Disney+ Review: 'The Mandalorian' looks and feels like 'Star Wars,' but is it any good?
The long-awaited, highly-anticipated flagship original series on the new Disney+ streaming platform has finally arrived...but is it any good? It depends on what you're into.
"Star Wars" has never had a live-action TV series...that is until now. "The Mandalorian" comes from Disney darling Jon Favreau, who kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it when he directed "Iron Man," and who recently led the charge of Disney's live-action re-makes when he helmed 2016's "The Jungle Book" and this past Summer's "The Lion King." Favreau is clearly the most trusted director in Disney, as he's been charged with not only guiding the TV Star Wars Universe, but in shaping the public's initial reaction to the Disney+ streaming platform as a whole.
But again...is "The Mandalorian" and good? I find your lack of faith disturbing. But OK, strap in everyone, here is a MILD-SPOILER-Y review of the pilot episode that is now available for streaming on Disney+.
"The Mandalorian" is instantly recognizable as Star Wars, which is the first bit of good news. From the ships, to the strange aliens, to the towns and planets we're introduced to. It keeps those Lucas-ian soft dissolves and wipes intact as well...I don't think even the harshest of critics will take issue with the "look and feel" of this new series.
Tonally, "The Mandalorian" is a fast-paced action/adventure, the kind that you find in all of the Star Wars films, and this first episode has the feel of a Space Western. Our protagonist thus far is a dude simply known as "The Mandalorian" (Pedro Pascal), who clearly looks like a shinier, cleaner Boba Fett. We are dropped into the vast, gritty landscape of bounty hunting, a world that was hinted at when Darth Vader and The Emperor put out a bounty on Han Solo during "The Empire Strikes Back," and a universe that was expanded upon when we got to meet Jabba the Hutt and company in "Return of the Jedi." Our Mandalorian is one of the best and baddest bounty hunters in the parsec, and in this first episode, we get a glimpse of what he's capable of, and a taste for where this series might go next.
Mandalorian is hired by some shady individuals (Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog, both playing various shades of underground mobster) on a job shrouded in mystery. It leads Mandalorian on a mission that sees him teaming up with the deadly IG-11 bounty droid (voiced by a monotone Taika Waititi), as they infiltrate a heavily guarded desert facility. I won't spoil what they find there or who/what they've been hired to bring in. But it does end on a note that definitely makes you wish you could binge more episodes right away (sorry Millennials...Disney+ has chosen to go the "old school" route of releasing episodes of all of their new original series one episode at a time, once per week).
It was slightly disappointing to wait all this time for a Star Wars story and then find the first episode so highly centered on action sequences and blasters. Given that The Mandalorian never takes off his helmet and that his voice is modulated as not to be recognized, he's a tough character to relate to thus far. But he exists in the Star Wars universe, and that, for many of us, might just be enough.
There were small nuggets and hints at a larger world and other things to come, and some actors listed as series regulars (like Gina Carano and Giancarlo Esposito) were nowhere to be found in Episode 1. And with the focus being on mystery, I'm sure we're in store for several twists, and perhaps even some cameos from the beloved Star Wars films ("The Mandalorian" by the way, takes place after "Return of the Jedi" but before the events of "The Force Awakens.")
As for that rumor that the first episode contains a massive Star Wars spoiler that will shake the entire franchise? If it was there, it wasn't made obvious to me...at least not yet.
If you're a fan of the Jedi, lightsabers and the mystical side of the Saga, then "The Mandalorian" might leave you a bit frustrated...it doesn't seem like it's going to be a deep character study drama either, nor should it have to be. But it does what I think it needed to: It keeps you watching Disney+, and it fits in nicely enough with what has come before. It's comfort food for the Star Wars soul, without being overly delicious.
"The Mandalorian" is now available on Disney+.
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