Monday, November 18, 2019

The Mandalorian

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 12:56 PM

click to enlarge Under that fashionable armor is Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian bounty hunter.
  • Under that fashionable armor is Pedro Pascal as The Mandalorian bounty hunter.

Star Wars has always worn its influences on its sleeve. Its most direct influence was, of course, the cheap Flash Gordon matinee serials of the 1940s. But George Lucas was a fan of all kinds of movies, like the samurai epics of Akira Kurosawa, such as The Hidden Fortress, which gave its plot to A New Hope; and World War II air combat films such as Twelve O’Clock High and The Dam Busters, which Lucas plundered for the Death Star trench run. In the prequels, he expanded his palette ever further, mounting Ben Hur’s chariot race with rocket pods in The Phantom Menace and a sword-and-sandals gladiator match in Attack of the Clones.

Hovering in the background, as it does in most American action movies, was the Western. The famous double sunset shot from A New Hope is a copy of a single-sunset shot in The Searchers. Put a hat on Han Solo’s vest and gunbelt combo and he becomes a cowboy. Now, with the premiere of the first ever live action Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian, the Western aspects take the forefront.

The Mandalorian, created by Iron Man director Jon Favreau and a team which include The Clone Wars’ Dave Filoni, is set in Star Wars' equivalent of the frontier, the Outer Rim. The title character comes from the same warrior culture as Boba Fett, who apparently prize armor couture above all else. Pedro Pascal’s titular Mandalorian With No Name has yet to even take his helmet off, but he’s already hit a few choice Western tropes, like breaking a wild horse (in this case, a toothy biped lizard-thing), a rowdy bar fight that turns deadly, and a gatling-gun enhanced town square shootout. The details, such as the hero’s pitchfork-shaped energy weapon, which references the original Boba Fett cartoon from the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, put it in sci fi drag, but at its core, the show is basically Bounty Law from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
click to enlarge Werner Herzog as The Client.
  • Werner Herzog as The Client.
The House of Mouse has a lot riding on this Lucasfilm production, which is the flagship show for its new Disney+ streaming channel. It’s clear from the cinematic sweep of the pilot that no expense has been spared. Pascal is appropriately stoic, and he’s surrounded by colorful characters. Chief among them is the legend Werner Hertzog, whose appearance as a former Imperial official who offers a big money job to the Mandalorian is used to establish the post-Return of the Jedi setting. Taika Waititi appears in the pilot as the amusingly literal bounty droid IG-11, and Carl Weathers is our anti-hero’s agent. So far, the show’s biggest problem is its lack of a decent female character, which is unfortunately consistent with the Western blueprint.

The pilot ends with the revelation of the biggest Western trope of all: the worldly gunfighter seemingly finding his humanity when forced to travel with and protect a young innocent. It has proven quickly that it can deliver on the thrills front, but the jury’s still out as to whether Favreau and company can deliver depth.

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