‘Star Wars: Visions’ Volume 2 distills the Force down into its purest form
The first volume of Star Wars: Visions expanded the franchise’s storytelling, and brought a diverse set of styles to visualize those stories. Collaborating with Japanese animators, Disney Plus brought fan favorite mediums to George Lucas’ far-stretched galaxy. Each episode told a different tale in a different style, and essentially broke the universal language of Star Wars. Moreover, the English version brought in actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Neil Patrick Harris, Kyle Chandler, David Harbour, and James Hong. Visions was a visual treat, with stories that re-envisioned the saga and stretched beyond canon.
Volume 2 is all that, and much more. This time, Lucasfilm extends collaboration beyond Japan and ropes in animation studios worldwide, bringing new animation and art styles into play, expanding the universe well beyond far, far away.
That’s not what makes the second segment of Visions stand out among the more visually strong material that already exists on the streaming service it debuted on. “Inspired by Star Wars created by George Lucas” say the end credits of each episode of the series. Lucas has been away from his well-crafted intergalactic world for years. Even though his name always pops up in the credits, his intended vision for continuity has faded. However, Visions Volume 2 could be the best tribute or reference to the his past and legacy yet, because it caters to the new understanding of Star Wars’ most extraordinary power – the Force.
Volume 2 features shorts produced by studios from France, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Chile, and South Africa. Interestingly, each one carries the elements, takeaways, and references that somehow reflect these countries’ culture, linguistics, traditions, and way of life. With that, Star Wars expands into our own world and lives through a stylish, colorful, and visually aesthetic re-imagination.
The first episode, “Sith,” features Money Heist’s Úrsula Corberó as Lola, living in isolation with her droid. It showcases watercolor-like designs in both characters and settings, eventually culminating with a stand-off in pure red surroundings (a reference to Sith sabers). In “The Bandits of Golak,” we see a planet resembling Indian terrains, train rides, rebels galloping on horses, and a Jedi in traditional Indian attire. And then, “Aau’s Song” takes us deep into the forest greens and intergalactic tribal life through the lens of South Africa.
Produced in English (besides “Journey to the Dark Head”), Visions Volume 2 takes place not on familiar lands and planets like Tatooine, but in unknown regions across the galaxy. Each of these regions is inspired by landscapes from Earth; the Indian desert and terrains, the Korean mountains, the African hills, and the Irish snow lands. Although these settings are implied to be different planets across the galaxy, the similarities can’t be missed even in their futuristic rebuilding. And that’s why it feels like Star Wars is getting closer to us and no longer far, far away.
Lucas has always wanted his unusual, out-of-this-world story to resonate with ordinary people, and Visions offer that opportunity – to feel that the Force lies in all of us. In “Sith,” Lola uses Force to paint the vast canvas around her, struggling with the influence of the dark on her paints. “Journey to the Dark Head” distinguishes the battle between the light and the darkness by entangling them together in a never-ending co-existence. In “The Bandits of Golak,” we see how the Jedi – the benevolent keepers of the Force – live in solitude, awaiting the new rise of their order. Furthermore, in “Screecher’s Reach,” we realize how harsh circumstances and sufferings may lead the dark to prey upon us.
Star Wars has always shown how the Force could lie within anyone irrespective of their background, race, species, and homeland. Lucas’ tenure as creative figurehead always implied that it could be drawn from our emotions, and that this invisible power has a place in our deepest thoughts and feelings. Characters in Visions use the Force through several artifacts, from paint and a flute to one’s voice and a necklace, thus bringing that same idea full circle.
Technically, the animators and writers have done an excellent job. The character shapes, designs, and distinct shades of colors that separate each short are impeccable. By bringing in crew, cast, and co-producers from each country Lucasfilm has collaborated with, Visions Volume 2 becomes a highly collaborative ordeal. “Sith,” “Journey to the Dark Head,” and “The Bandits of Golak” bring us some of the best lightsaber duels with blazing sabers of different kinds that we haven’t seen earlier. On the other hand, “The Spy Dancer” touches upon the sensitive subject of Stormtroopers’ origins, adding an extensive and deep layer of humanization to the battle between dark and light. At the same time, “Aau’s Song” imagines the Force to have physical traits, thus, giving the mystical power an embodiment.
Perhaps that’s the beauty of an expanded universe. The stories, since arguably not canon, can expand into unprecedented and unknown horizons without worrying about the timeline and continuity. Visions have perfectly used that freedom and has envisioned Star Wars with much grounding, while keeping its surrealism as a space venture intact.
Volume 1 was an ambitious project that catered well to anime fans. Volume 2 transcends that ambition to all Star Wars supporters, and more profoundly, those who have followed content that now lies outside of continuity. Each story stands apart from another while all carry a collective thematic element that binds the series to the official canon of the continuity. The potential here in Visions is limitless, and the visual spectacle is mesmerizing.
George Lucas' thematic and symbolic understanding of Star Wars and its myths transcends reality in the second segment of Star Wars: Visions.