TV reviews

The Mandalorian (Season 1) – Review

It’s hard to think of any fandom that universally agrees about all aspects of their beloved shows or films; people will always find something to disagree about. One such case in point would be the Star Wars franchise. Having existed now for over forty years, each new addition to the Galaxy, far, far, away brings forth more and more fervent opinions. 

Sometimes these differences of opinion can be treated with respect but sometimes things get out of control and social media becomes inflamed with the rants of the more fanatical fans. With the new films such as Solo and The Last Jedi causing some especially noisy feedback it was always going to be interesting to see how Disney’s foray into Star Wars live-action based television would turn out. With all manner of characters, planets and events that could be focused on, fans had a lot of their own ideas about what they wanted to see done. Although things were in the pipeline from as early as 2017, it wasn’t until October 2018 that Jon Favreau revealed on Instagram that his show would be called The Mandalorian.

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Although the show premiered in the US in November of last year, UK viewers had to wait until the new streaming service offered by Disney, Disney+, was finally released on the 24th of March. The long wait for the show, assuming people had not pirated it already (and seeing as how it was one of the most pirated shows of 2019 they probably did), was over. Cleverly, and equally frustratingly, Disney only provided the first two of the eight episodes on launch day, meaning it could not be binged watched in the free trial period. It is now half way through its run, and was it worth the wait? Most definitely so.

With it’s gritty feel and muted colours, The Mandalorian feels akin to Firefly as a space western while still remaining very much a Star Wars product. Din Djarin (the Mandalorian’s actual name) is a Clint Eastwood style loner, hunting down his quarries with a world weariness to his personality. There is just enough fan service to grab the attention of any long term fans without being too in your face like Star Trek: Picard was, and there is plenty to offer those who are casual fans or even first time viewers. 

Disney

The Mandalorian‘s plot is boosted by a stellar cast featuring Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Narcos) in the titular role, Nick Nolte (48 Hrs., Prince of Tides), Carl Weathers (Predator, Rocky), and Taika Watiti (What We Do In The Shadows, Jojo Rabbit) voicing the bounty hunter droid IG-11. Although a number of the episodes are a little light when it comes to female characters the show does have some outstanding actresses as well. Gina Carano (Haywire, Deadpool), as Cara Dune, a former rebel shock-trooper, holds her own in every scene she’s in and her character shows real development as her interactions with Mando continue. 

Of course, the biggest impact the show has made has come in the form of the ‘Baby Yoda’. Disney did not seem to realise just how popular The Child – it’s actual name – would be given by the amount of merchandise that now exists for the character. Introduced in the first episode, and the only character other than the Mandalorian to appear in every episode, The Child is the bounty that causes the bounty hunter the most problems. The primary puppet, costing around £5 million to make, was controlled by a team of two and was only supplemented by CGI when required. Favreau and the crew wanted to use animatronics as much as they could so that the character did not lose any impact or charm due to poor CGI.

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The way CGI was used, within the show, though was nothing short of amazing. Utilising a 360-degree video wall on a sound stage, virtual sets were created using footage camera crews shot around the world and projected using the Unreal game engine, from Epic Games. It meant that the locations filmed, such as Iceland and Chile, were brought to the actors in California rather than them flying there. The result was incredible, and had viewers fooled before learning how things were done. 

As the show progresses the relationship between Djarin and The Child forms the core of the plotline, exploring themes of parenting and fatherhood, what makes a family? But also, to an extent, exploring the ideas of good and evil in regard to nature versus nurture: whether evil is inherent or learnt. It opens up the existing debate as to whether there is such a thing as Dark and Light Force powers, or if it is the intention behind the usage that makes them evil.

The Mandalorian is a fantastic show that truly fits in well to the new Expanded Universe of Star Wars, and with four more episodes to go we know we have a lot to look forward to. A renewal has already been confirmed, and hopefully this show’s success will help with the other shows currently in development.

The Mandalorian is showing every Friday and only available on Disney+.

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