The Mandalorian airs new episodes weekly via the Disney+ streaming service and comes to the UK in March 2020.
A Mandalorian bounty hunter tracks a target for a well-paying client.
The first instalment of Disney+’s crowning (at least at launch) jewel, The Mandalorian, promises a rich story steeped in years worth of Star Wars mythology. Drawing on areas of the universe previously only seen in tie-in novels and animated series and with Jon Favreau at the keyboard it feels like a sure fire hit in the making.
But the opening gambit of The Mandalorian suffers in its first and second act with some clunky dialogue and a number of a jokes which feel aimed squarely at a less mature audience.
For much of the episodes short, 39 minutes (including credits) runtime it feels like the show is struggling to find its own identity. On the one hand it feels born from the inspired vision of Gareth Edward’s Rogue One, the colours are more muted, the action is more edgy and contemporary. But then scenes like Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian refusing a modern speeder and awaiting an old, clapped-out banger grasp at the burgeoning hit and drag it back in to The Phantom Menace territory.
Its third act culminates in an exciting, if predictable, battle sequence and a cliffhanger ending which will leave any Star Wars fan with their jaw on the floor. An excellent twist which left me feeling incredibly confused about what I had just watched.
The Mandalorian is, above all, a stunning production. Luscious cinematography is enhanced with top-notch VFX which really put the series alongside it’s silver screen counterparts in terms of quality. Costume design, set design and its soundscape are all incredibly inspired and it would be difficult to find fault with any of them.
On first watch the score, by composer Ludwig Göransson, felt a little too out of left-field to fit the usual Star Wars aesthetic. Whilst I have never struggling with seeing the visuals of the franchise adapted for a contemporary audience it has always been anchored by a strong score which evokes the feeling of John Williams’ original. Given time Göransson’s score fits this world well, in particular the end credits feature quite a striking piece of modern Star Wars music.
The series is also well cast, at least by what I can tell from this first episode. Pedro Pascal is able to carry the show using mainly his physicality, his dialogue is sparse and his helmet is never removed, something the show even pokes fun at in one scene. There’s certainly an old Western, lone gunmen style aesthetic to the series and that is carried by many scenes which purely focus on his movements.
There are glimpses of Carl Weathers, Nick Nolte, Werner Herzog Omid Abtahi and Taiki Waititi although you’d be hard pressed to recognise a couple of them. The Mandalorian has a strong supporting cast and its through them that we learn more of the context around the series protagonist. But ultimately they are only supporting players and there is only so much which their characters are able to accomplish during their small screen time.
The highlight of “Chapter 1” is easily the battle sequence on Arvala-7. It shows that the series is capable of larger scale sequences and brings in a number of extras to really up the ante. Whilst there is no complex fight choreography it feels in keeping with similar scenes across the movies.
I won’t spoil the cliffhanger with too much detail but it will certainly please fans of the franchise. It offers a connection to the wider franchise but also instantly makes The Mandalorian more accessible. Its likability is instantly increased through this scene and that will certainly be enough to carry even the most cynical viewer in to the second episode.
Though an intriguing start, The Mandalorian is not the all-round success that Disney will be hoping for. The engaging narrative is let down by moments of flawed dialogue and characters lacking in rich context.
Written by Iron Man‘s Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. The series debuts new episodes weekly on Disney+.