This is going to be a WAYYY more complicated review of a TV show than it needs to be. But, uh, that’s my modus operandi apparently. Everything is way way more complicated than it needs to be. Way way too convoluted and layered. Dude, if you want USA Today simple, it’s over that way —->
Where do I start? I think I talk about the hate first. I am pretty sure I have spoken about my extreme ideological disdain for all things Star Trek here before. But basically, in short, Star Wars is a mythological space folklore centering around the Knights of the Round table. Valiant gods (Skywalkers) on horseback (tauntauns) and swords (laser-swords), aspiring for greatness, failing, and attempting to restore their honor through acts of noble and impressive acts. Star Trek is a populist manifesto that speaks to the power of the collective whole and speaks against any one hero in particular.
So it’s a philosophical difference, first and foremost.
But it is also a mythos origin story. Star Trek was a project by Gene Roddenberry, that started on television, and ran for three years from 1966 to 1969. Star Wars on the other hand was a film that was created by George Lucas and released in 1977. The first Star Wars film made $775 million at the box office. Trek was a pristine world of clean lines and a pristine future. Wars on the other hand told of a dark future, with broken machines and dilapidated technology. Star Trek ventured into the Star Wars controlled world of film, and in 1979 the first film came out, making $82 million dollars. But here’s the rub. Star Wars is now, finally, venturing into the well demarcated, and monopolized, Star Trek controlled domain of the small screen. Get this, there are well over SEVEN HUNDRED episodes in the Star Trek oeuvre at this point. How many does Star Wars have right now under its belt? One. So yeah, this definitely is a concerning flip in my mind, and it isn’t something that is a foregone conclusion that it will work.
So – did it work? Can a multi-billion dollar (well, over 10 billion in box office and video sales receipts) franchise do the small screen? What happens when you take a $300,000,000 production budget for 120 minutes, for a normal Star Wars film, and crank that back to $15 million an episode? Or $120 million over the course of its 8 episode first series. I really think we should talk about that.
The Mandalorian Spoiler Free Walkthrough
Who is the Mandalorian? What is that metal thingy thing, and why does he want it? What are these planets that he is bouncing from and to? What has happened to the Republic? Can someone explain the various money systems being tossed around here? Why are the storm-troopers so thrashed?!? When are we in the overarching timeline of the Star Wars universe? Wait! What was that alien? And what the what!!? That ending?!? These literally were the thoughts bouncing through my head as the first episode of the Mandalorian bounced along, over it’s zippy 40-minute time frame.
Let’s be clear – there isn’t a lot of definitive content that explains the Skywalker world. Counting the hours of all the Star Wars movies (including Solo and Rogue One) there is only 22 hours and 40 minutes of content. (Do you include the Star Wars Christmas Special? I mean, personal feelings aside, I’m fairly conflicted here. But no, I left that out of the count.) And I’ve invested thousands and thousands of hours watching those 22 hours. (On that screen over there <—– I have all of the first six Star Wars movies playing at once. Don’t believe me?! Here! have screenshot:
You guys really need to trust me a little more.) Comparatively, there are 556 hours of Star Trek content. It’s a solid 22 days of content in the world of Star Trek. 22 times more content! And a lot of the content that was created for the Star Wars universe (books, games, comics, video games, etc.) were all written off as non-canon when the Prequels came out. (Yeah, I totally get how absolutely nerdy I am coming off right now. You can all just deal with it. Because I’m going to eventually tell you what I think about the Mandalorian, but, if I don’t get the words out, it’s not going to make much sense to you anyway.)
And all of a sudden, we have 320 new minutes of Star Wars – galaxy far far away – canon material to digest and osmose. (And in a month, we’ll have another 155 minutes when Rise of Skywalker comes out.) EpiPen? ANYONE HAVE AN EpiPen?!?!? All that to say, I’m having a bit of a tough time wrapping my brain around this new show.
Basically the first episode can be summed up with this single sentence, “The Mandalorian brings in a bounty, and then is sent out on a really troubling new job.” I see the show more as a cowboy spaghetti western than I see it as a sci-fi flick. It has dust encrusting all its pores, and the overall feeling is that of an 1880 Nebraska sheriff bringing in his man. Which, works for me. 15 million isn’t going to buy you 60 seconds of Naboo or, better yet, Coruscant. And while the stories are small, they are littered with enormous portent. (I totally want to talk about the surprise ending of episode one, but I promised no spoilers!! No idea what I was thinking.)
I gotta say, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far. It’s a quiet show so far. But it definitely has the feeling of an origin story going, where the Mandalorian is building his connections, and we are learning his world as he goes. The acting is solid. The CGI is very solid, especially for a TV show. And the writing is intriguing. I’m curious where this chaotic neutral bounty hunter is going to go. Sure, he’ll go wherever the money goes, but he will obviously be confronted with good and evil, and we’ll just have to see what he does with that over time. It’s like starting over from scratch with Han Solo. It’s going to be an interesting ride. But I’m not the only one that is seeing all kinds of goodness in this Disney+ clickbait that we’ve been given all of a sudden.
Happily, the show’s brisk, handsomely produced 39-minute premiere is a great deal of fun, giving fans reason to have a good feeling about this. — Brian Lowry, CNN.com
The Mandalorian is everything fans could have wanted from a live-action Star Wars TV show and with a killer performance from Pedro Pascal, it’s already clear this is going to be appointment viewing each week. — Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com
The Mandalorian, more than anything Disney has produced outside of Rogue One, actually feels like Star Wars. — Joshua Tyler, Giant Freakin Robot
At least for a while, the Mandalorian and IG-11 form a bantering, gunfighting duo as the pilot begins aggressively aping Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, which is about as good a thing to echo as I can imagine. — Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter
The complexity introduced by Pascal’s performance, Favreau’s writing, and Filoni’s direction is enough to keep us engaged. Let’s just hope the rest of the world firms up around him. In Filoni and Favreau we trust. — Dave Trumbore, Collider
It really has been a wildly celebrated beginning to an interesting change for a firmly celluloid based experience. And I’m hopeful that the raves will just continue as round out season one. This could be an enormous universe to investigate, with infinite content potential. I am thoroughly optimistic at the start of this exciting new journey for the Star Wars galaxy. Can’t wait to see where it takes us.
Edited by: CY