Sunday 1 November 2020

Thank the Force for The Mandalorian

Chapter 9, directed with taut economy by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), connects to the franchise's storied history with a fidelity that blurs the margins between television and silver screen. What follows are spoilers for the sophomore season premiere on Disney+.

You have been warned. Look out! Tusken Raiders...

How can series showrunner Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni (Star Wars Rebels) follow the Emmy-winning first series of the franchise's live-action spin-off on Disney+? As it turns out, by leaning further into its storied past and keeping to an elegant format lifted from the pages of classic Marvel Star Wars Weekly with Kenner toys upgraded by Epic Games' Unreal Engine.

The Marshal begins with the titular Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) taking The Child AKA Baby Yoda to an illegal fighting match between Gamorrean Guards, which foreshadows the episode's direct link to Return of the Jedi. As an amusing aside. This scene reminded me of when I briefly switched from the BBC to ITV in the late seventies, drawn away from Doctor Who by brash US imports' Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Glen A. Larson's sci-fi series were preceded by wrestling matches between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. Suffice to say this didn't translate into becoming a lifelong wrestling fan.

I digress.

After this brief foray avoiding a trap sprung by Gor Koresh (John Leguizamo), Mando and Baby Yoda head to Tatooine, a planet synonymous with all things Star Wars. There they reunite with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and her hapless droids from The Phantom Menace before encountering the Marshal (Timothy Olyphant) adorned in Boba Fett's salvaged armour. At this point, I was in sci-fi heaven and wasn't ready for an ending that would equal the first reveal of Baby Yoda in Chapter 1. Olyphant plays a fantastic foil to Pascal's Mando and here's hoping this isn't the last time we'll see him play Cobb Vanth (a character introduced in Chuck Wendig's Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy).

Before they engage in a western shootout worthy of director Sergio Leone, a Krayt Dragon shows up in Mos Pelgo and the two are forced to work together and unite the town (Vanth had saved them from marauders following the destruction of the second Death Star and collapse of the Empire) with a band of Tusken Raiders. The dragon has to be stopped before more people die on both sides. The simplicity of the storytelling allows breathing room for organic nods to George Lucas' legacy resulting in much punching of the air - not unlike Tusken Raiders triumphantly wielding gaffi sticks - around these parts.

The dragon is dispatched by our band of brothers and Vanth hands Fett's armour to Mando. All well and good. As Mando and Baby Yoda head off across the dune sea on a speeder to continue their Jedi search, the aspect ratio widens as a mysterious figure is shown watching the fan-favourite duo from afar. Turning away, we see it's a battle-scarred Temuera Morrison. Boba Fett lives and he's going to want to reclaim his armour.

Some critics have noted the sparseness of the first-ever Star Wars live-action series, but I welcome its uncluttered aesthetic and focus on fringe characters populating the expanded universe. The cinematography is as expansive as anything on the big screen.

Favreau helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and has been heralded as the saviour of Star Wars by some fans. Personally, I loved The Rise of Skywalker. Sorry, not sorry. More Star Wars is always good in my book, especially during these troubling times.

This is the way.

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