It is finally here! And by that, I mean that DisneyPlus (or Disney+) has finally been launched, being Disney’s own version of Netflix or Amazon Prime, where you can watch (or download) most of Disney content over the years. Some of it’s content include films from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pixar, along with many other Disney films.
The flagship programme for the show, The Mandalorian has already aired in the US, but has just starting aired here in the UK now. The series is a spin-off of the Star Wars franchise, taking place in the same universe, but not (or at least, not yet) directly mentioning anything that happened in the recent sequel trilogy. The series brings out the episodes week by week, with new episodes coming out each Friday.
The series centres on a bounty hunter (in the same vein as Boba Fett or Jango Fett), known only as The Mandalorian (or “Mando” for short), a lone gunfighter. The premise is very simple, in that we see him go around the galaxy, having adventures. In the first who episodes, titled “The Mandalorian” and “The Child”, Mando is hired to kill and bring back the unnamed “Child”, a younger child of Yoda’s species, loving referred to as “The Child” by fans.
This show has a lot of pressure on it’s shoulders to make Disney+ a success, and for the most part, it really delivers. It is a really strong show, and it is a very strong reinvention of the Star Wars franchise. The franchise has had a mixed output over the past couple of years – both “Solo” and “The Rise of Skywalker” were fine, but slightly disappointing. Neither of those films reached the heights of “The Force Awakens” or “The Last Jedi” (or “Rogue One” for that matter), but, The Mandalorian feels like the best project from the franchise in a while.
The series is wonderful in that it takes the series back to it’s roots. It is a simplistic, straightforward but effective story, that has it’s roots in space opera and especially, space westerns. The series feels very inspired by Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), and especially, the Dollars Trilogy (1964-66), and feels like the first time we have had a proper space western since Joss Whedon’s cult classic, Firefly (2002-03).
In particular, the show’s main character, The Mandalorian feels exactly like Clint Eastwood’s The Man with No Name from the Dollar Trilogy. The character is a completely masked hero character, and only responds to characters with short, non-committal sentences. He is brilliantly portrayed by Pedro Pascal, already a cult favourite, appearing in Game of Thrones and Narcos.
Pascal is so great at portraying the character, saying so much just with his subtle body and head movements, voice performance, and non-conversational gestures (like sighs and shaking his head). What is so clever about the show is that the writing still gives him a lot of depth, despite his lone, solo nature.
They show the two different sides to his character – his brutal nature, in how he freezes (in Empire Strikes Back Han Solo style) one of his bounties but also, his caring, fatherly nature, in how he saves Baby Yoda. It is very refreshing in how sparsely the show develops his character – they do it through his interactions with other characters, rather than using expository dialogue or flashbacks.
Baby Yoda (or The Child, as he should be called) is also a very entertaining character. The character has proved to be the breakout character for the show, and probably for Disney+ in general. Even if you haven’t seen or heard of the show, you will most likely know of the character through hundreds of memes and merchandise. Cute, sweet, but also interesting with depth, the character shows a lot of promise for future installments.
The show feels very different and refreshing, and this is a real marvel for a franchise like Star Wars that has stretched 40+ years. What is really refreshing about this show is that it deals with the gritty and grimy parts of this universe. The show eschewed Luke and Rey chosen one-like narrative, and instead favours a more morally ambiguous, workmanlike narrative and lead character.
There is also a real sheen and polish to the show – the visuals and special effects are particularly very impressive. Also, the soundtrack for the episodes is really great. It has notions of Ennio Morricone’s scores for Leone’s films – it is thrilling, tense, effective and simple, and invokes a real Western feeling.
From the first two episodes, The Mandalorian has shown itself to be an effective and thrilling show. It is a simple show, that at the moment, feels a little insubstantial (and slightly boring), but has plenty of scope for future episodes. I can’t wait to see where it goes next. But, at the moment, The Mandalorian is great, and probably the best thing to come out of the Star Wars franchise since The Last Jedi.