The Mandalorian (2019)

A bounty-hunting glimmer of hope for the fledgling Disney/Star Wars consortium with Neo-Western undertones, badass Pascal lead, & magisterial set pieces + Baby Yoda, but maddening TV-PG not-dark-enough tone & selective-CGI finesse. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: A lone gunfighter makes his way through the outer reaches of the galaxy, far from the authority of the New Republic.

CLC’s Best #TheMandalorian Episodes: 1. The Child, 2. Sanctuary, 3. The Gunslinger, 4. The Reckoning, 5. Redemption, 6. The Sin, 7. Pilot, 8. The Prisoner

Official CLC Review

TLJ Broke It; Can Favreau Save It?

The Fledgling Partnership of Disney/Star Wars Takes To TV In Pursuit Of A New Hope

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

The Last Jedi. Porgs. ‘Let The Past Die.’ Rian Johnson-“Subversion”. Star Wars is in the worst place it’s ever been in series history. The dumpster fire of Ep. VIII left a trail of destruction, fan-division, and tanking profits/box office projections in its path – leaving some to question if Disney’s $4,200,000,000-acquisition of the IP was about to get sold down the river to a studio more capable of handling the Herculean task of continuing its legacy. That question is going to have to be put on hold, as – for the time being – it looks like Disney has somehow managed to stow off ruin for a little bit longer; doing so by making the ballsiest (surprise) bet possible: bringing Star Wars to TV. Getting in on the streaming wars rocking the cinematic industry right now, Disney+ looks to take away market shares from reigning powerhouses like Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon Prime – and if they keep this up, it’s going to be an interesting future. A bounty-hunting glimmer of hope for the fledgling Disney/Star Wars consortium with Neo-Western undertones, badass Pedro Pascal lead, & magisterial set pieces + Baby Yoda, but maddening TV-PG not-dark-enough tone & selective CGI finesse, The Mandalorian is the best SW adaptation of recent memory and a new age on TV – even withstanding its flaws.

The Sci-Fi World Building & Set Pieces

A Blockbuster Film On TV – Equally-Impressive In Its Classical Orchestral Score

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

The magisterial set pieces and top-notch Sci-Fi world-building on display instantly makes The Mandalorian feel unlike most other series on TV. While some of the creature-CGI is problematic (I’ll address later), the backdrop of Manda feels extremely high-budget and opulent enough to do the Star Wars name proud like a 10+-hour blockbuster film on TV – rightfully exploiting its likely unparalleled budget for one of the most cinematic and expensive series on streaming. We’re taken from chilly arctic rims we begin our journey in to desolate muddy bazaars, expansive desert valleys, and lush jungles for a full gamut of diverse filming locations that gives it a classically-SW adventure feel unfelt since TFA – this time with a dark tint in visuals and strong cinematography for ocular satisfaction. The Mandalorian’s soundtrack adds to this neo-Western tone by adequately replicating the magic of the genre’s key era. A meld of desolate sounds like crying minor-keyed guitar riffs, lonely pads, xylophonic trills, synth buzzsaw trembles, Arabian drumbeats, rapidly-cycling synth-riser sequences, orchestral sequences feeling fully-choired like a massive blockbuster score, and a twinkling heartbeat-mimicking theme fuse to create a cinematic feel as isolated as its titular character’s conquests. The soundscape effectively dots the landscape we’re laid out before us for one of the best auditory accompaniments – something Disney, flaws and all, usually delivers – on TV this year. What’s easily The Mandalorian’s biggest achievement making for serious wow-factor is the neo-western flair in bounty-hunting, nomadic stylism that feels straight out the annals of Leone flicks of yesteryears.

A Spaghetti Western Feel

A Meld Of Neo-Western Undertones in Leone Gunslinger Bounty-Hunting Style

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

We’re introduced to a pistol-wielding, cape-attired, morality-questionable lead whose character theme upon first appearance alone is a flute/whistle theme magically-nostalgic to The Good, The Bad, The Ugly making it cinematically-relevant and a treat to cherish. This is only bolstered by our (anti)-hero’s badassness in fight sequences and sharpshooting accuracy like in the Bounty Droid Sequence & standoff escaping with The Child that give chilling invocations of the Golden Age of spaghetti westerns – this time with an added sci-fi feel for a meld of genres that makes it one of the most idiosyncratic palette pieces on TV. The Mandalorian himself is a phenomenal character, whose actions-speak-louder-than-words motif announces his presence triumphantly. This is the darkest Disney/Star Wars has gone (not-enough-so as I’ll address later but still a step in the right direction), and it’s glorious to see him take out entire saloons of challengers dressed in cool, crisp steel-plated armor in almost-’80’s Vader-feeling badassness & intimidation factor. Not only is The Mandalorian a chilling lead bolstered by an equally-imposing Pedro Pascal performance infusing him with a stoic, brooding, morally-fascinating, conservatively-mannered character that a legendary series can be built around, but he’s given immaculate character development with themes of everything from tradition to single fatherhood to sacrifice and self-discovery and a tragic orphaned backstory as well. Losing his parents at a young age to senseless violence and war-town Empire carnage might explain why his selfish interests and morality-ticker might be a bit off.. yet he finds little solace in pleasures of the flesh or meaningless monetary rewards. This all changes when he comes across a surprise that shocked him as it did the world simultaneously: The Child.

The Performances & Child

A Sensational Protagonist Mandalorian By The Inimitable Pedro Pascal & The Surprise That Broke The Holiday Season: Baby Yoda

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

The main ticket event you’re probably tired of hearing about at this point, but are going to have to hear more of: Baby Yoda. An indescribably-adorable mini-version of the icon of Star Wars-lore, whose coos and exploits trying to use early-Force tricks to heal his buddy or go after a shiny trinket that caught his eye are enough to make a grown man as ruthless as the Mandalorian’s heart melt. Baby Yoda has the star-power and innocent charm enough to save this decrepit series in disarray (as can be clearly seen by its near-instant viral status and catapult to the top of the Christmas season’s must-have merchandise, even outpacing Disney’s supply I’m sure predicted the response), providing that childlike wonder and transportive flair that made many of us fall in love with the series what seems like eons ago. The Child also serves as a crux not only for top-notch character development for our titular bounty-hunter seeing himself as an orphaned child left helpless to the cruel world in him, but also for an intriguing mystery arc that draws in the viewer to the series: Why was such an insane bounty was put on the head of this child’s termination in the bunker? Big Yoda died at the end of ROTJ, so who or what is this – a forbidden child? Marketing ploy? Horcrux? Either way, when Manda takes The Child under his wing and starts traversing the plains for his next target with him at his side – it’s a bounty-hunting duo unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, guaranteed.

Flaws

Bizarre Selectivity in CGI Prowess With Little Excuse From A Studio, Stream Platform, & Exponential Budget This Large

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

Now, the flaws. The tone of the Mandalorian is absolutely maddening. While darker than most other Disney/Star Wars entries, it still feels way too juvenile for its own good – as its (laughable) TV-PG rating suggests. How can you make a PG-rated bounty-hunting series? HOW? It feels almost fake-dark in parts, like a dark tint in visuals is somehow supposed to fool lowbrow viewers (which it did, unfortunately) into thinking it’s truly dark. You can feel the hesitancy and indecision Disney exercises in depriving it of the stakes, gravity, and adult-tonicism it’s owed – making the series feel like it’s caught in an identity crisis or a caricature of what it could have been under better supervision: one of the greatest TV series ever made. This hesitance is perhaps best exemplified in the opening scene of the series, when Mando comes across some thugs threatening his bounty, and when they attack him – he aptly throws one into the closing door to be chopped in half. When he’s thrown to the door though, the shot slows down and tilts away – and you can sense how much Disney doesn’t want this to happen not committing to show you the full version as intended and letting it feel fluid and continuous. This is a problem throughout the series that feels like it’s watering itself down from the badass, dark bounty-hunting series Mandalorian has all the intangibles and legwork to be – sadly held back from its true final (best) evolutionary form by yet more studio interference.

The Tone

A TV-PG Limitation & Not-Dark-Enough Identity Crisis; Vexation Of Inconsistency

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

The CGI in The Mandalorian is downright bizarre. There was practically no risk in making this series – with a name as massive as Star Wars bringing in millions of viewers and $ guaranteed. So how then is there stark incongruence and inconsistency in the VFX work needed to make a series like this? In some sequences, Mandalorian feels like the most beautifully-CGI rendered series on TV – but in others, it feels like it was done on a shoestring budget by amateurs straight out of college. This dichotomy can be found even in the same opening episode’s scenes of the Mythrol capture – wherein the massive hippo-like creature lurking underneath the ice’s surface is spectacularly-rendered straight out of a Godzilla or Titans movie, but the Mythrol sports some of the *worst* creature CGI I’ve ever witnessed in my life – looking like a Mudkip mask cartoonish enough to make you never see amphibians the same way ever again. As opposed to network TV, streaming series’ budgets are *way* larger (exponentially so) not having to deal with public broadcast TV headaches or advertisers or ratings. And that’s not even counting it’s coming from the richest corporate studio in Disney sporting arguably the biggest franchise name in the world in Star Wars that must have 100x the budget of any other show on TV right now – so there is just no excuse. Most other series would kill to have a budget like The Mandalorian’s, and it’s maddening to see it squandered or lazied so often. Beyond the CGI, the side characters’ acting is admittedly awful like in our tubby friend the Mythrol’s, and some of the action scenes strangely lethargic in parts.

Conclusion

Is The Future Of Star Wars On TV?

A Ballsy Bet To Save A Franchise That (Somehow) Paid Off; One Of The Best New Shows Of 2019 & Bonafide Win For Disney+

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+

If you asked me if I thought Star Wars would have a better recent track record on TV than movies, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Disney has made a ballsy all-in bet at the blackjack/roulette table to originally reinvent and push the boundaries of the series’ possibilities – and it’s somehow worked. One of the most storied franchises of moviemaking and one in intensely hot water – almost to the point of irrecoverably burnt to a crisp – sees its first glimmers of hope in this new Disney/Star Wars era (despite TFA that admittedly imitated a lot of New Hope as a trilogy-opener as thus less impressive). A bounty-hunting glimmer of hope for the fledgling Disney/Star Wars consortium with Neo-Western undertones, badass Pedro Pascal lead, & magisterial set pieces + Baby Yoda, but maddening TV-PG not-dark-enough tone & selective CGI finesse, The Mandalorian reminded me why I used to love the series under correct supervision, and might just course-correct this tentative partnership’s trajectory yet.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10