One of the newest and certainly most interesting entries into the Star Wars expanded universe has to be Disney+'s The Mandalorian. This intriguing and exciting bounty-hunter-focused spin-off is definitely one of our new favorite series. But there's something peculiar about it that grabs our attention. Though it takes place in a galaxy far, far, away, it feels much more like a western.
It's still Star Wars, that's plainly seen, but its drama, music, and atmosphere feel more like something out of a spaghetti western than a sci-fi flick. Still, The Mandalorian feels like the best of both worlds. Check out our reasons why it's a space-western and why it's still a moving space-opera
10 Space Western: Dyn Jarren is the Man-With-No-Name
We can't talk about The Mandalorian without the Mandalorian, right? Move over, Boba Fett, Dyn Jarren is the masked mercenary of choice for this show. Though he bears the exterior of a familiar space bounty-hunter, he carries himself like a certain face of western cinema.
With his cloak flapping in the breeze, his gruff voice, and his talented trigger finger, Dyn Jarren bears a strange resemblance to Clint Eastwood's character from the Dollars trilogy. He's a cool, morally-ambiguous bounty hunter without a spoken name/sigil (as of now). Honestly, we half expect him to ride into the sunset before the series is over.
9 Space Opera: It's Still the Familiar Universe
Space Westerns aren't new territory, look at C.L. Moore's Northwest Smith or Joss Wheadon's Firefly crew. But the presence of the Star Wars space opera narrative and themes are still present despite this new rugged adventure. One only has to look around and realize we never left the galaxy far, far away.
The seasoned sci-fi fan can instantly recognize that this isn't some garden-variety space-age, it's the Star Wars universe. From the architecture to the alien species and legion of droids walking about, we can still detect traces of the battle between the Rebel Alliance and the shadows of the evil Empire. It's still Star Wars.
8 Space Western: Its Opening is a Western Cliche
Stop us if you've heard this one before. A mysterious bounty hunter walks into the saloon, sits down at the bar, gets hassled by some unruly desperados, blows them away in a brawl, leaves with a bounty, and rides off into the distance. If this sounds like a western, you'd be right... and wrong.
We've not only described a sequence in dozens of cowboy flicks but the first few minutes of The Mandalorian. We're not calling it cliche by any means, but we'd be lying if we said we hadn't seen something familiar. It still makes for a great way to introduce our mysterious lead.
7 Space Opera: Reliance on Tech
Instead of pistols, we have blasters, and instead of wagon trains, we have spaceships. It might have some western themes and imagery, but The Mandalorian still relies on the tech and toys of Star Wars to give it a backbone. Not that we're complaining, of course.
Our titular bounty hunter might be the fastest gun in the star-system, but he'd be at a great disadvantage if it wasn't for some of his futuristic sci-fi gadgets. His wrist flamethrowers, blaster-rifle, and various materials aboard his spaceship keep him from getting too into the cowboy role but make him a Mandalorian.
6 Space Western: The Score
When one normally goes to a Star Wars film, they can expect to be serenaded by the triumphant fanfares and sweeping symphonies by John Williams. The Mandalorian has absolutely none of these. Instead, we are treated to different and at times simpler compositions that would be more at home in a Clint Eastwood film than a Star Wars epic.
The show's score is brought to us by the brilliant Ludwig Göransson, the mind behind the music of Black Panther. His western-inspired melodies with their use of ominous flutes and percussion definitely put us in that high-noon mindset. It's a different take, but one that fits the show perfectly.
5 Space Opera: The Conflict
Though the days of the evil Empire are over, there is still a sense of tension that saturates the more populated planets we've seen in the film. Especially when we see the reveal of the Mandalorian's newest employer. Without going into spoilers, let's just say that the Empire hasn't been completely erased.
What makes Star Wars a great space opera is the plight of the Rebellion and the power of the Empire, both forces (pun intended) are keenly present in the films, but traces of it still remain in this post-Empire world. It's a new story but set against the same atmosphere.
4 Space Western: Post Empire = Post Civil War
Several great westerns take place after or during the Civil War, a time of great tension and conflict in the United States which made for a great culture point in many films. The shadow of the Empire in The Mandalorian's setting and period bears a strange resemblance to post-civil-war America.
From the subtle hint in the imperial currency to the identity of Jarren's new employer, the Empire's influence, though drastically damaged, is still felt almost in the same way the Confederacy was during and after the Civil War. Call it a theory or call it clever filmmaking, we definitely appreciate this element.
3 Space Opera: Size of the World
Though we've only seen a couple of planets, that's all we need to distinguish the absolute size of this universe. Going in, we know it's still that familiar galaxy far, far, away, but that doesn't stop us from being absolutely wowed by the different worlds that make up the show's immense setting.
We've seen a tundra environment, a bustling and grimy city, and have just left a desert planet akin to many western settings. Sometimes we get so engrossed with the show's action and visuals, we forget that we're in a Star Wars universe, even though a fraction has only been revealed.
2 Space Western: Jarren is the Ideal Gunslinger
We've already touched on the Mandalorian's resemblance to a famous star of western cinema, but we've not dived deeper into what makes him such a perfect protagonist for the genre. If you took away all his bounty hunter gear and replaced it with a western gunslinger's apparel, you'd only be changing the aesthetic and not the character.
Jarren is a mysterious masked bounty hunter, speaks only when necessary, has shadowy morals, and is as talented with a blaster as any western sharp-shooter would be. Put him in a Tarantino film with Samuel L. Jackson as his co-star and you've got a hit.
1 Space Opera: Presence of the Force
This is made brilliantly clear in chapter two, but for those of us steeped in Star Wars lore who already know the Force is all around us and within us, it was a warm and comfortable reminder. The one element that keeps The Mandalorian from going full space western is the presence and power of the Force.
Episode two of the series serves as a reminder that tethers us to the fact that while this is a more action-heavy and grittier adventure than what we're used to, it's still a Star Wars story. Through the Force, we are given that mystical element that makes the source material so incredible.