Recently, I had the privilege to head down to Hollywood and take a look at one of the first major entries in Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+ (launching November 12). If you have any interest in Star Wars, read on to get my thoughts about The Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian is a standalone entry to the Star Wars universe and features a lone gunfighter working in the outer parts of the galaxy where rules are optional and it’s probably a good idea to keep a blaster at your side. Our ‘hero’ is crafted in the veins of Jango and Boba Fett, right down to the unique helmet with T-shaped visor he wears. To give a timetable for the show, The Mandalorian, according to Disney, “is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order.”
Our screening in Hollywood consisted of 27 minutes of film spread over three different episodes. It is evident from the outset that this is not the polished, streamlined Star Wars you’ve come to know and love. There is a grittiness rarely seen in the films on showcase here. Characters seem more inclined to make unpredictable decisions, leading to some unique situations. Even John Williams is nowhere to be found, his iconic soundtrack replaced by an industrial-based musical style that works well. We discover the Mandalorian working on his bounty-hunting skills on a number of planets, dealing with seedy characters and never-before-seen creatures that can make someone’s day miserable in a hurry. In addition, there are a number of nods to the film series shared in the form of Easter Eggs that may require multiple viewings (it’s a good thing you can binge-watch this series).
I personally thought the clips shown in The Mandalorian were quite good and provide a lot of room to maneuver in future episodes (Season 2 is already being filmed). The grittiness does not consist in poorly designed sets or stilted dialogue, but a foreboding atmosphere of doom, gloom, and even some mud. The artwork and set design are stellar to boot. There wasn’t a lot of hope expressed in the clips, although that will possibly change. It’s uncertain whether the Mandalorian is good or evil, and I like that premise. There’s enough quality and intrigue to give the series a few episodes of your time at the absolute least. Our audience gave the clips a good to great reaction, even applauding at the end of the screening.
Afterwards, we had the opportunity to chat with a few members of the show. Jon Favreau, the executive producer, noted that his whole taste in film was formed as a result of George Lucas. He likened The Mandalorian to the serial films of the past with cliffhangers and such, as the streaming platform allows for new ways of presenting the film (a new episode will be released each week, so viewers don’t have to wait for years to see the next installment—“everybody is seeing it first.” In this way, the audience discussion will stay fresh and lively (think Game of Thrones). There are multiple directors of the episodes, allowing the series to take on its own unique life and personality (episodes will be directed, in the first season, by Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates), and Taika Waititi.
Favreau made it clear that The Mandalorian is a nice entry point for those who aren’t into the Star Wars universe. They assume the viewer doesn’t know much and catches them up to speed as the episodes progress. As Favreau put it, “How do you weave it together . . . coalesce it so it creates an overarching narrative people would be able to enjoy wherever they are?” This, however, does not mean that The Mandalorian is only for newbies. Blink too fast and you might miss something that relates to the Star Wars universe.
We’ll get to take a look at The Mandalorian together on November 12th, but you need to subscribe to Disney+ in order to view it. I think Disney may have a winner on their hands—just as the final episode of Star Wars reaches the masses next month.