Before we get started, it should be noted that I am a sucker for cool armor and capes.
Darth Vader was the original instigator of that roguish ensemble. Boba Fett wore it better. And, somehow, impossibly, the as of yet unnamed protagonist of The Mandalorian looks even cooler. The monochrome, black and silver helmet gleams impressively. But even the burnt burgundy piecemeal armor is interesting, suggesting a down-on-his-luck existence in a world gone sideways.
It’s an aesthetic liberally borrowed from the Original Trilogy, most notably from A New Hope. The world of The Mandalorian is gritty and lived-in. Airspeeders chug along, spitting smoke. Droids wobble about unsteadily. And everywhere there is a pervasive sense of scarcity and desperation.
It’s a feeling Star Wars has been long without. And like Force ghosts visiting from beyond the veil, I welcome its return with open arms.
The Mandalorian couldn’t have come at a better time.
Certainly for fans of my vintage — those that grew up with the original movies and (rightly or wrongly) lionized them, who were disappointed with the prequels, and who increasingly find themselves subjected to a rising tide of content that doesn’t lift their boat so much as jostle it about while spraying them in the eye — a sense of trepidation accompanies all things Star Wars these days. It turns out, more Star Wars isn’t always a good thing.
The Mandalorian bucks that trend. It as Lor San Tekka says to Poe Dameron at the beginning of The Force Awakens:
This will begin to make things right.
I recognize it may be a bit of premature to bestow The Mandalorian with such heavy praise. After all, we’ve only gotten forty short minutes of it.
But man, those were glorious minutes.
I’ve been pining for a live action Star Wars show ever since George Lucas declared he was working on one, and had over 50 hours of footage planned. That was back in 2011.
It’s been a long eight years. I’d come to think we would never see Star Wars on the small screen.
The most impressive thing about The Mandalorian is that it doesn’t feel small. It is as polished as any big screen blockbuster. And, most importantly, it packs that elusive Star Wars feeling.
It’s basically everything I’d hoped it could be.
The Mandalorian spares no time in establishing its bonafides. Chronologically following Return of the Jedi, it liberally borrows many of the sights and sounds of the original trilogy. The first ten minutes features two cantinas, a giant ice creature, a wide assortment of aliens, the guttural bark of Huttese, the cheery beep of droids, the whine of straining repulsor engines.
I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this era of Star Wars until these images flashed across my screen, stripping away the years in the blink of an eye.
But it was the glimpse of the fallen Empire that really piqued my interest. The Stormtroopers’ filthy armor was a nice way of indicating the state of the Empire (as was the total disregard for Imperial credits), but what really struck me was how, even armored, the Stormtroopers looked almost emaciated. They had a dangerous edge I’d never seen before.
And of course, the unnamed Imperial client evoked just the right degree of quiet fascism. This is the Empire I know (and, yes, love). In comparison, the First Order is only clumsy caricature.
We get a sense of the shape of life in the galaxy far, far away, but the focus remains firmly on the story and never bogs down into explanation and exposition.
The Mandalorian is first and foremost (and fittingly), a western, with a mysterious gunslinger and long, barren landscapes. Is it any wonder that the bulk of the action takes place on a desert planet?
The episode’s conclusion delivers just the sort of world-changing stakes to propel the story toward its climax. Will the unnamed Mandalorian deliver the target to the Imperials? That’s the question we are left to ponder, but I don’t expect he will. After all, we’ve been shown he is a man of some principles, and he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I’m only sad that the IG droid won’t be there threatening to self-destruct at every turn.
The Mandalorian is far better than I’d hoped it could be. I’d expected something akin to Solo — a fun but unnecessary diversion that only further diluted the brand. Instead, for the first time in many years, Star Wars has seized my imagination. It evokes the sense of wonder and longing I first glimpsed under Tatooine’s twin suns.
It feels like coming home.
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