By Chic DiCiccio
Imagine a Venn diagram of “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid Fans” and “Star Wars Fans.” The section that intersects would read “The Mandalorian Fans.” There is a moment in the first episode of Disney+’s highly anticipated series “The Mandalorian” that flat out copies the penultimate scene of that beloved western. Of course, it replaces Newman and Redford with an armored bounty hunter and a robot, but after all, this is a “Star Wars” show.
In just 40 minutes, “Chapter 1” of “The Mandalorian” is more entertaining, fun and interesting than anything released in the “Star Wars” world since “Rogue One.” It is a nostalgic smorgasbord that feels fresh and new without simply copying a formula that worked so well in the initial film series.
Creator Jon Favreau has really hit the jackpot here and this show alone makes the $6.99/month Disney+ subscription price a bargain.
The series smartly drops you in this world without any explanation and slowly divulges where we are in the most famous far away galaxy. The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a bounty hunter who says little and shows his face even less.
While he picks up a slick-talking, bail-skipping blue alien, we learn that this story takes place after the Empire has fallen in “Return of the Jedi” and the galaxy is in a state of flux.
The Mandalorian’s guild leader, Greef Carga (Carl Weathers), gives him another bounty to track down, but this one is different, extremely secret and highly rewarding. This takes The Mandalorian to The Client (Werner Herzog), who surrounds himself with bodyguards decked out in old, weathered Stormtrooper armor.
That’s about all you need to know to get going, but try not to be alarmed when a very cool alien speaks, and Nick Nolte’s voice comes out.
Disney+ didn’t need this show to sell subscriptions to its newly launched streaming service. Every property that the media giant owns is available to be seen in about three clicks, and that alone makes it worth trying out. But this show isn’t like some of the fringe “Star Wars” material. Even if you are a casual fan, it’s cool enough to jump in on from the start.
The key here is that Favreau has created a world that is devoid of The Force or a Skywalker, but still drops enough Easter eggs in to keep diehards salivating. It is wholly original while being familiar. It also benefits from not being overblown by green screen camera shots or special effects. It looks and feels as if it’s based in a real world, which lessens the fantasy angle and ups the stakes for the characters.
Pascal also seems to be the perfect choice in the titular role. He says little, but the combination of his dialogue and camera shots still translates into drama and intrigue without seeing his face.
Also, if you can’t get behind Werner Herzog saying things like “bounty hunting” and “parsecs” then you may just stick to network TV.
This may seem like a Disney+ commercial, but if you pay for the service during the run of “The Mandalorian,” it’s just going to run you about $60. It sounds like a lot, but that’s six movie tickets (or less these days), and “Chapter 1” alone makes that worth it.
And if you don’t like it, just cancel! Or keep it and watch every Pixar/Disney/Marvel/Star Wars movie ever made.