‘Star Wars: Visions’ Volume 2 Review: “Visually Refreshing”
When the first volume of Star Wars Visions was released in 2021, it was met with praise for one apparent reason. At this point in the franchise’s history, a level of fatigue had set in that wouldn’t be easy to cure. Try as they may, Disney and Lucasfilm struggled to make projects that stood out from one another. Whether it was the latest season of The Mandalorian or the newest entry in the Skywalker Saga, these stories felt repetitive thematically and visually. Visions felt like a course correction. Instead of relying on nostalgia, the series created something new and exciting. Whether it was The Duel or The Ninth Jedi, Visions brought a unique take to the Star Wars universe with incredibly talented Japanese animation studios bringing a new tone and feel to every short installment.
Now, Star Wars Visions Volume 2 has finally been released on Disney+. Somehow, the anthology series has outdone itself in its variety, creativity, and storytelling with this second installment. With nine episodes at around 15 minutes a piece. Visions Volume 2 expands its scope in animation studios. Instead of the deep focus on the anime animation style in the first volume, Visions goes global to highlight more diverse forms of storytelling. It’s a rousing success, giving us some of the most beautiful and unexpected stories that, while vastly different from what’s expected of the franchise, still maintain the core themes people love about a galaxy far away.
From hybrid animation styles, as seen in the first episode Sith from El Guiri studio to the stop motion animation from legendary studio Aardman and others like Triggerfish, Visions never has a dull moment. Perhaps the most impressive about the series is that it doesn’t use its stunning visuals as an excuse to coast on the story. Instead, the studios at the helm take great care in personalizing the concept of the force, Jedi, Sith, and more. From the main character of Sith trying to move on from their checkered past to the story of a rebel spy moonlighting as a dancer, Visions doesn’t entirely separate itself from Star Wars canon.
The complexity of the stories displayed in these short 15-minute bursts is equivalent to the animation on the screen. The balance of visuals and storytelling is probably the best part of this anthology. A favorite of the nine episodes is “Journey to the Dark Head.” Animated by Studio Mir (most known for Legend of Korra), the action-packed and beautifully animated episode feels like a pilot to its series. It’s impressive how much the world is built and how engaging the characters of this episode are in such a short runtime. Best of all is the lightsaber fights put on display— a fictional fighting form that I believe is done better in animation than live-action. However, this doesn’t mean that all of the shorts are action-oriented.
Whether focusing on comedy or familial ties, each volume 2 of Visions uses a different cultural lens for every episode. Perhaps the one most deeply ingrained in a specific culture is Studio 88’s “The Bandits of Golak.” It’s filled to the brim with beautiful architecture and character designs that are South Asian. The story of a young man attempting to protect his force-sensitive younger sister helps to make it feel all the more human. On that same note, the beautiful 2D rendering of “Screechers Reach” and Aardman’s “I Am Your Mother” intensely focus on familial bonds, albeit using different tones and moral complexity.
“Screechers Reach” is a much more intense and personal journey for a character in the world of Star Wars. The episode is also the most fascinating of the bunch, as its unexpected ending will leave viewers confused and uncomfortable in the best way possible. Perspective is everything; every animation studio takes advantage of such things ideally. Not everything is black and white, and the Star Wars galaxy has never felt as vast as it does now. “I Am Your Mother” is much more comical but still has the same heart as “Screechers Reach.” They both aim to speak on the bonds we have and create, but with different endings and ways of conveying it. The stop-motion race by Aardman is truly one of the most fun in this set of stories.
“The Pit” from D’Art Shtajio and Lucasfilm is also a troubling installment in all the right ways. Since the debut of Andor’s first season, the Empire has been displayed as more sinister than ever before, and that’s especially the case with “The Pit.” There’s no Jedi, no Rebel Alliance, or even Sith, for that matter. Just a short tale that focuses on the human condition and the power to persevere.
Overall, the second volume of Star Wars Visions is a rousing success. So much so that when watching these shorts, it’s hard not to notice the wasted potential in other Star Wars projects not named Andor. All nine episodes can remind viewers what’s so great about this universe. Hopefully, future mainline Star Wars projects take a page out of Visions book. In doing so, Lucasfilm might yet find a space for themselves to further reignite the magic that made the 1977 film so special in the first place. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Star Wars: Volumes 1 & 2 Are Now Streaming on Disney+