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'The Mandalorian' flies 'Star Wars' to new heights

by Mason Kupiainen When it was announced that Disney was going to revive the Star Wars movies, I was excited about the potential of going beyond the Skywalkers and seeing new stories and characters. The previous movies and television shows focused on Skywalkers and other stories connected to the Skywalkers story, rather than introducing new characters. We’ve seen new stories and characters introduced to Star Wars in the books, comics, and games, but I was looking forward to a live-action format. After Disney and Lucasfilms announced they were going to continue the episodic movies while also making spin-off movies gave me great hope for the future of Star Wars. However, after seeing the two spin-off movies hope had been all but lost. Before I continue, I do like the Rogue One and Solo movies. That said, I was frustrated that Lucasfilms decided to stay within the tight box that the Star Wars films and television shows have built for themselves. The Star Wars universe is filled with countless characters and stories to tell. For Lucasfilms to make a spin-off movie (that no one was really asking for) with one of their most popular characters and a movie directly connected to A New Hope was disappointing as a Star Wars fan. With the release of The Mandalorian, my faith in the Star Wars universe has been restored. 

A surprising lead character

Image from IMDb
One of my favorite Star Wars characters has always been Boba Fett. He was set up as an intriguing and cool character but also one of the most mysterious. We never really knew anything about him until the prequels came out and shed some light on his back story—yet there was still mystery surrounding him and the Mandalorians. There have been books and comics made about Boba Fett and Mandalorians, but we’ve never gotten to see much about them in a live-action format. That is where the show shines. There is still plenty of mystery and unanswered questions about Mandalorians, but this show has given us insight into their lives.    The Mandalorian does a marvelous job of creating a terrific main character that is able to win the audience over and show emotion, all without seeing the title character’s face. For many actors, this could be a very difficult performance. The main character always has his helmet on, as is the way of Mandalorians, but Pedro Pascal is still able to showcase the character's thoughts and feelings with his actions, gestures, and dialogue. How the story is set up and flows helps the audience to learn about the character as we follow him on his journey. As we meet new characters and watch the main character get into certain situations, we learn about the character's past and who he is through these interactions. 

An original story set in the Star Wars universe

Something this show does that we don’t see much in the movies is an expanded Star Wars universe. Audiences get to jump around to other planets and places in the galaxy and meet new characters while seeing a new side of the Star Wars universe we haven’t learned too much about. The series shows the underbelly of the universe, showcasing the criminal and scum side that was barely touched on in Solo. Throughout the show, we see a little glimpse into this world. It isn’t until episode 6 titled “The Prisoner” where we get to see this side of Star Wars fully explored. The episode follows the Mandalorian teaming up with a group of bounty hunters in order to try to release a convict from prison. The episode did a terrific job at exploring somethings in Star Wars we’ve never seen before, like a prison ship, while showing how Mandalorians and bounty hunters conduct business.  The series shows the universe through the eyes of a bounty hunter and doesn't focus on Jedis or lightsabers, giving audiences a breath of fresh air. Another selling point of The Mandalorian is that it isn’t tied in with the episodic movies or has the Skywalkers involved. This helps the show to feel separate from the movies while still keeping the audience tied to the Star Wars universe by throwing in connecting tissues to the movies. We see Stormtroopers, X-wings, and of course, the child (baby Yoda) that keeps viewers attached to the universe without being connected to the movies.   

The unstoppable tide of Baby Yoda

Image from IMDb
You can’t talk about this show without mentioning the child, or, as fans have come to call him, baby Yoda. This character was definitely an adorable and fascinating addition to the series. He’s fascinating because we know very little about Yoda’s species and having this character in the series makes for a great excuse to dive right into this character. The inclusion of the character has also helped the series become more well know. You can’t go anywhere on social media without seeing a baby Yoda meme. For many people, baby Yoda has become the stand out in the series, but the character doesn’t get in the way of the story and the Mandalorian. He’s used as a great driving force for the story without feeling like he was just thrown into the series just so Disney could sell toys. 

Brilliant use of practical effects 

The baby Yoda character was brought to life with a mixture of practical effects and CGI. Baby Yoda’s creation through practical effects made him feel even more real. If you look at the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy today, the original trilogy still feels and looks more real because of the use of practical effects. The prequel trilogy suffered because of the overuse of CGI. Yoda in the original trilogy looks real, even though it was actually a puppet, as opposed to Yoda in the prequel trilogy where he looks totally unrealistic.
Image from IMDb
There were plenty of times throughout the eight-episode season where practical effects were used. Personally, I felt that practical effects were used more than CGI. The best usage of practical effects comes from the creature's designs and sets. All of the sets looked as if they were shot on location and not on a sound stage somewhere in Hollywood. The creatures and alien costumes also looked great and realistic. One of the best usages of pracitcal effects and costumes came from episode 2 titled “The Child.” In the episode, the Mandalorian encounters a group of Jawa’s that scaage his ship for parts. In order to get the parts back from his ship, he has to kill a creature and bring back its egg back to the Jawas. The episode had a great mix of practical effects and CGI that blended well together to make an episode that felt real. Considering this is a television series and not a big-budget, live-action movie, they used their few resources to the fullest, making the show on par with the movies. There was never a moment when the show felt cheap. All of the character designs and special effects worked wonderfully.

Episodes that slow down the story

Although the first season of The Mandalorian was great, there were a few problems. Several times in the season it felt like they were trying to stretch the story to fill the eight-episode season. Most notably, episodes five and six didn’t feel like they had any impact on the series as a whole. They were still good episodes that helped flesh out the Star Wars universe, but if felt like they brought the pacing to a grinding halt. There are many shows that have suffered from having filler episodes—episodes in a series that are used distinctly to fill the runtime of that series that don’t have any impact on the series as a whole. We typically don’t see that happen much in a show that will have ten or less episodes in a series. In episodes five and six, the story feels like it is slowing down in order to keep the show going for longer. On the flip side, these less-than-stellar episodes didn’t take away from this show being great as a whole.
Images: IMDb Featured Image: IMDb