The latest trailer for Andor has come our way, delivering high-stakes drama, surprise cameos, and tense politics, all as a preview of what it takes to spark a rebellion. It’s been quite interesting to see Andor take shape over the past couple of years, overcoming the question of why it should even exist, just like its predecessor (or sequel?), to preparing for a three-episode premiere that will be the longest yet on Disney+.
“Cinematic” is the word at the top of my mind after seeing this trailer. As many others have commented, it feels a lot like Rogue One, in large part, because of the number of familiar faces involved. That is not just true of frontman Diego Luna or Genevieve O’Reilly and Forest Whitaker reprising their roles as Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma, respectively. It is even more relevant to the people behind the scenes.
Tony Gilroy was tasked with overseeing Rogue One‘s well-documented rewriting process, and he’s steering the ship here too. Like that film, Gilroy was not initially the man in charge of Andor. Stephen Schiff was Andor’s original showrunner upon its reveal in 2018. Gilroy joined the production in 2019, set to write the pilot and direct multiple episodes. Things evolved from there and he became the official showrunner a year later.
In the time since, he and the cast have given us just a taste of what to expect from Andor. From its human story that can resonate with any audience, Star Wars fan or not, to the dark tone, gritty characters and one-against-many mantra embedded throughout Rogue One.
Another thing to expect is real-world environments.
Disney+ has become a sort of sandbox to experiment with StageCraft. That is the term given to Industrial Light and Magic’s immersive, 360° LED video walls that recreate incredible atmospheres without use of a green screen or the need to travel to physical environments. They can even follow a camera’s movement to add an extra layer of realism.
It proved to be a life-saver amid the constraints of a television budget, even for those as large as shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Mandalorian. Andor, however, wasn’t interested.
“Yep, we’re old-school,” said Gilroy in an exclusive piece from Empire Magazine. “We didn’t use StageCraft at all.” Instead, all of the film’s environments came through either physical sets built at Pinewood Studios or traveling to exotic locations themselves. While we’ve known that would be the case in Andor for a while now, the impact of that decision really starts to show itself with this trailer.
Andor will be the first Star Wars show to push physical locations to the forefront.
Now if you told me the shots in Andor were courtesy of the StageCraft system, I would have believed you. The technology is just that good. But, there is no denying that Andor looks just a little bit better. And the sets could be the reason why.
Even some of the smaller details emphasize the extra polish on Andor. Famed creature designer Neal Scanlan, who provided his expertise to every main Star Wars film, makes his return here. And take a look at what series composer Nicholas Brittell had to say to Variety earlier this year:
"The scope of the series is massive. Every episode has new demands, new music, and new ideas. It’s important that as the story evolves, the music should evolve too. We’ve been working nonstop for months, actually years, at this point."
This quote illuminates an important point, here. Andor is an example of the ingredients that have made Disney’s Star Wars efforts successful: passion and a plan. Yes, practical sets and impressive visual effects help, but they only act as supporting elements to the story that sits beneath them.
The Mandalorian and Rogue One are the biggest examples of that. Andor is seemingly taking the best of both, and while I hate to get overly optimistic or set unrealistic expectations without having even seen a single episode, looks destined to outshine them both, too.