The Mandalorian review

January 31, 2020

 Image courtesy of indiewire.com

 

Episodes viewed: 3

 

At long last, the first live-action Star Wars tv series has graced our screens (well, for some that is). The idea of a live-action series set in a galaxy far, far away circulated in development hell for several years, going back as far as 2009 with allegedly over 50 scripts being produced, all regarded as overly expensive so the plug was pulled. It wasn’t until 2017 that Disney CEO Bob Iger officially announced that a new live-action Star Wars television series would finally be made, to be released on Disney’s then unnamed streaming service (Disney +, which launched November in America). 

 

Since then, Jon Favreau has come to the helm of the project following a slew of successful ventures such as launching the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man as well as other commercial successes for Disney, namely 2016’s The Jungle Book and this summer’s The Lion King. Favreau took on the role of writer and executive producer for the series, working alongside fellow Lucasfilm showrunners Kathleen Kennedy and Dave Filoni, in addition to welcoming a diverse range of directors such as Taika Waititi, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow.

 

The Mandalorian takes place five years after the demise of the Galactic Empire, following a lone bounty hunter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the new republic. The first episode is certainly driven by the ‘spaghetti western in space’ approach – Pedro Pascal as the Mandalorian is portrayed as a highly enigmatic figure, unsurprisingly he is ‘the man with no name’, and certainly no identity for he presumably won’t ever remove his mask for the remainder of the series.

 

Favreau retains the gritty and raw visual aesthetic of previous standalone entries Rogue One and Solo while sustaining the ‘western’ feel with plenty of desert climates. What is also striking is the sheer amount of practical effects used as opposed to the excessive shoddy CGI George Lucas used in his prequel trilogy. The impressive practical effects and make-up are perhaps the most rewarding aspects of the series, making it a satisfying aesthetic experience. Ludwig Göransson’s score is completely different to anything ever heard before, incorporating synthesisers and pulsing electronic beats more in tune with what he did for Creed but heavily contrasted with the work of Star Wars alumni John Williams as well as Michael Giacchino’s and John Powell’s efforts with the two standalone entries. It’s something that really does take getting used to, but by episode 3 it feels fitting and right for the show’s identity.

 

The show’s first episode clocks in at a surprisingly short 40 minutes, introducing us to Pascal’s titular bounty hunter in an unsettling Marvel-esque comedic exchange that heightens his advanced combat skills and questionable moral character. We are also introduced to Werner Herzog’s The Client and Carl Weather’s Greef Karga, however, it’s impossible to engage considerably with these characters as a result of the episode’s short duration. Oddly enough, the episode feels short but overstuffed, with inconsistencies in its tone and pacing.

Episode two is far more cohesive and focused as director Rick Famiyuwa brings a simplicity and sense of sheer nostalgia that will have viewers reliving moments from A New Hope. Pascal also demonstrates a nuanced and emotional engagement that was lacking in the first episode as well as more impressive physical capabilities. It too clocks in very short at only 30 minutes, however, whereas the first episode felt rather incomplete, this one leaves you quite satisfied wanting more.

 

Deborah Chow’s third episode merges the strongest elements of the previous episodes with even more practical effects and the return of Herzog and Weathers, their characters now layered and granted more complexity. Not to mention, this was the show’s most action packed episode thus far and also demonstrates Chow’s ability to balance action alongside character development which is substantially encouraging in her going forward and helming the upcoming Kenobi series.

The show may have got off to a slightly rocky start, but each episode seems to be improving upon the last. Ultimately, it’s hard to deny that the show has yet to unleash its full potential.

 

The Mandalorian is streaming weekly on Disney+ in the US now and in the UK from 31 March

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