Review- The Mandalorian Chapters 1 and 2
It's been a long and winding journey to get to The Mandalorian, and I don't just mean for UK audiences.
Long before Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, rumblings of a Star Wars TV series circulated the internet, with George Lucas himself talking about the 100 odd scripts they had ready to go, that would focus on a darker, more gritty side of the galaxy.
Alas like many projects over the years, it never came to be. Now, nearly 20 years after Lucas revived Star Wars with his game-changing sequels, we've finally got that TV series.
Exclusive to Disney's new streaming platform Disney Plus, The Mandalorian sees a lone bounty hunter traverse the outer galaxy, getting paid for one job after another, in an environment rife with crime and corruption.
Created by Disney regular, and Star Wars fan Jon Favreau, the series does an impressive job of gathering not only an A-grade cast, but also some big-name directors. The director for Chapter One (Dave Filoni) may not be a Hollywood name like others, but is a Star Wars alumni whose known mainly for his role as supervising director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
With that in mind, a lot of Chapter One and The Mandalorian as a whole, feels like The Clone Wars, especially due to the fact the animated show was the only real Star Wars TV series we had up till now. Its opening scene especially feels quite understated, smaller than what we are used to in live-action. A lot of the time The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian feel like high budget fan content, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The influences of Filoni's Star Wars brain and Favreau's love for the classic trilogy are both clear to see. Right off the bat, the show uses aliens, vehicles, and troupes traditional to the franchise. Our opening scene eases in viewers with a traditional space bar, that sees The Mandalorian engage in a typical scuffle that shows how cold and badass the character can be.
From here Chapter One goes from strength to strength, with impressive visual effects, and a distinct look and feel, all elevated by its inventive score composed by Oscar winner Ludwig Göransson. The episode introduces us to The Guild, a company of bounty hunters, that the Mandalorian uses to acquire his targets, and his next job.
After a brief stop and flashback at what appears to be the home of The Mandalorians, our gunslinger is soon on another planet where he meets Kuiil, a fun and humorous character, not only for his serious nature, but also his instant catchphrase "I have spoken".
From here on, while the visuals and backgrounds continue to be impressive, the numerous behind the scenes videos and photos released, make it hard to unsee the partially digital set, especially in scenes where the line between set and LED screen are quite clear. While it ultimately does not affect the story, especially for those who may be coming to this fresh-faced, it does draw the line between television and film, which other moments are able to mask.
Both Chapter One and Two give us very impressive action while continuing to bolster The Mandalorian as a well-equipped fighter. Chapter One ends with a very strong confrontation, that both introduces another fun droid to the Star Wars universe, and action that will leave you wanting more.
On top of that, is the elephant, or should I say baby in the room? Baby Yoda or The Child as he's officially known, has become a cultural sensation, and it's easy to see why.
The character not only shows off the impressive puppetry work the studio is still able to pull off but also the restraint Filoni, Favreau and their team are able to implement.
From what we see The Child is cute, but not annoying, charismatic, but not in your face. Perhaps it was the creator's lack of expectations when it comes to the character's popularity, but ultimately that lack of emphasis seems to be what has made people cling to the iconic baby so much.
Chapter two gives us a lot of great moments with The Child (and his adorable floating crib), as well as providing us with a fantastic blend of nostalgia and fun.
When The Mandalorian's ship is ransacked for parts by local jawas, not long after obtaining The Child, we get to see the grounded world the creators have managed to pull off as Mando (as many call him) must fight to get his ship back up and running.
The sequel trilogy of films felt like Star Wars because of their classic iconography and grandeur but ultimately were against inhabiting those films with classic Star Wars creatures and worlds. The Mandalorian proves the importance of that world-building and that you can still make something new, with older characters; showing a different side to them.
The episode has fantastically fun sequences involving jawas that are sure to put a smile on any fan's face, especially thanks to the attention to detail and spot-on visual/ audio aesthetics on show.
This second chapter certainly solidifies Favreau's love for A New Hope, but also his vision to make a fun, but gritty space western. The dusty desert and battle-worn costumes of our characters all help sell the world, with Göransson's score also doing a lot of heavy lifting. The end credits show off the new but instantly iconic theme, along with the gorgeous concept art, cleverly used at the end of each chapter.
All in all, the first two episodes of this groundbreaking series, are both a feast for the eyes and ears. They are true love letters to Star Wars, with many of the elements that make it great. There are many moments and performances that take away its cinematic quality, bringing it back down to the level associated with television. But perhaps its biggest problem is the lack of relatable characters, especially as the majority of our protagonists so far, largely wear masks, or are not real.
We shall see how the series tackles that challenge going forward, but for now, The Mandalorian is another impressive high budget TV series, that is sure to please fans, and boost interest in the franchise along the way.