Disney Plus’ grand streaming experiment begins in earnest with The Mandalorian, the very first live-action Star Wars series. Let’s take a spoiler-free dive into it.
The Mandalorian is here at last, and in lieu of a traditional recap, it’s time to record a few random thoughts on the pilot episode.
One thing that becomes apparent right off the bat is how much it feels like Star Wars proper, in its sweeping cinematic vistas and dirty, grimy locales. What’s also noteworthy is how much it wears its influences on its sleeves.
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Sure, the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and the Samurai films of Akira Kurosawa have always been a part of the strange alchemy that George Lucas concocted for A New Hope back in 1977, but The Mandalorian is interested in turning that subtext into text.
All the hallmarks of the Spaghetti Western genre are here: grim, stone-faced, morally ambiguous lead, languid cinematography and long stretches without dialogue.
We’re introduced to our protagonist, a stoic bounty hunter known only as The Mandalorian (or Mando for short) in the midst of a violent encounter in a hole-in-the-wall cantina on some snow-blasted planet. Our Man-With-One-Name, (played here by Narcos veteran Pedro Pascal) doesn’t say much and tends to rely on brute force to get the job done, but it becomes apparent that he’s not incapable of patience or even mercy as the episode progresses, as he refuses to kill his mysterious bounty by the end of the episode.
I can’t reiterate enough how much I wanted this series to actually feel like Star Wars. Those with long memories (or good Google skills) may remember Star Wars Underworld, the ill-fated proposed TV project that never actually saw the light of day. One of the purported reasons why we never got a Star Wars TV show pre-Disney was budgetary restrictions. Simply put, making the show feel like it belonged in that universe was too tall an order for network television.
Such worries don’t exist here; every frame of film looks like it belongs in this universe, populated with starships, droids and aliens, both familiar and not.
Aided by some stellar cinematography by Rogue One‘s Director of Photography Greig Fraser, everything about this episode just feels right. Some may take issue with the sheer seam-busting amount of callbacks and references to other parts of the saga, but if we’re being honest for just a moment, naked fan service is close to 90% percent of the reason why this show was made in the first place.
Not that that’s a bad thing at this point in the series. It’s readily apparent that the enthusiasm that Executive Producer/Writer Jon Favreau and Director Dave Filoni have for the material rubs off on screen.
Not much happens in this first episode in terms of plot, but as a table setter for the characters and as a mood setter for the series as a whole, our introduction to this particular hive of scum and villainy works like a charm. So, in short, I’m on board.
The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney+.