Another year, another May 4th. This is Star Wars Day, or Star Wars Week if you want it. This is a time to celebrate one of the biggest franchises in the world of entertainment and one of the most popular and interesting universes in all fiction. More than any other franchise before or after it, Star Wars has managed to create stories that truly feel like part of the myth, as part of something that occurred a long time ago. Star Wars: Visions is the perfect example of how expansive this universe can be and that it is more than its own iconography.
Star Wars: Visions, Season 2, arrives just in time to celebrate a new year in Star Wars and does it, delivering nine new short films by some of the best animation studios in the world. When the first season of Visions was announced, it quickly became one of the most interesting projects the franchise has ever done. The result was a mixed bag, with episodes going from boring to quite exciting and everything in between. The first season was a mixed bag, but I dare say that this second season is much more consistent while having its own problems.
This second season also consists of 9 episodes. The first of the episodes is titled “Sith,” and it is being written and directed by Rodrigo Blaas. This first episode starts things off with a bang, showing us a strange style of animation that seems very reminiscent of something like the Into the Spider-Verse movies. El Guiri is the studio that animates this short, and their efforts result in one of the most striking episodes this season. Writing-wise, the episode begins a trend that will definitely happen this season, both in good and bad ways.
The second episode, Screecher’s Reach, might be one of the strongest this season. In it, we see the excellent team of Carton Saloon doing the fantastic work they do as usual. Carton Saloon is a very awarded and important animation studio. Their films have been nominated for multiple awards, including Oscars, so it is not surprising that they are one of the season’s highlights, both in the short’s visual style and the writing quality.
Punkrobot and Aardman also do their job when it comes to delivering two fantastic shorts that tap into the stop-motion vein. There is a lot more stop-motion this season than we thought, and both shorts are quite solid, with Punkrobot’s “In The Stars” feeling a bit more unique regarding character design and settings. Star Wars is supposed to be a universe, so trying to confine all iconography to the same designs feels like a waste of value.
“Journey to the Dark Head” is the season’s biggest episode. It comes from the talented hands of Studio Mir, an animation studio located in Korea that has been the major studio involved in many hit series like Legend of Korra and Voltron: Defender of the Universe. This episode delivers the most classical anime style in the entire season and is a showcase of the best the studio has to offer. If only a series could have this level of animation throughout an entire season, it would be a blast.
The Spy Dancer, Studio La Cachette offering this season, is also a highlight. Not only because the short offers quite a unique art style but also because the storytelling is quite good, delivering a very powerful and emotional story in just a few minutes. The Bandits of Golak by 88 Pictures imbues the Star Wars Universe with some Indian flavor, which is nice but makes everything look too much like planet Earth. The designs are nice, but the short doesn’t feel Star Wars enough.
The Pit, on the other hand, is the weakest of the shorts. It tries to be brave by not telling a story related to Jedi or Sith, but it fails to create something interesting on its own. The animation quality is also quite poor, which is strange as the short comes as a collaboration between two studios, D’Art Shtajio and Lucasfilm itself. Aau’s Song, the closing short this season, returns to the stop-motion look and delivers a simple yet, beautiful story. This last short might have the most unique look of any Star Wars content in years.
Ultimately, the entire season is a great showcase of what all these studios can do. However, when it comes to the writing, it is a bit sad that basically more than half of the shorts are stories of kids wanting and succeeding in turning into Jedi or Sith. At one point, it felt like all the studios were given the same prompt and just came up with these different takes on the same story. Only the Carton Saloon short is more interesting than the rest because of its twist.
Star Wars is more than just Jedi or Sith. Understandably, the imagery coming from a lightsaber is quite powerful, but focusing entirely on this small section of it feels like a waste in such an expansive universe. Even The Mandalorian couldn’t resist the temptation of dwelling in that world. This is not to say that it should never be done, but there are more stories to tell in this universe other than “Who wants to be a Jedi?” Season 2 of Visions is quite solid, better than the first one, in my opinion. Let’s hope we can continue seeing more of this project in the future.