“Star Wars” needs a win right now.
What was once considered to be an invincible franchise — hell, it even survived the prequel trilogy — “Star Wars” has found itself in some trouble lately. The divisiveness of Episode VIII, “The Last Jedi,” the box office failure of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and the franchise’s apparent inability to keep a director on board any of its projects has unexpectedly left “Star Wars” in opposition with many of its own die-hard fans.
Putting the behind-the-scenes drama of Lucasfilm aside, there’s only one thing that could potentially save this once unsinkable ship: quality content.
While the ninth and final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, “The Rise of Skywalker,” opens in December, fans of the franchise and subscribers to Disney+ have another new “Star Wars” story to explore in the meantime. No, it’s not a movie, but rather a live-action television series titled “The Mandalorian.”
The pilot for “The Mandalorian” premiered with the launch of Disney+ on Tuesday, Nov. 12, and new episodes will be made available weekly on Fridays moving forward. The first season will consist of eight episodes, and the filming for the second season has already begun.
If the rest of this first season of “The Mandalorian” maintains the same quality of its pilot, then it could potentially be the win this franchise needs.
The show is set in the outer reaches of the galaxy far, far away, and it takes place following the fall of the Empire at the end of Episode VI, “The Return of the Jedi.” It centers around an unnamed Mandalorian — the same species as Boba Fett from the original trilogy — bounty hunter, played by Pedro Pascal, as he struggles to make a living in the lawless space that exists as a result of the Empire’s destruction.
The showrunner for “The Mandalorian” is “Iron Man” and “The Jungle Book” director Jon Favreau, who recruited a number of talented filmmakers to helm these eight episodes. The pilot is directed by Dave Filoni, who was the showrunner for the acclaimed animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.” Filoni also directed the upcoming fifth episode of this season, while directors such as Rick Fumayiwa, Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard and Deborah Chow directed the rest.
This first episode strikes a dark tone for the show, similar to the tone found in 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” but “The Mandalorian” has more of an edge to it. It’s dreary, and it doesn’t pull any punches in its depiction of this bounty hunter tracking down fools to earn a quick buck (or a quick credit, I suppose).
Despite this intense and violent atmosphere, there’s a bit of unanticipated humor found in “The Mandalorian” as well. This primarily comes from two characters. One is a lonely hermit alien named Kuill, played by Nick Nolte, who ends most sentences by saying “I have spoken.” The other is a somewhat clueless assassin droid named IG-11, brought to life through motion capture by Taika Waititi, who seems a little too eager to self-destruct in the face of danger.
So far, “The Mandalorian” appears to be the most Western story that “Star Wars” has told yet. The show feels like a space-Western, somewhat along the lines of what the television show “Firefly” was back in the day. The big difference between the two shows, however, is how “The Mandalorian” chooses to follow a more enigmatic main character than the swashbuckling Malcom Reynolds in “Firefly.”
There is a sense of mystery that lies over this whole episode. This mysteriousness primarily stems from the anonymity of the show’s lead character, who never removes his helmet. It also seeps its way into the cinematography, lighting and musical score brilliantly composed by Ludwig Göransson. The score occasionally brings back the adventurous trumpets and strings that are synonymous with John Williams’ classic “Star Wars” theme, but Göransson wasn’t afraid to deviate from that in some extreme ways. He makes use of various synthesizers and electronic sounds, while also exploring flutes and acoustic instruments that would often be found in the classic Western scores of Ennio Morricone.
“The Mandalorian” captures the same adventurous and entertaining atmosphere that made the original “Star Wars” trilogy iconic, while also injecting a freshness into the brand that will hopefully keep it afloat.
This pilot ends in a very intriguing and unexpected way, which could lay the groundwork for a completely original and exciting “Star Wars” story. If the rest of the seven episodes of this season can continue and build upon the great work done in the pilot, then I believe “Star Wars” fans are potentially in for the best “Star Wars” tale since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012.