in , ,

TV Review: ‘Star Wars: Visions’ Expands From Anime In Its Second Volume

(L-R): Quinn, Baython, Daal, and Keena in a scene from the "STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by Cartoon Saloon, “SCREECHER'S REACH”, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

*This review will remain as spoiler-free as possible, though it is best you do not read anything before watching Star Wars: Visions – Volume 2. Proceed with caution.*

Star Wars is good again, thanks to the incredibly creative Star Wars: Visions, which returns for a second volume of nine shorts developed by nine distinct animated studios. While the first season focused on nine anime studios delivering the shorts, this volume expands from anime. It goes through all forms of animation, delivering a much more diverse, albeit a tad inconsistent, breadth of short films.

Unsurprisingly, Aardman, Cartoon Saloon, and Studio Mir deliver the best shorts. Aardman’s short is the most light-hearted of the bunch, with stunning stop-motion animation and terrific physical comedy. But it also has a surprising amount of heart, as it centers around the relationship between Anni (Charithra Chandran) and her mother (Maxine Peake), that’s both extremely funny and conveys a strong message for children on the power of family. Plus, each character feels like they should get their own Aardman spinoff. That’s how good it is.

Cartoon Saloon’s short film is the most mythological of the bunch (and that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has seen The Secret of Kells, Wolfwalkers, or Song of the Sea), with impeccably-drawn animation and an eerie atmosphere populating its richly-layered Ghost story. It’s also much darker than I imagined, telling the origin story of Daal (Eva Whittaker), a sweatshop worker lured by a Sith Mother (Anjelica Huston) inside a cave where the ghost of a Sith Apprentice lies. It’s an origin story of how Daal will get quickly tempted by the dark side’s “power” to escape from her life and, sadly, her best friends. I didn’t expect it to go this dark, but it’s a welcomed subversion that this season brings to the table.

Star Wars: Visions isn’t afraid to craft mature short films and compelling stories, which makes each animation style distinct in how they handle their respective materials seriously. Studio Mir’s short, which needs to be viewed in Korean, is by far the most mature and stylistically compelling of the latest volume. Its action sequences are vivid and highly dynamic, and the characters of Toul (Lee Kyung Tae) and Ara (Jang Ye Na) are fully fleshed-out, even if the short lasts about fifteen minutes without credits. I’ve been clamoring for Star Wars to have a distinct look and feel for a while, and Star Wars: Visions has always delivered the goods in that regard. Even shorts I wasn’t particularly fond of have an amazingly creative visual style and masterfully-executed action sequences.

Take Punkrobot’s In the Stars as an example. The story was a bit too predictable, and the characters were not as engaging and well-written as Aardman’s, but the visual style is by far the show’s most unique. Way to make a TIE Fighter look incredibly stunning and terrifying simultaneously. The weakest short is The Pit, which tells its story in an amazingly lethargic fashion, with poorly-written characters and an overall sense of urgency that feels lacking. However, the animation remains compelling to look at, with a riveting score from Daniel Lopatin (also known as Oneothrix Point Never, who composed Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time and Uncut Gems) setting the short’s atmosphere.

Some may think that a bigger slate of animation styles will mean a more inconsistent season, which is partially correct. Yes, some shorts aren’t as great as others, but they’re all well-made and far better than anything Star Wars has currently churned out lately on Disney+ (this does not include Andor and Tales of the Jedi, which were both very good). You can feel the creativity brimming with each short, even if you don’t like it. The first short, Sith, is a good example of this. Its story and characters aren’t the most inspired of the bunch, but the short plays with different aspect ratios, colors, and light sources give it massive amounts of energy. The short’s lightsaber battle is a pure feast for the eyes, culminating in a clash of raw colors and light. The last short, Aau’s Song, expertly plays with sound and expands its visual style when its titular character (Mpilo Jantjie/Dineo Du Toit) starts singing.

If you look at Star Wars: Visions for a refined story and characters you will root for from beginning to end, this will not be your cup of tea and isn’t the point of the show. The point of Star Wars: Visions is to show how Star Wars can be translated into all types of animation styles, all kinds of stories from diverse backgrounds, and a wide array of action sequences that expand the franchise into something far more visceral and kinetic than George Lucas ever dreamed of. In that regard, Star Wars: Visions more than successfully reminds audiences how Star Wars can evolve and become something even greater than its current live-action (and animated) iterations on Disney+.

SCORE: ★★★


Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
25 days ago

Of course you can’t go one minute in a review without bashing the Star Wars that people like (including The Bad Batch).



Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

Joey’s Home Movies For the Week of May 8th – Answer the ‘Knock at the Cabin’

Interview: Chris Messina Talks ‘Air’ and Acting Opportunities