Today saw the launch of Disney’s new streaming service, called appropriately enough Disney+ (it’s Disney + Pixar + Marvel + Lucasarts, so it all kinda makes sense), and among the handful of original programs available on Day One is The Mandalorian. It’s clearly a sop to all the fans (count me among them) who have been waiting eagerly for the long-ago announced Boba Fett movie. While we don’t get Boba Fett here, we do get the first ever live-action Star Wars series, with production values and special effects that hold up just fine against their theatrical competition. Plus, it’s both written and produced by Jon Favreau, for whom I have a ton of time and respect.
The series stars Pedro Pascal, but don’t expect him to be showing off his muscular physique and chiseled jaw – he’s a Mandalorian, and they rarely (if ever) take off their helmets. There are also roles (I don’t want to call them cameos, as they are generally more substantive than that suggests) for several prominent B and occasional A listers – among them are Carl Weathers as Greef Carga, Nick Nolte as Kuill (I have spoken!), Taika Waititi as Bounty Droid IG-11, and most wonderfully, Werner Herzog, the maestro of weird and outre himself, in the mysteriously unnamed role of The Client.
The first episode is a very fast 39 minutes, and you’ll find it shooting by. We open on the Mandalorian completing a bounty hunt – going after the fourth of a group of four – and his meeting with broker Greef sets the tone. The galaxy is in flux fifteen years after the fall of the Empire, and even bounty hunters are struggling to make ends meet.
The only contracts Greef has to offer won’t even cover the cost of fuel, so he suggest that the Mandalorian go and meet with a mysterious, unnamed source – Herzog’s The Client.
While Pascal’s Mandalorian is deadpan throughout, there are moments of humor nicely parceled within the episode, beginning with the results of the opening’s laconic taxi/landspeeder driver warning the Mandalorian to “stay off the ice” (and the ensuing ironic events), continuing with Nolte’s short (stature-wise and verbally) alien who helps the Mandalorian while dismissively ending conversations with “I have spoken” (and who physically recalls a slightly anthropomorphized Nien Nunb, the Sullustian co-pilot to Lando in The Empire Strikes Back), and culminating with Waititi’s droid turn as IG-11, who seems really hellbent on utilizing his self-destruct algorithm. There are even a couple of smaller roles for comedians such as Horatio Sanz (wonderfully utilized in a role small enough to not get annoying) and Brian Posehn, who should have been much bigger than he ever became, but adds a nice touch as the aforementioned landspeeder driver.
The opening was more than enough to get me interested in continuing with the series, with the next episode releasing on the streaming service this Friday. If you’ve already subscribed to Disney+, watching The Mandalorian is a no-brainer; if not, the series on its own isn’t enough to make the service a must-buy, but combined with the content library, it’s a nice addition if you’re already a fan of Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, and Disney.
Steve’s Rating: (7.5 / 10)
A strong start to Disney’s first live-action Star Wars series. Pascal is underutilized, hidden as he is inside his helmet, but the series shows high production values and good acting throughout, with just the right amount of humor.
Director: Dave Filoni
Writers: Jon Favreau (created by), George Lucas (based on characters created by)
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Runtime: 39 mins.
MPAA Rating: TV-14