The Mandalorian Is The Best Star Wars We’ve Had In Years
Being honest, as big a Star Wars fan as I am (or at least was) I can’t help but feel there’s been something missing from a galaxy far, far, away for the last few… decades.
And as much as I’ve enjoyed Disney’s various Star Wars movies in recent year, bringing one of the greatest sagas ever to a perfect end, I’m kind of glad that they’ve made the decision to rest the franchise – on the big screen at least – for the foreseeable future, because I’ve become a bit weary of the whole thing.
As you might expect then, I’ve not really been that excited to watch The Mandalorian (Baby Yoda memes aside) partly out of a sense of franchise fatigue, but also because Boba Fett, and his bucket helmeted predecessor Jango, are possibly my least favourite characters in the whole damned saga.
I’ve really never got Boba Fett and the reputation he enjoys in the fandom. To me, he was the numpty who got eaten by the Sarlacc after being beaten in a fight by a blind Han Solo. But, for some reason, a huge swathe of Star Wars’ fans think he’s this unbeatable super-badass. I can only presume they like his helmet?
So a combination of my general Star Wars-based apathy and my open loathing of Boba Fett – and other onscreen Mandalorians – had prejudiced me against the new Disney+ series.
However, I was wrong about The Mandalorian – possibly the most wrong I’ve ever been about a show – because it’s actually pretty bloody good and easily (at least by episode three) my favourite piece of Star Wars media we’ve had in quite some time.
That’s a big claim, I know, and one colleague labelled me a ‘mad man’ for having the audacity to say it. But I’ll prove him wrong. I’ll prove you all wrong, with some well thought out arguments and my privileged position of having actually seen the show.
The Mandalorian introduces us to Mando (Pedro Pascal) – a ruthless bounty hunter in the same vein as John Wick but with a more questionable taste in head gear – as he murders his way through the galaxy in the wake of the Empire’s fall and the rise of The New Republic.
Mando is a man of few words, who never removes his helmet, and prefers answering difficult questions with his blaster rather than his scintillating wit. Despite this, showrunner Jon Favreau imbues our low-key lead with a real presence. From the moment he first wanders onscreen, on the hunt for a bounty, we know who this man is.
He’s a professional and dangerous man who – unlike Boba Fett – is demonstrably good at his job, capable of easily dispatching rivals with methodical precision. He reminded me (as other reviewers have noted) of a sci-fi version of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name’, in the same sense that they’re both amoral bounty hunters with just a hint of something deeper running under the surface.
The parallels with spaghetti westerns run deeper than just the look and presence of the titular character, of course. Favreau has made no secret of the thematic inspiration behind the series and as such The Mandalorian wears its references on its sleeve, to the point the late great Sergio Leone could have directed the opening episodes.
From the score (Ludwig Goransson’s gorgeous music is clearly heavily influenced by the work of Ennio Morricone, who wrote all the music for the Dollars Trilogy) to the setting (it’s a desert) the whole thing feels like an homage to the great touchstones of the genre.
Indeed, the opening episodes borrow heavily from the formula perfected by Leone in A Fistful of Dollars, the hero (Mando) arrives in town (the planet), uses his cunning and deadly skills to defeat his enemies, betrays and gets betrayed, and rights some social wrongs along the way (or in this case, help the Jawas).
It’s this formula which is, in my opinion, the show’s secret weapon and greatest strength. Since it’s inception, Star Wars has always dealt with galaxy-shaking events, so it’s nice for once to get the chance to zoom in on a smaller story and examine the lived-in universe George Lucas created more than 40 years ago.
While I doubt the smaller scale will last over the season or indeed the life of the show, it’s refreshing to see a slice of the Star Wars universe that isn’t dealing with the Galactic Civil War or the eternal battle between the light and dark sides of The Force.
This is helped by the absolutely gorgeous production design, every set is absolutely dripping with detail, which helps create the near-perfect illusion that this is galaxy far, far away is a real place where people actually live. Honestly, the sets look better than some of the film sets and it’s clear from watching the new series that all involved love Star Wars.
Somewhat inevitably, we now come to the little green elephant in the room, Baby Yoda. Or, to give him his proper name, The Child. When I first saw The Child I – in a rather cynical vein – presumed he existed to push merchandise and to broaden the show’s demographic. What a fool I was. But that’s what happens when you base your opinion on a character from gifs and memes on Twitter.
The Child is, of course, adorable (every time he comes on screen I do my best to stifle a smile, he’s that darn cute). But he’s far more than a prop designed to sell plush toys and push the story on, he’s a real character with his own personality and he helps to humanise Mando.
At the time of writing I’m only three episodes into The Mandalorian, but if the show maintains the level of quality it has so far then I believe Star Wars fans across the UK are going to be counting down to every episode as they appear each Friday from now on.
The Mandalorian is streaming now on Disney+