When The Mandalorian was announced, I probably wasn’t alone in my disinterest. Usually I’d be chomping at the bit for a new Star Wars adventure of any kind, but let’s be honest, since Disney took over Lucasfilm they haven’t been able to work their magic touch like they did with Marvel.
The second film in Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi, saw a major drop-off at the box office compared to The Force Awakens. That downturn was just a harbinger of things to come – the next Disney Star Wars film, a spin-off story about Han Solo aptly titled Solo, was a bonafide box office flop. And for good reason, it was a mess.
Following that, the Star Wars theme park Galaxy’s Edge failed to make a splash when it was opened to the public earlier this year. Attendance was so low that the President of the Disney Parks had to resign.
Not to mention the disappointment many fans felt early on in Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm when it was announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe (all of the plots from the books, comic books, etc…) would be cast aside as non-canonical and rebranded as Star Wars Legends instead. Which might have been fine if the amazing plot lines introduced in the Expanded Universe had been replaced with something better, but they weren’t.
It seemed like the impossible had happened. Star Wars had lost the Force. Why should I have felt The Mandalorian would be any different?
Then the first trailer dropped and it was…. actually decent. Soon, more promising details emerged. Bill Burr would be guest starring in an episode. It seemed to be taking notes from the Expanded Universe side of things. Maybe it would be an interesting show, if nothing else.
Now, after the historic launch of Disney Plus and the release of The Mandalorian‘s first episode, what do I make of it?
Well, I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, especially with anything related to modern Star Wars, but if I’m being frank I must admit Chapter One of The Mandalorian is excellent television. It really sets the groundwork for something that could become very special if the creative forces behind the show can maintain the quality and keep things moving at just the right pace.
For the uninitiated, The Mandalorian centers around a… well, Mandalorian. What’s a Mandalorian you ask? Well, a Mandalorian is someone from the planet Mandelore. The same planet Boba Fett is from. Who is Boba Fett you ask? Well… look, if you don’t know who Boba Fett is then there’s no helping you, but that information isn’t necessary to enjoy this show. In a nutshell, the show is about a space bounty hunter who goes around taking on dangerous missions to collect bounties.
Honestly, I felt very strong Goblin Slayer vibes while watching the show. The similarities are hard to ignore. There’s a stoic masked protagonist who takes missions from a guild and primarily works alone as he is laser focused on finishing his objectives. But you know what, I like Goblin Slayer, so as luck would have it, I like The Mandalorian, too.
The production values are great for a TV series. Some areas look a little rough, like the lip-syncing on certain alien characters or the body movements of some creatures, but I feel like that was intentionally done to give the show some of that original Star Wars feeling back when Lucasfilm relied on puppet wizardry and animatronics for special effects. It feels endearing rather than cheap.
And the characters are equally endearing. I like Pedro Pascal’s performance as the unnamed Mandalorian. I really like Nick Nolte as Kuiil, an Ugnaught farmer, who delivers the catchiest line in the episode. Seriously, I’m adding “I have spoken” to my everyday vocabulary now. I like baby Yoda (although we can be fairly certain it’s not the Yoda, unless he was reincarnated or something). Everything and everyone’s performance just feels organic, like it has a place in this world.
I also like *SPOILER ALERT* the guest stars. You don’t know how much you need Werner Herzog in Star Wars until you see Werner Herzog in Star Wars.
The soundtrack is also on point throughout the episode. I wasn’t familiar with composer Ludwig Göransson’s name before this, but I am now. He gives us a fresh take on what a Star Wars score can sound like without overdoing things.
Of course, the most important element to any TV show, Star Wars-related or otherwise, is its story. It’s a bit hard to judge how the whole series will play out based on this one episode, but as I noted above it provides a nice framework for future episodes to add onto. Yeah, the plot is a bit simplistic. This is a boiler-plate first episode that is more interested in introducing the main character and setting the tone than anything else, but within that modest approach it definitely achieves what it sets out to do.
And there’s still just enough mystery layered over the proceedings to keep me engaged.
Overall, The Mandalorian is step in the right direction for Star Wars. If Disney/Lucasfilm can give us more entertainment that’s as lovingly crafted as this, the Force will be strong for the franchise and Disney Plus moving forward.
I have spoken.