Despite closing in on the 50th anniversary of the first movie, Star Wars shows no signs of slowing down. Star Wars: Visions is the latest in Disney’s efforts to keep fans coming back to a galaxy far, far away for as long as possible — and for the most part it hits a lot of the notes that we wanted it to during the nine-episode run.
Star Wars: Visions is a collection of nine short films, each ranging between 10 and 20 minutes long and produced by a different anime studio. The result is an anthology that gives us some of the smaller heroes that we never knew we needed in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars: Visions is a buffet of smaller stories
Star Wars fans are used to seeing the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance, so one of the best things about the collection of anime short films is that it focuses on the little victories and failures that populate the universe. While there is some exploration of lore that doesn’t get touched on in the films, the best moments showcase how characters try to live in a world populated by space wizards.
The opening episode, The Duel, is as obvious an homage to Akira Kurosawa as you will find anywhere. The story follows a wandering ronin who frees a village from a group of stormtroopers led by a Sith Lord wielding an umbrella-shaped lightsaber. It is fitting that Star Wars: Visions would pay tribute to the legendary filmmaker, since he was such a huge influence on George Lucas’ original story. Other episodes draw on those references, but few commit so fully to Kurosawa’s style and feel, making this one of my personal favourites of these films.
Another episode that has received a lot of attention is The Twins, which was produced by Studio Trigger. This one follows a pair of twins (there are a lot of these in Star Wars) who were artificially created using the Dark Side of the Force in order to bring back the Galactic Empire. The two fight on the top of a Star Destroyer in a sequence that is exactly as chaotic and fun as you’d expect from Trigger. The plot might not hold up to much scrutiny, but it is a joy to watch.
There isn’t a connecting thread through the films of Star Wars: Visions, and the series is better for it. Each feels like it takes place in a different time period, with some being after the original trilogy while others, like The Ninth Jedi, take place many generations before. It is a fun concept and allowed the producers to explore different take on the Star Wars mythos. Those looking for a narrative binding these episodes together will be disappointed — but that shouldn’t stop anyone from diving in.
My one complaint about Star Wars: Visions is that the whole series was released all at once, and thus is prone to being binged. With so many different styles on display, I found myself wishing I had taken my time over watching them. These are stories that are at their best when consumed in small individual bites, mulling them over thoroughly before moving on to the next one. Binging them all at once doesn’t let you appreciate what you’ve just seen quite as much.
There is a lot to enjoy with Star Wars: Visions. Fans of the films will find these anime stories treat the source material with the right balance of respect and irreverence, changing things and styles to fit what they need to be at the moment while staying true to a lot of the themes that fans are familiar with. Anime fans will get a selection of beautifully animated sequences, each one from one of the best animation studios in Japan.
Star Wars: Visons is streaming now on Disney+.
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