The Mandalorian Chapter 1 Review
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there was an idea that a live-action Star Wars TV series could not come to fruition. Whether the concern was over budget or it not being able to live to the standard and quality (excluding those God awful prequels) of George Lucas' vision, it just wasn't done. The closest we received was two very well received 3D-animated series but they were mostly aimed at kids.
What would the show be about anyway?
Prequel-era stories, maybe a live-action Clone Wars series? What happened in the 30 years between Episode 6 and Episode 7? Would we see Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca or Anakin as starring characters?
They all seem likely since the Star Wars franchise had gone back to the same well over and over again, even-more-so now due to the toxicity of fans bitching about Episode 8 being too different than the previous films and sycophants wanting to strike it from canon.
When Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were announced to helm The Mandalorian, excitement boiled over because if there are two men in Hollywood who know Star Wars, it's Favreau and Filoni. Disney+ launched yesterday with The Mandalorian being its flagship show, and despite a few rough edges (normal for a show's first episode), it's not an overstatement to say that The Mandalorian can be a franchise-changing show for Star Wars.
One thing that must be praised as much as humanly possible is the visuals and cinematography. It is very apparent that Disney put $120 million into this budget. Every shot and scene is cinema quality and even puts the prequels to shame with its beautifully crafted shots and angles. Filoni really flexed his directorial muscles with his first foray into live-action film shooting. Even though it was his first go-around at it, it seemed natural to him and inherently as if he was meant to have directed live-action Star Wars.
Favreau had writing credits for this episode and the writing shined throughout the episode. Painting vivid scenes with tight Star Wars-familiar dialogue, this felt how people in a Star Wars series should be speaking to each other.
Pedro Pascal delivered a really captivating performance despite being underneath the Mandalorian mask for the entirety of the episode. Pascal was able to deliver everything with conviction and a quiet-confidence. Werner Herzog plays an unnamed client who gives Pascal a job to capture alive an unknown target. The only information we are given is that the target is 50 years old. Herzog might've stolen the whole episode. The entire 5-10 minutes he's on-screen is absolutely attention-grabbing. Not much is said from him but his stoic expression and delivery draw you in even more as you realize there's more to this target than he's letting on.
Taikia Watiti makes an appearance as IG-11, a bounty hunting droid, and teams up Pascal to acquire the target. A battle ensues and the two make it into a compound where the target is. As far as lightsaber-less battles go, this one is immediately amongst the best in the franchise. It's hard to convey the danger of a situation when a bunch of lasers are being shot across the sky. The visceral grittiness of the on-ground battle really gives it a charm.
The two are inside and the target is found and it is revealed the target is an infant, the same species as Yoda. IG-11 proposes to kill the infant but is killed by The Mandalorian before being able to shoot the infant. The final shot of the episode shows the Mandalorian reaching out to the infant's hand and the infant reaches right back to him.
This is the closest we'll get to Boba Fett fucking playing with the baby Yoda.
That's pretty much the plot of the story. Little bare bones but for a series that seems to be hinting at a way bigger plot than just bounty hunting, this can be forgiven, maybe extended the episode an additional 15 minutes and we could've gotten more. We get a nice look at some exposition and background on our titular character which will we get to see later.
The episode was near perfect.
The multiple references to previous Star Wars works are always a nice touch, especially when they're not shoved in your face. Nick Nolte delivered as Kuiil, a moisture farmer, in a role that seems almost like it can be a mentor role. The opening act set-piece inside a bar where the Mandalorian makes quick and easy work of some bar hoodlums in an Indiana Jones type scene. The pure ease of it all is fabulous to see the professional he is and for them to not even be his main target.
Then comes the other hiccup of the episode, Horatio Sanz as Mythrol. I normally like Sanz but his minor role was super annoying and it came off as he was trying to be the straight man in a horrible SNL sketch. The scenes with Mythrol almost made me tune in the first 5 minutes of the episode.
A reason why this first episode worked so much and why the hopes are so high for this series, in general, is because of the untapped potential for content. We've been so used to any new series or movie from the franchise leaning on previous material to support. Rogue One is based on one sentence in the opening crawl of Episode 4, George Lucas just basing the prequels on getting to Darth Vader or another planet-blowing superweapon Episode 7, there isn't a lot to work with.
People loved the original trilogy, not because of the blasters and lightsabers but because of the pure fantasy of the series. There's a reason why Star Trek is regarded for nerds more than Star Wars. Those series are rooted in science and Star Wars isn't. Star Wars is serial movies from the '30s, '40s, and '50s just based in space.
The Mandalorian is bringing back that feeling of adventure more than ever and it's in the hands of genuine creatives who love the franchise more than anything. The end of this episode solidified that feeling of wonder, adventure, and excitement again like the original trilogy. Add the new wrinkle of delving into the mythology of Yoda's species makes it even more interesting than it could ever be.
Chapter 2 premieres this Friday, 11/15, on Disney+ and then follows a weekly release schedule, every Friday.
Stay tuned to Burbs for reviews all season on The Mandalorian.