Ranking All 9 Shorts from Star Wars: Visions Season 2

Away from the confines of canon and the narrative weight of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm continues to let worldwide creators play in a second season of animated shorts....

Away from the confines of canon and the narrative weight of the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm is continuing to let creators play. Star Wars: Visions has returned for a second season, offering nine more animated shorts. Whereas the first batch were all produced by Japanese anime studios, which isn’t my thing at all, this time around there’s more variety, with studios from all over the globe creating their own tales.

I preferred this second volume because of the greater expanse of experiences on show, each short not only connecting to Star Wars but real cultures and histories too. It’s fascinating to see the themes and ideas consistent in all of them, each undeniably Star Wars, but the huge variation also present.

This ranking is intended less to pit the shorts against one another and more as a way to celebrate each of them. All of them deserve to be experienced.

9. Journey to the Dark Head

As previously stated, I’m not an anime fan. I’ve dabbled, enjoyed some to an extent, but have never been converted. Therefore, Journey to the Dark Head, the single anime of the nine shorts, is my least favourite, though I’m sure ranks much higher for many viewers. I’m glad anime fans have this short so the season overall has some link to the first and isn’t totally different, but for me it’s the opposite of what I wanted this season. But there is some cool lightsaber action and well-executed character arcs. There’s no denying it is competently written and produced, full of great ideas, although perhaps a little overstuffed. Like The Ninth Jedi last season, a short I actually did like a lot, Journey to the Dark Head feels like a pitch or pilot for a series rather than a contained short.

8. Sith

Sith is a truly beautiful short. The style and art design is bold and totally unique in Star Wars, the painting reminding me of the video game The Unfinished Swan. As a visual experience it is impeccable and the action is cool, and the short can work purely on that level. But I didn’t connect to the story or the character. A former Sith trying to grow, channelling her power into something better, is a good idea but I found the philosophy to be muddled. Her embracing the darkness within but controlling it could have been handled better. At the end it felt more like she beat her former master by igniting her red lightsaber because it’s cool and badass rather than fully exploring the meaning behind it.

7. The Bandits of Golak

Similarly to Sith, I thought the visuals of The Bandits of Golak were fantastic. Stunning animation, use of colour, and designs combining Star Wars with Indian culture. The story however was much too generic, too standard Star Wars. A Force-sensitive runs and hides from the Empire and faces an Inquisitor before joining up with a Jedi survivor. It could easily be a canon story. In fact, it is a canon story we’ve already seen several times before. It’s a decent short which doesn’t take full advantage of the narrative freedom Visions offers.

6. Aau’s Song

Aau’s Song is the most wholesome short of the season, impossible to watch without a smile. It features the happiest, most optimistic version of the leaving home/friends/family ending, which is curiously found in several stories this season, making it perfect for the season finale. The story is cute and heartwarming with the perfect visuals to match, the felt puppet design of the world feeling like a new take on Star Wars. I enjoyed it but it does feel like a short more suited to kids than adults, but that is no bad thing.

5. The Pit

The Pit is a better metaphor than it is a practical story, which might be its biggest strength and biggest weakness. I would have liked a bit more logic to certain aspects but as an analogy it is powerful. The short is a tale about class and race and the importance of highlighting societal issues, historical or current. That’s what truly works about The Pit, although there are still some good visuals, like the timelapse of the city rising as the pit deepens. It also contains perhaps the most shocking moment of all nine shorts and isn’t afraid to strike a darker tone, yet ultimately arrives at a happy ending with a nice message.  

4. I Am Your Mother

I love Aardman Animations. They are a British institution and as a Brit my love of their stories and style runs deep. The Wrong Trousers may be my favourite piece of animation ever. I was overjoyed at the news they would be creating a short for this season of Visions and they delivered the goods. I Am Your Mother is classic Aardman, full of life and joy and humour while feeling very British with its examination of class divides. It also adds another much-needed mother to the Star Wars pantheon. There is a clear sense of joy from the creators for being able to play with the Star Wars toys, with a fun mix of easter eggs and references and connections that celebrate the franchise. My issue with it? It feels perhaps too slight. Too short a short. It has the smallest runtime and I would have liked to have expanded on the story.

3. In The Stars

When In The Stars began, I muttered “oh no.” The short focuses on two sisters and the younger of the two initially annoyed the hell out of me (something that dragged The Bandits of Golak down if I’m honest). Yet, despite my intense dislike of naive irritating children characters, by the end of the short I was enamoured with both siblings. The sister dynamic is wonderful and the short perfectly executes its simple, emotional storytelling. I was blubbering by the end. The fight against the Empire and its grip on natural resources is a great mix of Star Wars and Chile’s real history. The animation is great and even confused me about what exactly I was looking at: real model work or computer animation? Either way, beautiful.

2. The Spy Dancer

No lightsabers, Force powers, Jedi, or Sith. As much as I like those aspects of Star Wars, sometimes it feels right to strip everything back for a grittier tale focusing on the themes and ideas of the franchise. The Spy Dancer does just that and feels closer to Andor because of it. It’s a classic WW2 spy story in space, with clear nods to the French resistance. It highlights the different, more realistic ways of rebelling under occupation rather than the big space opera battles, although when violence does ignite it is a sight to behold. It has a great reveal, itself a twist on Vader revealing that he is Luke’s father in Empire, adding another mother figure to the franchise, and is the sort of remix of ideas that makes the canon-skewering of Visions truly sing.

1. Screecher’s Reach

I adore Screecher’s Reach. I found it to be the most affecting piece of Star Wars storytelling in years. The short stayed with me for days and is the reason it has taken me so long to get around to writing this ranking: I took a break from Visions after watching it because it felt dismissive to simply move on to the next short rather than let it sit with me. The balancing of tones is genius: the brave escape, the happy and humorous road trip, the genuine terror of the cave (horror the likes of which Star Wars has never seen), and the overwhelming sadness of the twist ending. All of it done so well. I was shocked at how invested I became in Daal’s story over just 15 minutes. The atmosphere is tangible, the music haunting in those final moments. It’s like a Star Wars fairytale, but an original Brothers Grimm one with a dark edge to it; the inverse of Luke leaving Tatooine, featuring the dark side of what someone will do to escape to the stars. Mix in Cartoon Saloon’s inspirations of Irish history and myth and Screecher’s Reach is a perfect short that everyone should watch. The best instalment of either season of Visions.

What is your ranking of the nine shorts from Visions’ second volume? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies, and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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