When George Lucas wrote the first Star Wars movie about 40 years ago, he told a very simple story. Everyone from folklorists to theologians, and screenwriters to sociologists, have noted that it’s formulaic in the extreme. That’s not a criticism. The early films shine with colorful names, places, genre-blending, and fine details. Over the years, as more people have become involved, the Star Wars galaxy has become vast and complex. It has lost that charming simplicity.
Which brings us to The Mandalorian, an eight-part series on the Disney+ streaming service. Each short episode (all under an hour) is a simple story. In the opening scene, we’re introduced to The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal), sometimes called Mando, a nameless and faceless gunfighter doing what he does best: fighting, shooting, and capturing the mark with a price on its head. A follower of a creed, a Mandalorian allows no living creature ever see him without his face-covering helmet. Pascal does an admirable job behind the mask, creating empathy through his voice and body language in a way that helps us to forget that we can’t see him.
Carl Weathers, older now but still full of Apollo Creed charisma, plays Greef Karga, head of the bounty hunter’s guild and Mando’s primary supplier of contracts. A man known only as The Client (Werner Herzog) is offering a fortune to anyone able to bring him a 50-year-old male. As Mando closes in on his mark, he finds that he’s not the only one looking to collect. A droid called IG-11 (Taika Waititi) is his chief competition, and Mando hates droids.
The bounty is a tiny green creature, though at 50 he’s only as developed as a toddler and irresistibly cute. Officially called The Child, anyone who has been online recently has probably heard about Baby Yoda. And the Force, as they say, is very strong with this one.
Nearly everything mentioned above is covered in a frantic 39 minutes, and the biggest problem is that everything happens in a sugary rush. Our innate familiarity with the story actually works in the show’s favor as it’s simply variations on the same old tune.
While each episode feeds into a larger story, it never becomes so unmanageable that it ceases to be fun. Another advantage of The Mandalorian’s simplicity is that it doesn’t require a deep knowledge of the Star Wars universe, but instead draws influence from things we all know and love. Part Spaghetti Western, part Samurai film, mostly Star Wars, The Mandalorian is for anyone who loves great storytelling. (Disney +)