The first live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has finally arrived with the launch of Disney+, and so far, reviews have been mixed. For some critics, the most anticipated series in Disney+'s launch lineup is a disappointment, while others have a decidedly different take on what the Star Wars spinoff brings to the franchise.
Created and executive produced by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian is easily the most talked-about new show to premiere alongside Disney's new streaming service. The Mandalorian takes viewers to the outer reaches of the galaxy to follow the exploits of a skilled, Clint Eastwood-style bounty hunter, played by Pedro Pascal. The story takes place five years after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. The Mandalorian's first season consists of eight episodes, and the series already has a second season on the way.
But despite so much excitement surrounding The Mandalorian, reviews are quite mixed, and some have expressed satisfaction with the spinoff's first episode and how it immerses viewers into the expansive world of Star Wars. It's received praise for its action sequences, gun battles, creature design, cinematography, and special effects - all things that fans look for in anything connected to Star Wars. In these areas, it would seem that The Mandalorian certainly delivers. Here's what some of the favorable reviews are saying about The Mandalorian:
But even the most meticulous world-building would mean nothing without a compelling protagonist, and Pedro Pascal anchors the series with swagger and a surprising amount of humor, even under a costume designed to keep everyone at a distance. Despite his lone gunman routine, episode 1 introduces several characters who effortlessly bring out different shades in his performance, from assertive to deferent to downright quippy. The last 10 minutes of the premiere are a particular joy, giving us the clearest sense of "Mando's" personality and professional capabilities we've seen so far.
With practical effects preferred over computer-generated ones — one alien being who helps out The Mandalorian is refreshingly old-school, with a latex mouthpiece that just moves up and down instead of enunciating every syllable — and a framework built around a classic story, the first episode of The Mandalorian is a nostalgic blast that's thrilling, fun, and respectful of its roots, which we can't say about all things Star Wars these days. But it's the perfect fit of its western tone that makes it great.
That’s one nice thing about “The Mandalorian”: As conceived and written by Jon Favreau (the actor-director, not the political podcaster), the series immediately shows signs of a sharp sense of humor about itself, which has always been a key ingredient to any successful Star Wars outing. Favreau and company also have great fun sprinkling their scenes with all the little gizmos and weirdos that let fans know we’re in good hands, that the child within is still being served. In addition to the oddly satisfying sight of one of Jabba the Hutt’s preferred species of lap monkey being roasted on a spit, there are landspeeders, R2 units and, at long last, a Star Wars toilet.
However, not everyone is as thrilled with The Mandalorian. While its hard to complain about the action, there is one aspect of the show that plenty are criticizing, which is the human element of the series. The lack of emotion in The Mandalorian is being blamed on the nature of the protagonist, a character who never removes his helmet. Being a man of few words whose face is never seen, critics have found it difficult to connect with Pedro Pascal's character, and it's been said that the other characters haven't been introduced in the best way, either. An idea expressed in many of the reviews is that The Mandalorian doesn't offer anything special or memorable in terms of its characters. Here's what the negative reviews are saying:
As a bombastic first entry into live-action TV, "Mandalorian" is a bit of a disappointment. Crafted around a protagonist designed to be obscure (he never removes his helmet, and even his voice is modulated into bland evenness), there's little in the way of an emotional connection in the first episode (no others were made available for review; the second will be released Friday). Like prequel film "Rogue One," "Mandalorian" captures the aesthetics of the "Star Wars" universe without understanding its heart.
Without a backstory or facial expressions, how do you build an audience rapport with a character? In the pilot, The Mandalorian has one idea: General space-Western badassery. Most of the pilot is the Mandalorian showing off his moves in inadvisably risky circumstances—like a Mexican standoff with four stormtroopers at Werner Herzog’s office, or taking off in the middle of an ice field while an ice monster is attacking you. He’s very effective, which is part of the appeal of a character like this, and if you love watching a bunch of armored space soldiers shooting at each other with blasters, you’ll have nothing to complain about. But—sans history, motivation, or facial expressions—it rings a bit hollow, lacking the achingly human element of the Star Wars universe.
The visuals are all perfectly splendid. But the story itself is nothing more than an intriguing prologue at best. The Mandalorian should be enough for Disney+ to make a splashy (if technically tricky) entry into the crowded world of online TV by appealing to decades of fandom. Thus far, the only other qualities distinguishing the show from the rest of the streaming glut is its big budget and its attachment to a beloved intellectual property. For a Star Wars nerd looking to fill in some arcane details, it’s a cozy watch, but one episode in, The Mandalorian has yet to prove it can stand on its own.
The problems laid out in the negative reviews all seem to boil down to the fact that The Mandalorian has yet to give audiences a compelling cast of characters or a story to maintain their interest. It's all just cinematic flair. Of course, many of these reviewers have admitted that these are issues that may be resolved over time, or even in the second episode which takes place after The Mandalorian's big twist. After all, only one episode of The Mandalorian has been released. It may take time for the series to build the characters.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019