viewers? They won’t have a clue what that means.

Was that an intergalactic strip club Cassian went into in the opening scene? This being Star Wars, somehow I expected more Carrie Fisher style slave girl bikinis.

We knew we were likely going to get some scenes with child-aged Cassian, or Kassa. He had that line in Rogue One about being in the fight since he was six. It looks like he comes from a world that’s not overly industrialized. The group he and his sister are in looks vaguely tribal.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was bored by this episode. But it did feel like there wasn’t much happening. I’ll chalk it up to first episode exposition and character introduction. But I won’t be inclined to be quite as nice next time…

Okay, I get it. Cassian has lots of friends and connections. Did we need to establish that four times? First there was the Brasso character. Then we had Bix Caleen and Timm Karlo. Then there was the encounter with Nurchi and Vetch. Finally, we had the little exchange with Pegla. Am I supposed to care about these people? The only one that really accomplishes that goal is the Bix character, played by Adria Arjona.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

A Rogue One Review – A Force of Nostalgia

Rogue One posterTITLE: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
STARRING: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker. 
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME:
133 min
RELEASED: 
December 16, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Rogue One was going to be a different kind of Star Wars movie. Less a space fantasy, more ground-level combat flick. A movie that puts the war in Star Wars. If we’re going to have one of these movies a year for the foreseeable future, the franchise needs to expand its boundaries. So different is fine. But what we get here is something that simultaneously does and does not feel like the Star Wars we know. That’s a double-edged sword. Or perhaps a double-bladed lightsaber.

Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance steals the Death Star plans before the events of A New Hope. Our main character is Jyn Erso, whose long lost father develops the plans for the battle station. She is recruited by the Rebellion’s Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to help locate her father, who has long been forced into service by the Empire. Along for the ride are Andor’s droid K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk), defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), blind warrior monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). Together, this small band of rebels will win a crucial victory against the Empire. But the cost will be great.

star-wars-rogue-one-jyn-ersoThat all sound vaguely familiar? It should. Like The Force Awakens last year, Rogue One is in many ways a love letter to the original 1977 Star Wars film, and there are plenty of parallels to draw. In addition to the obvious characters and imagery, Rogue One is peppered with little details, cameos, and callbacks to firmly plant it in A New Hope territory. Certain shots from the film are even mimicked once we get inside the Death Star. The plot also has numerous parallels. Our rebels sneak into enemy territory to sabotage the Empire, they dress in Imperial uniforms, there’s a droid (K-2SO in this case) manipulating things from a control room, we get a big space battle, etc. Rogue One is definitely a retro movie just as The Force Awakens was, albeit with a darker tone.

But that darker tone doesn’t necessarily help things. For so many years, a subgroup of Star Wars geeks have lamented some of the lighter elements in the movies (the Ewoks come to mind), longing for the series to focus more on the serious, dramatic, and dare I say cool side of things. To an extent, Rogue One does just that. It feels like a Platoon or Saving Private Ryan sort of movie with Star Wars stuff pasted on to it. The movie misses that sense of awe and wonder that helped make the original trilogy (and even the prequel trilogy) distinct and special. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your boundaries. But you’ve also got to remember what universe you’re in.

Rogue One, cast photoWhat’s more, these characters aren’t exactly the most memorable the franchise has produced. We understand their motivations and what drives them. But once you get past that, they’re not particularly likable or distinct. Our ensemble consists of about six people, so there’s not a lot of room for little personal moments where we get to know them as people. Case in point: Han and Leia arguing in the early minutes of The Empire Strikes Back. Or Obi-Wan talking to Luke about his father in A New Hope. When it comes to our main character, Jyn, we know what happened to her when she was a child, and we get some vague information about what she’s done as a teenager and a young adult. But outside of her starting the story as a cynic, there’s not much to her.

Ironically, the most charming character in the movie is the K-2SO, who isn’t even human. He’s got an Alfred Pennyworth, sarcastic butler thing going for him. Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera, is the leader of an extremist group, and Jyn’s adopted father. His body is largely mechanical, and he needs the aid of a respirator. His dynamic with Jyn might have been interesting to explore as the movie progressed, but he’s only in the first half. Chirrut Imwe is fairly interesting. But again, we know so little about him.

rogue-one-darth-vaderBecause our main characters are fairly blasé, the classic Star Wars elements wind up serving as nostalgia boosters to keep us interested. Instead of being riveted by the story that’s unfolding, we’re looking at the stuff we recognize from that amazing movie from 40 years ago. It’s a nice recipe for warm fuzzies. Especially when we see some familiar Rebel faces, both at the base and in the space battle, two of which are played by actors from the prequels. In a perfect world, those nostalgia elements should be the garnish on top of an already compelling movie. But consider this: How appealing is Rogue One if you scale back Darth Vader’s involvement, and pluck out a few of those familiar faces?

Still, it’s fun to see Vader doing Vader stuff, especially when we get to the closing moments of the film. His entrance takes place on a planet from Episode III, which was a nice surprise. But here’s an opinion that might not be popular: The returning James Earl Jones sounds too kind. It’s like Mufasa is in the Darth Vader suit. In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Jones had a fantastic growl in his voice, as if there was a rage constantly boiling under the surface. It was fitting, considering all that talk about anger, hate, and the dark side. In both Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels, he’s lost his edge. But you can’t have someone else do Vader’s voice, can you? Jones likely has the role as long as he wants it, which is how it should be. I just wish he’d release his anger…

Rogue One, image 4This is the first Star Wars movie that doesn’t have a John Williams score, which means Michael Giacchino has one of the most unenviable jobs in cinematic history. Imagine having to not only follow John Williams, but follow up on arguably his most iconic work. To his credit though, Giacchino pulls it off. He still has the classic Williams songs to work with, of course. But what he produces still feels authentic to the Star Wars universe. That’s a hell of an achievement, all things considered.

Peter Cushing returns to the role of Governor Tarkin in this movie. That was unexpected, considering he died in 1994. But through the magic of CGI, and the voice talents of Guy Henry, he’s back. It mostly works fine. Though I’d be curious to know what those who were close to Cushing think about this little trick. Also, does this mean the door is open for Alec Guinness to “return” as Obi-Wan Kenobi in future movies?

Rogue One makes for a decent viewing experience, with a lot of the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from Star Wars. If you needed proof that the Star Wars Anthology idea can work from a creative standpoint, you now have it. But it may be the worst Star Wars film in terms of holding up to repeated viewings. All the best stuff in this movie was in A New Hope first. So given the choice, why not just watch A New Hope?

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.