The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Star Wars: Visions Volume 2

By George Bate & Josh Bate

Star Wars Visions 2 Review
Lola in a scene from the “STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by El Guiri, “SITH”, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

In 1977, George Lucas introduced audiences to a galaxy far, far away. A farm boy with dreams of leaving his home and making an impact in the galaxy crossed paths with droids, who forever changed the trajectory of his life. What follows is the sprawling Star Wars saga that has captivated far and wide for nearly 50 years. Sprawling is an apt term to describe the Star Wars universe given the sheer breadth of stories, characters, locations, and themes that have featured across different mediums. In the same universe that Cassian Andor defends his home of Ferrix in the grounded and gritty political thriller Andor, Anakin with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka explore Mortis, an ethereal realm that seemingly exists outside of space and time and may have ties to the origins of the mystical energy field known as the Force. This immense variability in creativity and storytelling is a characteristic that sets Star Wars apart from other franchises and means that each and every fan can find a corner of the galaxy that resonates with them the most.

Enter Star Wars: Visions, the bold and stylized animated show that premiered in 2021 and is now receiving its second volume. Whereas seven acclaimed Japanese anime studios were behind Volume 1, the nine shorts in Volume 2 come from team teams in Chile, France, Japan, India, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S. Although perhaps not having the consistency in quality of Volume 1, Star Wars: Vision Volume 2 is a masterful intersection of Star Wars and different cultures with compelling stories and characters that rival anything seen in a galaxy far, far away to date.

Toul in a scene from the “STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by Studio Mir, “JOURNEY TO THE DARK HEAD” exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

With nine shorts all originating from different creative teams around the world, Volume 2 exhibits significantly more variability from short to short in terms of the tone, style, and animation of its installments. In turn, this inevitably entails that different shorts will appeal to different viewers. Some may be drawn to the more light-hearted “I Am Your Mother” from Aardman Animations, while the dark and horror-like “Screecher’s Reach” from Cartoon Saloon may resonate more strongly. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with this variability as it capitalizes on the potential inherent to anthology series and means every Star Wars fan is likely to come away from Visions Volume 2 with their own distinct favorite shorts, characters, and narratives.

The installments that resonated most strongly with the writers of this review were “Sith,” “The Bandits of Golak,” and “In the Stars.” “Sith” comes from Spanish studio El Guiri Studios and writer/director Rodrigo Blaas. The short follows a former Sith apprentice named Lola (voiced by Money Heist’s Úrsula Corberó), whose peaceful and isolated life is interrupted when her old Sith master (voiced by Spanish actor Luis Tosar) tracks her down. “Sith” is, initially, a visually jarring Star Wars story. Overwhelming whiteness fills the screen like a blank canvas as Lola has chosen to pursue art after leaving the dark side of the Force behind. As the short progresses and Lola’s art comes together, reds, oranges, and yellows begin to populate the screen and deliver some of the most impressive visuals ever seen in an animated Star Wars project. If Lola and her art represent beauty and renewal, the old Sith master symbolizes the disturbing and distorted past coming back to haunt her. The Sith master, who sports a look not dissimilar from Knights of the Old Republic’s Darth Malak, is ominous and terrifying and his showdown with Lola doesn’t disappoint. Similar to the likes of “The Elder” and “The Duel” of Visions Volume 1, watching “Sith” will make one eager to see more from these characters and this world. 

Star Wars Visions 2 Review
(L-R): Anni and Kalina in a scene from the “STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by Aardman, “I AM YOUR MOTHER”, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Another highlight of Volume 2 is “The Bandits of Golak,” a short from Indian studio 88 Pictures and director/writer Ishan Shukla. This installment follows brother and sister duo Charuk and Rani (voiced by Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma and TheMotorMouth voice actor Sonal Kaushal respectively), who travel on a train to flee their home village and escape the clutches of insidious Imperial forces. The first part of “The Bandits of Golak” revolves around this train and showcases the stunning animation brought to life by 88 Pictures. The movement is sleek, the colors are poignant, and the facial animation is nuanced. The sibling duo at the heart of this short are also extremely likable and easily two of the best new characters introduced in Star Wars: Visions Volume 2. Older brother Charuk has adopted a paternal role overseeing his little sister Rani, whose innocent difficulties keeping her secret Force abilities at bay get them in all sorts of trouble.

Star Wars Visions 2 Review
An Inquisitor in a scene from the “STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by 88 Pictures, “THE BANDITS OF GOLAK”, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

As the short progresses, the duo seek refuge in a vibrant dhaba, a sequence that encapsulates one of the most impactful and powerful aspects of Star Wars: Visions. For those unfamiliar, dhabas are roadside eateries that are often found off highways and near gas stations in India. “The Bandits of Golak” takes this piece of Indian culture and fuses it together with a Star Wars story to make for an experience unlike anything told in this universe so far. This trend is not limited to “The Bandits of Golak,” however, as each and every short brilliantly and seamlessly integrates pieces of a given animation studio’s national culture into the unique Star Wars story they have crafted. In addition, to top off an already excellent short, “The Bandits of Golak” features an incredible villain in an Inquisitor voiced by Indian actor Neeraj Kabi. Fingers crossed this Inquisitor shows up in other Star Wars stories in the future.

The award for the most emotionally impactful short in Visions Volume 2, however, easily goes to “In the Stars.” Directed and written by Gabriel Osorio and from the Chilean creative team at Punkrobot Studio, “In the Stars” follows big sister Koten and little sister Tichina (voiced by Valentina Muhr and Julia Oviedo respectively), who struggle to survive on their home planet after it has been decimated and exploited by the Empire. The planet’s population has been largely killed off and the remaining survivors are deprived of water as the Empire uses the resource in their massive factory. The two sisters mourn their mother, with little sister Tichina desperate to hold onto the memory of her mother through a water painting. With a genuinely tear-inducing score by Andrés Walker and Patricio Portius, “In the Stars” is unbelievably endearing and is up there with Luke and Leia’s reunion scene in The Last Jedi as possibly the most touching moments ever in a Star Wars story.

Star Wars Visions 2 Review
Tichina in a scene from the “STAR WARS: VISIONS, Volume 2” short by Punkrobot, “IN THE STARS”, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

More broadly, Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 occupies a nebulous position in canon similar to its predecessor season. Some shorts could easily fit right into Star Wars canon, whereas others have plot elements that would make this difficult, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Visions is best enjoyed if one does not get wrapped up in thinking about the canon status of its stories. Simply sitting back and appreciating the nine completely distinct and unique Star Wars stories is the optimal way to engage with Visions.

VERDICT: 8.5/10

Star Wars: Visions Volume 2 exemplifies the beauty of a galaxy far, far away like never before. Featuring nine animated shorts from studios around the world, this new season might not have the consistency in quality and engagement as Volume 1, but triumphs with several shorts in particular nonetheless. “Sith,” “The Bandits of Golak,” and “In the Stars” are phenomenal pieces of Star Wars storytelling that are epic, grand, endearing, and touching. In thinking about Visions Volume 2 in relation to the original Star Wars almost 50 years ago, it’s simply incredible to see how far Star Wars has come and how such talented voices can apply their unique vision and creativity to the world created by George Lucas.

The HoloFiles

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