The Mandalorian Review: Star Wars reborn from the ashes
For, The Mandalorian doesn't follow the prequel trilogy or the new trilogy but goes back to the roots of the original trilogy. It is a Space Western, just like the original Star Wars was.
If Hollywood saviours deserved statues, Jon Favreau would top this list. From starting the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man and Iron Man 2, to providing us with one of the most magical and fun takes on Jumanji with Zathura: A Space Adventure, to adapting Jungle Book with finesse, and even breathing life into the long-dead The Big Bang Theory with the Young Sheldon spin-off, Jon Favreau has resurrected many a franchise. At a time when the Star Wars fandom is split, the franchise and more importantly, Disney needed a healing touch. With The Mandalorian, Favreau, alongside some terrific crew members, provides just that.
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte, Taika Waititi, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito
Created by: Jon Favreau
The events of The Mandalorian are set five years after The Return of The Jedi, from the original Star Wars trilogy. The titular character (Pedro Pascal) is a bounty hunter jumping from planet to planet to take care of not just himself but also his tribe, which is now living underground, thanks to years of being persecuted by both the Jedi and the Sith. As his name and fame grows, he is approached by a mysterious client, dubbed The Client (Werner Herzog), to get an asset for him. The prize? The most important thing to a Mandalorian: Beskar Steel, a legendary metal that they forge as their armour against lightsabers. The Mandalorian accepts the mission and procures The Asset, revealed as a 50-year-old youngling of the same race as Master Yoda (known now to the internet as Baby Yoda), only to develop feelings for it. This lands him in a quandary. Does he forego his life as a bounty hunter to be a human?
The Mandalorian is an eight-episode series with each ranging between 30 and 40 minutes and clocking in just a shade under five hours. This runtime is lesser than most modern shows and is quite significant for how the story is told. For, The Mandalorian doesn't follow the prequel trilogy or the new trilogy but goes back to the roots of the original trilogy. It is a Space Western, just like the original Star Wars was.
Wide shots with a singular nameless character framed in the center with the sun setting in the background. Extreme wide shots showing the hero and the harsh location he is trying to tame. Epic rising music overlayed over tense mexican standoffs. Taming of a mudhorn reminiscent of taming a bronco. A rogue gunslinger whose morals are selfish to start off with but turn into something greater than himself. A saloon-like setting with shootouts. A code of honour followed to death. I could go on and on but there is classical Western, contemporary western, post Western, spaghetti Western and even the Tarantino Western in this. And the best part? Jon Favreau's wonderful writing ensures that even if you haven't seen a single Star Wars or Western movie in your life, you can still watch this series. Chances are you will go and savour those after you are done with this.
A series like The Mandalorian is riding on the shoulders of giants but at the end, as a Star Wars fan, you realise it is actually holding the franchise like Atlas. Every single music director not named John Williams, has tried to be John Williams for Star Wars films. But in steps Ludwig Göransson, best known for unforgettable OSTs in Creed and Black Panther, whose The Mandalorian theme is a modern-day derivative of what Ennio Morricone did to Sergio Leone's movies.
Pedro Pascal's The Mandalorian is clad in helmet all the time and much like the most famous Star Wars exponent, Darth Vader, he leaves a terrific impression. Physical acting is vastly underrated and Pascal emotes with his helmet on and makes us quite invested in his character. The supporting cast including legends Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte create memorable characters with memorable lines. The latter's "I have spoken", and Pascal's "This is the Way" is definitely going into the Force pantheon of dialogues. Carl Weathers is the Lando Calrissian of this universe is a sight, with his smooth-talking, double-crossing ways. Contrast that to Giancarlo Esposito (whose Gus Fring in Breaking Bad is definitely my top-5 villain of all-time), and his beautiful measured menacing villainous tone. Only a person with deep knowledge in filmmaking can avoid writing cardboard cutouts for characters.
All this good writing is greeted with great directing and with Dave Filoni, Rick Famuyiwa, Deborah Chow, Bryce Dallas Howard and the incomparable Taika Watiti, you can see how different directors can envision a single person's writing. Filoni, who has been responsible for the crowd favourite, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, directs the pilot and fifth episode like a true television director while Bryce Dallas Howard's fourth episode plays like Seven Samurai lite. While Deborah Chow with the third and seventh episodes is the terrific newcomer we should keep an eye out for, the finale is directed by the man who can do no wrong: Taika Watiti. Wattiti voice-acts an unforgettable droid IG-11 as well as directing the season finale in his typical satirical witty style. As the episode and season ends with a cliffhanger, I wished for a Star Wars universe written by Favreau and directed by Watiti. But more than that, I was just overjoyed that the Force is indeed strong with The Mandalorian.