To be fair, I had pretty much given up on Star Wars. Even though I’m a big fan, I called the franchise in its current form a blatant cash cow in a previous blog. I complained about how disappointed I was by the direction of the two new episodes, especially VIII. Yes, I am eagerly anticipating Episode IX, but – although I’m very much open to being surprised – I think I know what the very last film of the Skywalker story will and won’t be. And I very much doubt it will be classic Star Wars. Thankfully, something else rode to the rescue when I least expected it. A figure in a helmet, strolling in a desolate landscape alongside a floating, spherical crib. I’m talking, of course, about The Mandalorian.
A fresh start is the best start
Virtually all Star Wars of late had something to do the original story, characters and/or locations. Episodes VII and VIII are obvious. Rogue One acted as a prequel to Episode IV. Solo relied on Han Solo, shockingly enough. My favourite of the bunch was Rogue One. Even though it acted as a link between III and IV, it did so from an almost enitrely different perspective. It had fresh faces, and had the liverty to play with the fates of its characters as it saw fit.
The Mandalorian goes one step further, by throwing in an entirely different story arc. It does not seek to create a wow factor by tapping into the potential that already existing characters possess, but instead crafts its own direction. Furthermore, the scope of the story – at least from what I could tell from the first 3 episodes – is much tamer and grounded than a battle to shape the fate of entire galaxies. The lack of an urgent need to save the world is incredibly refreshing. It should perhaps be tried more often.
Strong in the classic Force
Even in the absence of the well-known intro and soundtrack, The Mandalorian manages to feel more Star Warsy than any of the latest entries. It’s the sum of many factors. One is the visual style – we have very Episode IV-ish editing, scene transitions and cinematography. Furthermore, the highlight seems to have stopped being the CGI, and has instead shifted towards increased care for how scenes are shot, and what feelings they evoke. Episode 2 in particular deals very well with the issue of scale. All these visual characteristics are complemented by a light atmosphere, which doesn’t take itself too seriously and retains a certain degree of playfulness at every step. Yeah, Solo also had such moments, but Solo also came alongside a sort of invisible pressure, which emanated from tackling a marquee character. The pressure is completely off for The Mandalorian.
A great success this series is
After having gone through the first episode, I had a feeling that I had just watched the most Star Warsy thing in a long time. I wasn’t certain, so I immediately checked the review section on IMDb, and had my suspicions concerned. Basically everybody hailed the series as ‘Star Wars finally done right’ and as a return to its roots. Thus, I hope The Mandalorian keeps making wise choices, keeps getting things right, and keeps receiving love from the most picky Star Wars fans. Maybe, just maybe, Disney will catch on, and can devise similar formulas for at least a few of its 4385 upcoming Star Wars projects. I have spoken.