The world of Star Wars is a vast one, where the content around it still cannot contain the canon. And amongst this never-ending lore, it now has a fractured and torn audience — bickering is met with praise, and criticism with defence. This lack of consensus has now become the accepted norm for Star Wars content, quite visibly in the sequel trilogy. A franchise that once drove the cultural zeitgeist is now victim to its volatile temperament. Maybe the damage is irrevocably done and their future work will be met with some caution. So, I wondered what it was about The Mandalorian that united this hostile spectatorship… until I watched it.
The brainchild of creator and writer Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian is a Star Wars spin-off series that delves into the life of Mando, a bounty hunter, played by the reserved Pedro Pascal. Initially on a job to abduct a 50-year-old Baby Yoda, Mando ends up swashbuckling through different planets with a shock trooper (Gina Carano) to protect the abducted baby, assuming the role of a surrogate father. Favreau approaches George Lucas’ domain with maturity and care — the story is no-frills and straightforward, never marred by the overpowering universe that surrounds it. And I believe that is precisely how The Mandalorian distinguishes itself from the Star Wars tonality — instead of being constantly engulfed in the larger politics of this world, the world we are shown is anchored only by its characters.
One Of The Franchise’s Most Realistic Works
If there’s something that Star Wars isn’t, it’s being realistic. It is mythical on a scientific scale, and there are metaphysical forces balancing their cosmos — all far from our perceived reality. And this show doesn’t necessarily subvert that. You still have a baby, size of a stuffed toy, channel the Force to lift a bull-like creature to protect its guardian. The Star Wars tradition is overall intact — jumping into lightspeed, the AI-like droids, and obviously the wacky, alien creatures.
This series, however, creates a very real world, almost tangibly real. We see farmers trying to survive, the forging of armour, and workings of a garage for ships. Favreau magnifies a world so massive that when we immerse in it, it appears like a reflection of our own reality. And that is what long-form content offers that films cannot, there is enough time to meditate on the day-to-day businesses, time that two-hours-long films just can’t shell out.
Favreau and Lucas, both, have attributed a lot of the series’ action to Westerns, inspired by Sam Peckinpah. And as several action sequences from The Mandalorian borrow the John Wayne-style manoeuvring, the show takes a more grounded approach when it comes to action choreography. The fighting is concentrated to the ground and the space chase sequences are kept at a minimum. Neither those sequences nor the arsenal the characters use are excessive, they’re simply a load of blasters, guns and heavy artillery — Favreau Western-ised most of the elaborate sci-fi battles, essentially toning down the action fantasy that we are used to seeing in Star Wars. And yet, they remain just as majestic and captivating.
Beyond The Good Vs Evil Dichotomy
The light side and the dark side of the Force have now become measurements of good and evil in the Star Wars gospel. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says, “Anger, fear, aggression… the dark side of the Force are they, easily they flow,” and contrasts that with, “When you are calm; at peace, passive,” to explain the light side. The philosophy of the movies, though, aren’t as binary like the Jedi and Sith — they study the dichotomy and their borders, such as Anakin Skywalker’s rites of passage into the dark side, into becoming Darth Vader. But instead, The Mandalorian operates in a greyer, more unexplored territory, not really following the spiritual footsteps of the Skywalker saga.
Mando begins as a cold and hefty bounty hunter, willing to forego any form of sympathy to earn some credits. He freezes his targets and openly causes collateral damage, all for material gain. But as he protects, feeds and even coddles Baby Yoda, his stoic demeanour shrinks. He shields his targets, gets sentimental about the very droid he shot, and weighs his own morality. The show operates around his moral transition — from a ruthless murderer to a guardian. And in this greyness lies the baby, too — his innocuous cuteness is questioned when he uses the Force to strangle Mando’s friend. The Mandalorian is not too concerned about the divine morality of the Force. Rather, it wrestles with the conscience of those who otherwise would seem either amoral or virtuous.
The Mandalorian is available to stream on Disney+ Hotstar.