With the launch of Disney+, what was once freely available has now been placed behind an obnoxious paywall. An article circulating this week promises some of the more raucous, racist content may become available, yet there is no mention of Song of the South. The article is usually accompanied by a screencap of laughing crows. I don’t understand the inference. When did we start hating on crows? If Disney could animate the impeachment inquiry hearings, but not in the new CGI-dominated style, rather the old-school Sleeping Beauty/Cinderella animation, I might plunk down for a subscription. Give Trump’s hair a personality, and make it dance with Adam Schiff’s creepy eyes on a tabletop with a singing pencil and a stack of post-it notes that plays itself like an accordion! Disney needs to create the illusion of “new product,” thus we’re given The Mandalorian; a Star Wars story, or a Star Wars series.
The way The Mandalorian is marketed, I’m sure Lucas wasn’t sent a screener. He’s a billionaire! Let him buy the streaming service. $6.99 a month for the basic service and $12.99 for the “bundle.” What’s a bundle? I have images in my head of Homer Simpson freaking out when, in an alternate time-line, Marge asks him, “Donut? What’s a donut?” I have to wonder if those involved in the series will be forced to watch it with commercials, or do they get some kind of “gold card” service? The Mandalorian takes into consideration every science fiction product that came before, most notably Firefly, a show I never much cared for, but I do understand has an active (and rabid) fan following because the show wasn’t on long enough to suck. It’s a Force Awakens universe. The dust and grime is back with a vengeance. Though visually, the show’s palette resembles Rogue One, the action is post-Jedi.
The Empire has been defeated. The second Death Star has been destroyed, and right now, Han and Leia are making a baby (or babies). That’s what I assume, anyway. The focus of this $15 million per episode show is an anti-hero whose face we cannot see because it is obscured by a Boba Fett helmet. The reason for the helmet is obvious. Whatever he is under all that armor will never live up to either our imagination or our expectation of him. For example, I picture a Dirty Harry-era Clint Eastwood; a steely-eyed gaze, a five o’clock shadow. Just a complete bad-ass. He picks up his latest quarry in a bar on the wrong side of town, freezes him and brings him to Carl Weathers who provides payment. Going through the dossier of potential scofflaws, the Mandalorian (he has no name, you see) bemoans the promised fees until Weathers brings up a very lucrative account. He has no information, but he sends the Mandalorian to Werner Herzog, who also has no information except that the quarry in question is 50 years old, extremely hard to capture, and needs to be brought back alive. That’s all we know.
As a down payment, Herzog gives the Mandalorian a bar of something called Beskar steel, which is apparently very rare and valuable. The Mandalorian takes the Beskar steel to a fellow Mandalorian who melts it down like a chocolate bar and shapes it into a piece of shoulder armor for his kick-ass outfit. The Mandalorian arrives on Arvala-7 and is taken in by a kindly Ugnaught moisture farmer who not only shows him where the quarry is being kept, but trains him to ride a Blurgg (just think of them as big, fat, temperamental horses). He comes across a fellow bounty hunter, resembling IG-88 from The Empire Strikes Back. They agree to work together to vanquish the soldiers guarding the compound, but when the IG unit tries to kill the quarry, the Mandalorian shoots him.
This all seems a little too easy, and the paint-by-numbers plotting reminds me of video games. You have to get here, get through here, kill these guys, and find your prize! Except there are no coins or mushrooms to collect. Surprisingly, the visual effects lack finesse. They look incomplete in segments, and the 8K rendering assures a murky, shallow presentation. This series is the color of a week-old pot roast. The “handheld” look of the CGI makes me feel queasy. Pieces of alien dialogue have been recycled from previous Star Wars movies, and there’s very little in the way of originality except that it attempts to do something different, like Rogue One, with the structure (now tired formula) of a Star Wars story.
When we finally get the reveal of the wanted individual, it is rather silly, but (and this is important) it does tease us with the possibility of learning more about this very special of species. The only other mystery is the Mandalorian himself. There is some talk of legends and myths about Mandalorians, but everybody is being so deadly serious and uncommunicative throughout this first episode, we may get through an entire season still wallowing in ignorance. I was under the impression (because of Jon Favreau’s involvement) there would be humor. My hope for the show is that it will tell stand-alone stories and not rely too heavily on soap opera story-arcs.