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12/30/2019 10:03:03 •••

The Mandalorian is a fine space opera samurai western

The Mandalorian, from writer and showrunner Jon Favreau and Lucas acolyte Dave Filoni, is probably the best expression of Star Wars roots since the original movie.

The Mandalorian is a Space Western or Space Samurai series, particularly calling back to Sergio Leone or John Ford's Westerns, and Akira Kurosawa's Samurai films as well as the Japanese manga and movie series, Lone Wolf and Cub.

The Mandalorian can be enjoyed as a bite sized serial adventure, like the old Republic thrillers. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it is nice to get the entertainment and fanservice without a lot of ponderous angst, ala Anakin Skywalker, or emo posturing and dysfunctional family drama, ala Kylo Ren.

On a more meta level, all the easter eggs and fan-servicy elements add very much to the world building. Filoni has been adept at welding different and sometimes disharmonious elements of Star Wars canons old and new and his episodes are filled with callbacks and possible call-forwards.

The writing, primarily by showrunner Jon Favreau, is funny and economical. "I have spoken."

The special effects are great, as good as the best in the 3rd movie trilogy. The integration of puppets, cgi, and live action is seamless.

The acting is something special, with talented character actors such as Gina Carano and Amy Sedaris having fun and giving scintillating performances. The music by Black Panther composer Ludwig Göransson, is evocative and catchy. Like the show itself, the score lacks the ponderous self-seriousness of the mainline movie sequels.

How do people experience Star Wars? They make it their own, through playing with toys in the sandbox, roleplaying, live action roleplay, online games, original art, tribute videos.

Favreau and Filoni use "How people experience Star Wars" in several ways.

Many of the episodes contain a "monster of the week" and a setpiece battle with space mooks like two kids might set up in a sandbox with their toys.

Mando and Child are walking along in the desert when, suddenly, two Trandoshans jump from above!

Mando has to retrieve an egg from a Giant, Wooly, egglaying? Space Rhino!

Mando is surrounded and under fire from the Bounty Hunters Guild when, suddenly, rocketing down from above, Mandalorians!

The Mandalorian works on the level of a stand-alone procedural "monster of the week" show which doesn't require any special knowledge of Star Wars lore to appreciate. The Mandalorian also includes a longer-term serial exposition of the permanent escort mission the Mando is assigned to protect and teach his small green stepson.

Production values are great, acting ranges from good to Werner Herzog (which is excellent).

This review covers The Mandalorian season 1, episodes 1-8, and was updated after the release of Star Wars Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker.

Review updated December 29, 2019, to cover full first season.

12/30/2019 00:00:00

I like your analogy of kids playing with toys in a sandbox. Very apt.

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