A few weeks ago Disney+ launched and with it came more intellectual property than you could shake a stick at! Perhaps the crown jewel of the entire launch is the first-ever Star Wars live-action series, The Mandalorian. Naturally, when you slap Star Wars on something expectations automatically shoot through the roof. So does it live up to those expectations? Well after 3 episodes, I’d say the answer is yes.
The series, showrun and executive produced by Jon Favreau (director of The Lion King and The Jungle Book), takes place after the fall of the Empire, in the period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and follows a lone bounty hunter (played by Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones and Narcos) in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the ashes of The Empire and the New Republic.
Joining Favreau on the production side of things is Star Wars lore master Dave Filoni (creator of The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series), an all-star team of directors made up of names like Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Deborah Chow, and a small indie budget of $120 million. From the first frame of The Mandalorian, every penny of that is clearly present on screen.
From frozen wastelands, seedy bounty hunter outposts, and desert mesas, the show spares no expense bringing these fascinating worlds to life. Like most Star Wars projects, the show quickly establishes a real sense of place. All of these locations feel lived in and full of stories just waiting to be told.
While the series does feel of a piece with what we expect Star Wars to look like, it has more in common stylistically with old Kurosawa and Leone film (films like Seven Samurai or A Fist Full of Dollars). The show pays homage to those films with tons of shots of Mando (the name affectionately given to our main character by another character) walking or riding across a wasteland. When you show features shots like this one, it’s easy to see why it gets compared to those legendary directors.
This sense of style extends to the excellent score by Ludwig Göransson which evokes classic Star Wars pieces with new themes that feel very much out of an old western. I dare you to not hum along to the closing credits theme after a few episodes.
Perhaps the greatest praise I can offer to The Mandalorian is that it is restrained. Before I even loaded the first episode I immediately noticed the relatively brief runtime of the episode at only 40 minutes with credits. That is mercifully brief in an era where every show runs 60+ minutes for no reason. In it’s first 3 episodes, The Mandalorian tells a discrete story and ends without overstaying it’s welcome. It feels like each episode has run exactly as long as it needed to which is more than I can say for most Netflix originals.
All this is to say nothing of the incredible cast that Disney has assembled for the project. Led by the aforementioned Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian also features appearances by Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, and Warner Herzog. That alone is worth getting excited over but we still have appearances by Giancarlo Esposito (of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul), Gina Carano, and Ming-Na Wen to look forward to.
The show knows exactly what it is and executes it very well. It successfully makes the dream of a live-action Star Wars show a reality and ushers in Disney+ to the streaming wars with the promise of more to come. It’s lavishly produced, action-packed, and promises to explore new corners of the Star Wars universe. I’m sold.
The Mandalorian is now streaming on Disney+ with new episodes releasing on Fridays.