I’ve gotta get this out of the way up front: I’m kind of over Star Wars.
I never thought I would ever say – or write – those words. When I was a lad there was a briefly-lived publication called Sci-Fi Invasion, and I can clearly remember one of the articles starting with the words, “There comes a point when you just can’t watch Star Wars again.” I thought to myself at the time ‘that will never be me’. The galaxy far, far away meant so much to me during my formative years. It was the campfire around which I was able to peacefully engage with my older brother, and form connections and friendships in times when I felt quite alone.
That’s the unspoken power of our stories, isn’t it? And it’s the reason people get so passionate about sharing them, or in some cases defending them. To consider critisism of a beloved film (or TV series, or comic, or novel et. al.) feels tantamount to critisising the relationships that formed because of it – and if those relationships have been an important part of shaping the people we have become, does that mean we need to question our sense of self as well?
No. I don’t really believe that…I just want to point out that I can understand why some people may believe that.
For myself, I have simple grown tired of Empires and Rebellions and Jedi and Sith. Part of it is over-exposure – I can’t go five minutes without being confronted with some piece of Star Wars merchandise; part of it is a reaction to the ugly behaviour of some “fans” in the wake of some of the more recent films release; and part of it is overwhelming sense of inter-connectedness, or continuity, with books and cartoons and comics that just feels like too much to try and absorb in the limited time I have.
Then the director of one of my favourite films of all time got involved…and I’m hooked once again.
In the same way that my growing disinterest in Star Wars was the result of many factors working against my brain, The Mandalorian has fanned the flames again because of many factors working together to engage me again.
Firstly, it’s a Western. If you’ve seen my review of the great series Firefly, or the underrated Sean Connery pot-boiler Outland, you will know that I am a sucker for the Space Western. It’s true, Star Wars has always been heavily shaped by the legacy of John Ford or Sergio Leone, but The Mandalorian puts that aesthetic front and centre. The tales are of lawless people in lawless places, alternately trying to make their way and survive their enemies. As a bonus, it is also a pretty great Samurai show, so Kurosawa fans should find a point of connection.
Secondly, it stands on its own. I am aware that, for fans in the know, The Mandalorian is dotted with references to characters and events from the wider universe, but as someone who has not seen a single episode of The Clone Wars I can attest that my ignorance does not diminish my enjoyment of the series one bit. In fact, I might even go out on a limb and suggest that one could very well enjoy The Mandalorian without ever have seen a single film in the franchise.
Thirdly, it feels…expansive. One of the little bugbears about some of the entries in the Star Wars Saga is that degree to which, for a story that encompasses an entire galaxy, the scope of events and the characters involved seems awfully limited. The Mandalorian, though small scale and featuring only a handful of characters, boasts a diverse and at times bizzare gathering of aliens & misfits. Watching these individuals from wildly different backgrounds interact is a true delight. And one of them sounds like Nick Nolte.
The series is episodic in the best way – in that there are very few details that inform the plot of one episode too heavily linked to another. As a “soldier of fortune” type, Mando (as the title character is called) seeks contracts which typically will involve him visiting violence upon another person. His code – or creed, perhaps – means that we the viewers can feel assured that this violence is likely justified.
But there is an arcing story – a quandry that contributes to the conflict of each episode. Discovering, piece by piece, the details of Mando’s past and pondering the hints dropped to a greater threat looming in season two does not feel like a chore. Most welcome is the fact that my good buddy and showrunner Jon Favreau does not feel the need to end every single episode with a damn cliffhanger.
The Mandalorian is truly a breath of fresh air for a weary Star Wars afficionado. It’s worth the price of a subscription to Disney Plus, at least for as long as it takes to watch all the episodes. This is the possibility of a brighter, more engaging future for this universe…so check it out.
This Is The Way.