‘Andor’ Continues the Trend of Star Wars Shows Leaning Into Their Influences

The first three episodes of Andor delivered an experience unlike anything else in the Star Wars universe. Not only has the series added more depth to Diego Luna‘s Rogue One protagonist, but it’s also been praised for delivering a gritty, grounded spy thriller within the confines of a galaxy far, far away. This approach to the material continues a trend that has been present in the Star Wars lineup of streaming shows, where creators often wear their influences on their sleeves. But that trend also stretches as far back as the origin of the very series.

A little backstory: George Lucas, over the years, has revealed the influences that shaped Star Wars. Joseph Campbell‘s The Hero With A Thousand Faces was a major touchstone, as was the Vietnam War; Lucas even used the series as an allegory of sorts to express his feelings about said war. But the two biggest were Flash Gordon and the works of Akira Kurosawa. Lucas actually sought to purchase the rights to Flash Gordon, and when that didn’t work he wrote up the first draft of Star Wars. The final version of Star Wars: A New Hope also features a similar plot to Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, swapping out the titular fortress for the planet-killing Death Star.


The Mandalorian and Other Star Wars Stories Also Borrow From Different Genres

That mixture of influences has continued with the various Star Wars shows, particularly The Mandalorian. Both Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni have been open about the way that Westerns and samurai films have influenced the adventures of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and that influence is present throughout the series’ run. Whenever Djarin walks, his armor makes a soft jingling sound like the spurs on a gunslinger’s boot. And like the mysterious Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune) in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo or the Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) in A Fistful of Dollars, Djarin is a man of few words who happens to possess a strong code that drives his entire life. Even Ludwig Göransson‘s score pays tribute to Enrico Morricone, taking on a hypnotic lilt.

In a similar vein, Obi-Wan Kenobi puts a new spin on the fantasy genre. Ewan McGregor‘s Jedi Master is a cross between a wizard and a knight and embarks on a journey to save a princess: specifically Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair). But the fantasy elements include plenty of hidden layers which make the show a compelling watch. Obi-Wan is suffering from guilt over the fall of the Jedi Order and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), who unbeknownst to him is now the Sith Lord Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/Christensen). As for Vader himself, he’s a terrifying force – overpowering his opponents and slaughtering those who stand in his way. We’ve seen scenes similar in the opening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring where the Dark Lord Sauron mowed through hordes of opponents with ease.

Finally, Star Wars: Visions brings the Kurosawa influence full circle in its inaugural episode, “The Duel”. The entire episode is shot in black and white and centers on a mysterious Ronin (Brian Tee) who visits a small planet. But when a Sith bandit (Lucy Liu) and her minions attack, the Ronin is drawn into battle against them. The short draws visual inspiration from Yojimbo, even modeling the Ronin after a young Mifune. Ironically, Mifune was Lucas’ first choice to play Obi-Wan Kenobi, so it’s no wonder that Visions would reference his and Kurosawa’s most popular collaboration.

RELATED: ‘Andor’: Nicholas Britell Releases Opening Title Themes for First Three Episodes

Andor Pulls From Spycraft Movies and Action Flicks

This brings us to Andor, and how the series is leaning into the spy genre. Cassian Andor is approached by Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) after getting his hands on a Imperial Starpath Unit. But rather than buying the unit off of Cassian outright, Rael wants to know how he got it. After Cassian says that it’s easy for him to “walk into the Empire’s house” because they’d never suspect it, Rael recruits him into the burgeoning Rebel Alliance. Said Rebels are essentially a ragtag group of insurgents who are planning a dangerous mission…one might even call it impossible.

A lot of the spycraft and subterfuge in Andor is reminiscent of showrunner Tony Gilroy‘s work on the Jason Bourne trilogy. That series featured its titular provocateur (Matt Damon) attempting to unravel his shadowy past, while also working to expose the CIA’s Treadstone program. Much like Cassian, Bourne starts off as a man attempting to make his way in the world who ends up taking on a mission that’s bigger than himself. Gilroy even splices flashbacks into the first three episodes that reveal more of Cassian’s life on the planet Kenari – similar to Bourne having flashbacks about his past as a CIA assassin. Given the stellar reception Andor has received, it’s more than likely that future Star Wars projects will lean into certain genres in order to keep the space saga fresh.

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