There’s a scene in The Mandalorian when our titular anti-hero walks past a Kowakian monkey-lizard being spit-roasted as his compatriot watches in horror from the confines of a cage, knowing he’s next. We’re reminded that the Galaxy Far Far Away is a cruel and dangerous place, and the fun of a good Star Wars romp is following the small handful of people who manage to stay alive while everyone else is falling in endless pits, getting eaten by monsters and meeting all kinds of brutally hilarious deaths. Now every time I see that annoying Salacious Crumb cackle away in Return of the Jedi, it will make me smile. Another great thing about Star Wars is that it is constantly expanding self-reflexively, so that the new content — even the bad stuff — only enhances your enjoyment of the original.
There’s been talk of a live-action Star Wars for years, even before the Disney buy-out, and now the pilot for The Mandalorian has finally dropped on Disney+, with a slew of other series slated to follow. Now seems as good a time as any for Star Wars to stretch its legs on TV.
I don’t buy into this bullshit about a “Golden Age of Television.” Most people can’t afford HBO and are stuck watching Young Sheldon and NCIS. So in reality, TV has been on a downward spiral since Cheers and Magnum PI were cancelled. All this “prestige TV” really represents a return to the Serial Films of the pre-television era — the same stuff that inspired Star Wars in the first place. Everyone has observed that TV shows have become more movies and movie franchises are more like TV shows. Average the two out and you’ve got a return to the days of Republic Pictures.
That’s why Martin Scorsese’s argument that Marvel movies aren’t “cinema” is a bunch of bantha poodoo. Scorsese’s idea of cinema as art house is largely a construct of his “film school generation,” when a bunch of glassy-eyed NYU and USC graduates wandered the ruins of the studio system telling each other that Vertigo was better than Citizen Kane so they’d sound smart. Of course, by elevating film into an art form, those guys brought us some of the best movies of all time. But their run of 1970s art house classics is the exception to cinematic output, not the rule. The cinema has always been a place for kids to eat candy and watch guys swing around in capes and tights. The people trying to convince you Marvel flicks aren’t “real” movies are the same assholes telling single mothers working a double shift that McDonald’s isn’t “real” food. Maybe you’re right, but get off your high horse.
Okay back to The Mandalorian. Is the show any good? Of course. I know it’s popular to bash new Star Wars, but despite the Disney Corporation representing everything that will lead to the downfall of humanity, their Star Wars content has been pretty good, and The Mandalorian is probably the truest to the source material since Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series. That being said, the members of the press who were tweeting about experiencing tearful orgasms after watching a half-hour sizzle reel a couple weeks ago need to get a hold of themselves. It’s just a fucking TV show. It’s not going to “save” Star Wars because there’s nothing to save.
The glut of Star Wars content that has flooded the landscape since the buyout can be overwhelming, but it does offer some great variety, ensuring there is something for every type of fan. The kids have those boring Star Wars cartoons, the virtue-signalling “saga” films are fun for the whole family, and The Mandalorian is for us “serious” Star Wars fans — childless elder-millennials like me and nostalgic Gen X’rs talking about how “metal” it was when Darth Vader strangled all those guys in Rogue One.
Speaking of Gen X, they say Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau consulted Star Wars creator George Lucas on set, and if that’s true I think it’s a good sign for the rest of the series. One of the lost opportunities of the prequel trilogy is that Lucas didn’t collaborate on the story with younger writers of Favreau’s generation. Conversely, a major failing of Force Awakens is that JJ Abrams effectively shut Lucas out of the creative process. Star Wars has always been about generational torch-passing, with wizened mentors passing on the ways of the Force to their young apprentices. It’s why The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars, because young Lucas collaborated so well with his mentor Irvin Kershner.
I think The Mandalorian is poised to serve an important function in the Star Wars universe by filling out the gaps between the Original Trilogy and the current run of films. Set five years after the Battle of Endor, it takes place during a time period many Star Wars fans wanted the new films to cover. Maybe we’ll finally learn how the remnants of the Empire transformed into the First Order without having to read some dumbass book. Even if we don’t, the show looks cool, has a great cast and some badass action sequences. Will it usher in a “Golden Age” of Star Wars? Probably not, but it’s a worthy entry in the “Movie Serial Renaissance.”
My recommendation? Wait until the whole series is available, get a free trial and binge watch it. If you’re interested in this show, odds are you’ve already given enough money to Bob Iger. Watch a few hours of content on the House (of Mouse). Viva la Rebellion.