Star Wars has been a source of controversy for many folks in recent memory, but with Disney+’s opening and The Mandalorian’s premiere, I believe we’ve come to the bridge that will bring fans of the original and sequel trilogies together. Taking place 5 years after Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian explores new territory in the Star Wars universe while paying tribute to its roots.
I could spend this entire review enumerating all of the many visual cues from the original and sequel trilogies, as well as the anthology films, but I think it’s much more fun for you to figure those out for yourself (leave me your favorite in the comments). I will, however, highlight just a few examples that play out in the first minutes of the pilot.
The Mandalorian opens with a Mos Eisley-style bar fight on a snowy planet not unlike Hoth, paying homage to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Then with the passing mention of “Life Day”, we have a tiny Easter egg for the Star Wars Holiday Special, which is not at all canon, but hilarious nonetheless. Even the Mandalorian’s double-pronged blaster rifle is something seen in the very first appearance of Boba Fett, the Star Wars Holiday Special. This is not even to mention the Mandalorian storing his prisoners in carbonite, something that hearkens back to our favorite loveable rogue, Han Solo, being stored and toted about in carbonite.
When I was in grad school, I was fortunate enough to take a class on the history of Star Wars and its influence on film and the science fiction and fantasy genres as a whole (who else do you know that can say that?). One of the topics we discussed is the theory of Star Wars as a silent film, meaning that it is possible to watch Star Wars on mute with no subtitles and still have a pretty fair idea of what’s happening solely through the visuals. The Mandalorian follows this theory fairly well. Put your phone in the other room while watching this show, friends. You’ll miss a lot if you don’t.
As far as performances, we’ve got a lot of creatures and actors in masks. It’s a challenge for an actor to emote when one cannot rely on facial expressions. However, that is not a weakness for the actors involved in the series. The body language, combined with the visual storytelling all lend themselves to this compelling prologue to the first live-action Star Wars series.
Overall, The Mandalorian does something that Star Wars does well–it is extremely intertextual and genre-bending while also telling its own unique story. Think of The Mandalorian as a space western. However, I feel by the end, we’ll have much more than just a space western. I’m getting hints of a post-war dystopia, in addition to a space western. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if other genres crept in as well. With only 8 episodes in total, I’m anticipating much more exposition in the second episode. I’ll sign off this review by saying that I’m eagerly awaiting episode two on Friday. Also:
I have spoken.
The second episode of The Mandalorian airs on November 15, 2019 on Disney+.