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[REVIEW] 'The Mandalorian' (Disney+) [message #388738] Tue, 12 November 2019 23:43
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From Variety.com ...


TV Review: 'The Mandalorian' on Disney Plus
-------------------------------------------
'The Mandalorian' is a grim Western of a show that's less
concerned with capturing the magic of 'Star Wars' than
roughing it up a bit.


*SPOILER ALERT:*
This review discusses some spoilers for the first episode
of Disney Plus' "The Mandalorian."







A vicious killer with a tragic past and the faint glimmers
of a beating heart is no stranger to television, a medium
particularly suited to telling winding stories about rises,
falls and redemptions. And yet it's still something of a
jarring trope to center "The Mandalorian," the first
live-action "Star Wars" TV show and the marquee original
series for Disney Plus, which launched in the witching
hours of Nov. 12 in an explosion of Technicolor classics,
obscure childhood favorites and blockbusting properties.

Every other Disney Plus original to debut, including reality
shows like "Marvel's Hero Project" and the aggressively meta
comedy "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," run
on optimism, selling the Disney brand as unfailingly
aspirational. In introducing a "Star Wars" series along with
it all, it would have been completely understandable if it
were a romp that leaned more into a popcorn-ready "Return of
the Jedi" vibe than the sinister politicking of "The Empire
Strikes Back." (Or, in new trilogy parlance, more of a
"Force Awakens" tone than "The Last Jedi.") If Disney Plus
had kicked off its inaugural wave of "Star Wars" content
with a "Muppets"-style sitcom about bored Cantina bartenders,
I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised (or, for that
matter, disappointed, because that actually sounds awesome).
But at least in its first episode, "The Mandalorian" is a
grim Western of a show that's less concerned with capturing
the magic of "Star Wars" than roughing it up a bit. Even when
"The Mandalorian" lags, its swerve from a more expected route
makes it more intriguing as an entryway into a galaxy far,
far away.

Jon Favreau's new swing at the "Star Wars" universe picks up
sometime after the fall of the First Galactic Empire in
"Return of the Jedi" and before the events of "The Force
Awakens," at which point the hot new fascist power of the
First Order has already taken back over. (As for how much a
viewer needs to know or remember about the details of the
original trilogy, I watched "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi"
as a quick refresher course, but upon watching the first
episode of "The Mandalorian," even that wasn't completely
necessary.) With its blessedly brisk 40-minute runtime, the
glimpse the "The Mandalorian" pilot gives us of this
heretofore unknown in-between period is slight, but revealing.
With no one in charge, the rules of law barely exist, meaning
that underground dealings and individual firepower are even
more powerful commodities than before. The first episode
doesn't give away much in the way of world-building logistics
beyond some basic discussion of currency - but the
possibilities, as they say, are endless. 

One point in the show's favor is that it homes in on a single
story, the better to keep it grounded. It follows a seemingly
tireless bounty hunter from the planet Mandalore (i.e. "The
Mandalorian"), who spends his days scraping together
low-paying assignments that have him ricocheting around the
galaxy to scoop up bail-jumpers and preserve them in carbonite
before they can wriggle away again. To the tune of Ludwig
Goransson's richly textured score of sparse Western motifs and
melodramatic tone shifts, the Mandalorian stalks silently
through crowds, drawing wary attention wherever he goes despite
his stoicism.

That resolute lack of emoting makes the Mandalorian both a bold
choice as an anchoring character and a frustrating one,
especially since he's played by the endlessly charismatic actor
Pedro Pascal. That holds doubly true as it becomes clear that
the Mandalorian, like Boba Fett before him, never takes off his
helmet - not for his boss (Carl Weathers), nor his mysterious
ally (Gina Carano), nor his most intimidating client (Werner
Herzog). We never even see him reveal himself for himself. And
his world, no matter which world he's on, is monochromatic.

Over the span of the first forty minutes, we see the
Mandalorian staring down endless frozen white tundras, sweeping
terracotta deserts, dingy brown bars. (To give credit where its
due: the cinematography and production design of these scenes
are fittingly gorgeous for a series with such a high budget,
especially with Dave Filoni's directing providing a steady hand
throughout.) In fact, until the very end of the first episode,
the Mandalorian remains as monochrome as his surroundings,
making moments when he finally betrays some semblance of
personality - most especially when he's frustrated with Taika
Waititi's matter-of-fact bounty hunter droid - even more
precious.

"The Mandalorian" bears the burden of heightened expectations
and salivating anticipation from the millions of diehard fans
who have made the "Star Wars" franchise so inescapable over the
years. As such, the show has to justify its existence in a
different way than most new series do, at which the first
episode does a decent job. Someone who doesn't care for "Star
Wars" likely won't care for "The Mandalorian," but the setup is
rooted in enough tropes that its story remains accessible
enough to anyone who might be interested. The Mandalorian's
newest, most dangerous mission also brings him face to face
with a recognizable and truly unexpected character, one whom
should make even the most casual "Star Wars" fan will raise an
"oh really?" eyebrow. It's the kind of reveal that indicates
that the Mandalorian could have played a crucial role leading
up to the events of present-day trilogy, particularly the
concluding "Rise of the Skywalker" chapter that hits theaters
this December.

And yet: It also could just mean that the Mandalorian found
himself in an extraordinary position that nonetheless may
relegate him to the footnotes of history - which, all things
told, is exactly the kind of character that should be driving
"Star Wars" TV series. Sure, origin stories for characters we
already know and love can be fun. But learning more about the
extended universe through characters who aren't lauded as the
greatest heroes and villains of their time - even characters
determined to slide somewhere unnoticed in between - could be a
much more fascinating and fulfilling use of the TV branch's
time. 

"The Mandalorian" premiered Nov. 12 on Disney Plus, with new
episodes dropping every Friday. 


< https://variety.com/2019/tv/reviews/mandalorian-star-wars-re view-disney-plus-1203401712/>
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