If “Star Wars” was a full-blown epic saga with three generations pivoting around the eternal Manichean confrontation between good and evil, then Disney have indeed chosen a notable genre shift for the flagship series of its recently launched streaming platform available in Spain from March 24. Because, regardless of the spaceships and an appearance from baby Yoda, “The Mandalorian” is a more orthodox western than what the deployment of special effects and parade of creatures we’ve come to expect from the franchise might suggest.
Let’s just do a recap. We have a lone hero masquerading as a bounty hunter in the far reaches of the galaxy, beyond the grasp of the Republic. We have mercenaries. We have shoot outs. We have canteens. We have arid landscapes. We have lawless places. And we have Pedro Pascal, in the leading role, openly stating that his character owes much to Clint Eastwood. Considering the relentlessness displayed throughout the eight episodes of this first season and the fact that fatherhood is one of the central themes, it’s by no means a stretch of the imagination to consider this Mandalorian an extragalactic cousin of the mythical William Munny from “Unforgiven”.
This is the most ambitious effort to date to extrapolate the universo of Star Wars to the small screen
The action takes place after the fall of the Empire and prior to the First Order re-imposing its dictatorial regime, but there’s not much politics and only a spattering of mysticism and spirituality. The series is pure survival in a world in decline, not so much because of the Dark Side, but because of worldly human evil. In this sense, the series might be linked to the nihilistic oppression of “Rogue One”, a spin-off that had become the only by-product of the saga capable of looking the original movies straight in the eye without having that neck-breaking tilt of a first-row cinemagoer.
Mind you, in spite of the genre shift, Disney has taken great care in ticking all the boxes on the checklist to ensure the transformation of “The Mandalorian” into a Star Wars story. There’s armchair mythology, amazing creatures, an android companion, references galore to the original movies, and even the characteristic scene-changing curtains. But there is one thing in the Spartan spirit that means it’s even closer to resembling something from the golden days of medium-sized budget fantasy movies, and that’s a positive trait. This series bears greater resemblance to the work of John Carpenter than that of George Lucas himself, just so we understand one another.
Will “The Mandalorian” become the foundation stone of the saga’s future once the original story has panned out?
In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that with Jon Favreau at the helm the series fulfils a primary function: serving as a pretext for adults to sign up for a channel that, a priori, is designed for children and teenagers. Is it suitable for younger audiences? Of course. But you won’t find Ewoks swarming around, nor an irritating Jar Jar Binks acting as the (alleged) comic counterpoint. Will “The Mandalorian” become the foundation stone of the saga’s future once the original story has panned out? That doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, it’s true that this is the most ambitious effort to date to extrapolate the universe to the small screen, but cinema is still the go-to place for creating major group events. Consumer habits may have changed, but the industry is still structured in such a way that cinema remains the great catalyst for audiovisual wonders.
One thing to bear in mind about this series is that our protagonist and little Yoda, known here as ‘The Child’, are the only characters featured in every episode. As such, the desire to weave a choral network that serves as a basis for a tale far superior to the one that unravels episode-by-episode is not discernible. However, the honesty of delivering what it promises, without pretensions but without excesses, means that this product might just have what it takes to become a cult classic. And that’s something we’ve yet to see whether the other Star Wars series Disney is currently preparing – much more faithful to the movies since it focuses on Obi Wan Kenobi – can achieve.