I predicted last week, in my write-up of Obi-Wan Kenobi, that Andor would be good. See the new trailer, above.
My prediction was mostly based on the reputation of the showrunner, Tony Gilroy, one of my favorite screenwriters. His scripts are like literature. Here’s a random page from Michael Clayton:
Gilroy is also the person who saved Rogue One when the rough cut was a disaster, writing and directing extensive reshoots—which led to his work on Andor.
It doesn’t seem to be very hard for studios today to make totally awesome trailers even to lame projects. So it’s been a long time since I drooled over one, looking for clues.
But take a look at what is NOT in the Andor trailer...
No Force. No Jedi.
Star Wars was always the marriage of two things: an adolescent “Hero’s Journey” narrative, and a sprawling world that combined fantasy with an extrapolation of reality.
The former is a plot. But the latter is a setting.
So naturally, the latter offers far more diverse storytelling opportunities. (See this 2021 piece in The Atlantic.)
The way you sustain a franchise is by traveling horizontally inside the world to reinvent the storytelling via different genres—you draw upon their different plots and styles of storytelling. Hence you reinvent the world each time, and keep it fresh, as opposed to telling the same story over and over again.
This was the biggest problem with the Star Wars sequel films: they were a remix of the “Hero’s Journey” plot. And, as blockbuster films, they had to be all things to all people.
The “Hero’s Journey” is inherently an adolescent narrative—a story that feels like a teenager’s coming-of-age, even when the characters are older.
So it reduces and simplifies complicated notions of power to flashy interpersonal duels. Because the audience—kids—don’t understand and thus don’t care about politics or the messy, complicated way that power operates in the real world, they just want cool-looking fights.
All of our favorite franchises are basically about how the characters physically fight: be it with lightsabers (Star Wars), superpowers (comic book movies), battleships (Star Trek), wands (Harry Potter), kung fu-gunplay (The Matrix), or, well, super cars (Fast and the Furious). It’s very hard to think of a new method.
But in the real world—who fights like this? You fight, well...with lawyers. Through politics. With deception and manipulation. Via relationships.
This is why grown-up movies are so different. Now you’re in the world of The Godfather mobsters, the drawing rooms of power—these are John Le Carré espionage plots of information warfare, conducted via bureaucracies and institutions.
When action happens in these films, it’s surgical strikes of violence (hit men and guerrilla operators) ordered from on high.
And this is what we will get from Andor—a political thriller set in the Star Wars galaxy. At least, I hope so!
So I’m looking forward to a grown-up Star Wars show.