When I first heard about The Mandalorian, I have to say I was concerned that a live action series simply wouldn’t be able to pull off a convincing dive into the Star Wars universe on a TV show budget. Not only that, but I felt that the focus on a Bona Fett-esque character would simply be looking to capitalise on the popularity of the famed, though somewhat wasted (at least in the original Star Wars trilogy) bounty hunter.
I was wrong, of course – on all counts. Currently the flagship show for Disney’s streaming service – Disney Plus – it seems that the House of Mouse have thrown an incredible amount of money at The Mandalorian to ensure it works. The production values are sky high and it’s a well written, satisfying jaunt through the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe a few years after the fall of the Empire, as seen in Return of the Jedi.
The tale of a badass bounty hunter who bails on a job by rescuing, rather than delivering, his target – a force sensitive infant referred to in the show as ‘The Child’, but known everywhere else as Baby Yoda – we accompany The Mandalorian on a number of different jobs as he flees from an entire guild of bounty hunters and the remnants of the Empire who want the child for their own nefarious purposes.
Though his visage remains hidden for pretty much the entirety of the series, Pedro Pascal is an engaging, compelling presence as the eponymous bounty hunter. He’s a man of few words, with much conveyed through body language and movement. There’s an excellent supporting cast who initially seem to be present as one-off guest stars, but many of whom do return at the end of the series. Werner Herzog is a particularly surprising addition, as an Imperial desperate to prove his worth by securing the ‘asset’ (aka The Child). Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito and Gina Carano all do great things with their roles, as do Nick Nolte and Taika Waititi (albeit mostly via their voices).
The series feels like a space Western; the cinematography is stunning, with a wonderfully desaturated look to the visuals and a variety of beautifully shot vistas. Gorgeous paintings accompany the end credits of each episode, retelling the events you’ve just seen in pictorial form.
Action sequences are punchy, exciting and more violent than we’re used to in Star Wars, with some really big scale, thrilling set pieces and well choreographed fights. The effects work is stunning, with a good emphasis on practical work alongside CGI only where it’s necessary.
Baby Yoda is a standout of course; he’s an astonishing creation, brought to life with some serious animatronic wizardry (and, apparently, a hefty price tag to boot – with the puppet costing multiple millions of dollars to bring to life). The show’s creators seem to love putting him in danger – and we almost immediately fall in love with the endearing little guy, so it’s incredibly edge-of-seat stuff when he’s threatened.
There’s a few episodes that feel extraneous to the main narrative, but despite being unimportant to the main arc, they’re still worth watching. An episode in which our hero assists some lowlife scum – who he’s very familiar with – in rescuing their colleague from a New Republic prison base, for example, feels like filler; however, it’s still a very enjoyable episode in its own right.
The music – by Ludwig Göransson – is unbelievably good, and is quite a departure from the classically symphonic scores that we’re used to hearing in Star Wars. Despite this, the series overall is probably the closest in feel to the original feel of Star Wars back when all we knew were the moisture farms and hives of scum and villainy on Tatooine, along with the glimpses of rebellion on Yavin and Imperial power struggles aboard the Death Star.
At only eight episodes, The Mandalorian feels a little short – but definitely leaves you hungry for more. The story is left somewhat open, with one hell of a stunning final shot for one of the main antagonists. I, for one, can’t wait for the second series. Let’s hope that there’s not such a wait for the episodes outside the US next time too; by the time The Mandalorian arrived in the UK – with Disney Plus launching several months later than in the US – the clips and memes of Baby Yoda were everywhere and seemingly unavoidable online. It’d be great to discover the new story at the same time as everyone else as we go deeper into the darker underside of the Star Wars universe.
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