Happy Star Wars Day everybody – May the Fourth be with you! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the latest instalment from a galaxy far, far away: the first season of THE MANDALORIAN, which is available on Disney+.
Don’t forget that if you’ve got a great script that you think could match the sci-fi juggernaut, our Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award 2020 is currently open – and all submissions get free automatic entry to our Summer 2020 Screenwriting Contest, too! And if you’re struggling for inspiration, why not check out our 100-Day Creative Challenge, designed to keep you engaged and progressing? This week’s theme is “the relationship between writing and production”.
So here you go – our review of THE MANDALORIAN…
A lot of people around the world are suddenly stuck at home with a lot more time on their hands as a result of lockdowns, so there’s no doubt that Disney launched their new streaming service, Disney+, at a good moment. However, they also face a significant problem: how to bring new, exclusive content to their platform, and quickly, when all productions are shut down.
Until that time, the burden of such content falls heavily onto the shoulders of THE MANDALORIAN, an eight episode series focusing on the adventures of a bounty hunter five years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI, whose life gets a lot more complicated when he’s sent to hunt down a mark which turns out to be a child. Not just any child, though. This one is tiny and green, and it’s got big ears. It’s also adorable. The internet has promptly christened it ‘Baby Yoda’ and fallen in love with it.
Okay, let’s just get it out of the way right now: Baby Yoda (or “The Child” as he’s supposed to be called) is an absolute triumph. Every time he bats his big eyes and coos for the camera is a moment that would melt even Darth Vader’s heart, and his relationship with the bounty hunter is the emotional core of the show.
As for the mysterious Mandalorian himself, he’s not without heart either. Despite never removing his helmet – a requirement of his creed – this is a character with a subtle but clear personality, proving himself honorable when he decides to save and protect The Child rather than turn it over to the ex-Imperials who have hired him.
And that, fundamentally, is what THE MANDALORIAN is about: a bounty hunter trying to protect a kid. It’s a simple story but an effective one thanks to strong characters and the obvious charm of The Child, which we want to see protected just as much as the protagonist. But where the show really starts to shine is in just how well it captures that quintessential STAR WARS feel.
The amount of care, attention, and effort that has gone into this show is truly impressive. The production design is superb, with everything coming together to create the perfect impression of lawless worlds inhabited by gunslingers, outlaws, mercenaries, former imperials, and all sorts of other people who really, REALLY don’t want to be found.
To be honest, all of this is unsurprising given the level of talent involved behind the camera. With Jon Favreau (IRON MAN, THE JUNGLE BOOK) as head writer and showrunner, and directors including Bryce Dallas Howard and TAIKA WAITITI (THOR: RAGNAROK, JOJO RABBIT), Disney seem determined to turn out something faithful to the STAR WARS universe, and they’ve assembled the best of the best to deliver it.
Frankly, this is great to see. Since Disney took over the franchise, their output has been a bit hit and miss. After the disappointment of the prequels, it seemed they had a surefire thing on their hands, but the new films were badly plotted across the trilogy (or not plotted at all, it seems), SOLO was enjoyable but unnecessary, and ROGUE ONE, despite being the best of the bunch, had to undergo extensive reshoots and suffered from issues in plot and character.
The good news is that THE MANDALORIAN is definitely more hit than miss, even if there’s still space for improvement. The pacing is definitely on the slow side, although it’s punctuated by some genuinely thrilling action sequences. It leans heavily into the concept of the lone warrior in the wilderness, and while that’s a strength, it also keeps things from moving quickly.
The middle of the season also lacks focus, with a sequence of interchangeable episodes that each feature their own “story of the week” instead of following the overarching plot. This seems like a strange decision; there’s no chance of missing an episode on a streaming service, and the start of the season works hard to invest you in the larger story.
Overall, though, this is a show that should satisfy both hardcore fans of STAR WARS and more casual viewers. It does still leave Disney+ short of original content – there are only eight episodes, after all – so if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s probably better to hold off until a later date, with a whole slew of shows based on STAR WARS and MARVEL set for production once restrictions are lifted.
Of course, until then Disney+ still brings a massive catalogue of films and shows, ranging from animated classics to PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN, TRON, the entire MCU, and all other STAR WARS properties. THE MANDALORIAN might not be enough to support Disney+ all by itself, but thankfully it doesn’t need to. It’s just a great addition to an already great collection.