Disney Plus launched in the wee hours of Tuesday morning!
There were plenty of good reasons to sign up for the streaming service. In my case, they had me at "new Clone Wars episodes."
Those aren't out yet, of course. What is out is The Mandalorian, whose first episode went live at launch.
To say that the first episode was "good" does not do it justice.
Check out our review (and carefully crafted gifs) below and see if Disney's live-action Star Wars series sounds like a hit or miss.
We promise that we've only included minor spoilers.
It's a Space Western
Usually, that would be a critique, but Star Wars has always had strong Western vibes, though that has never been exclusive. Environments like the cantina at Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tattooine are basically saloons, and in his first scene, the titular Mandalorian might as well have pushed through a pair of saloon doors.
It FEELS like Star Wars
We'll talk about this more once we get into the gifs, but this show really feels like it's part of the broader Star Wars canon in a way that the Sequel films, for many fans, have not. The vibe here is definitely more Rorgue One, and that's exactly how it should be.
Aliens are back!
Anyone else notice how there are almost no new Alien roles in the Sequel films? (Holdo should have been a Theelin; fight me, Rian Johnson) Well that last slide showed a Quarren, a classic Star Wars species who share a homeworld, Mon Cala, with Admiral Akbar's species. And then there's this dude, an Alien with an extended speaking role.
Yes, there are monsters
A huge part of Star Wars has been the existence of terrestrial perils unrelated to evil generals or Sith Lords or whatever the heck a Ren is. From "Sand People" to wampas to giant worms that live in asteroids, sometimes planets just have monsters on them. The Mandalorian knows this and we wouldn't have it any other way.
It's a BEAUTIFUL show
This particular beast looks like a blend of a walrus and a hippopotamus, and we learn that it's attracted to the spaceport area because ships dump their gray cargo -- that is, their organic waste -- which attracts a whole food chain of critters. Also, it just looks great. Shows need good budgets to be viable, and we're glad that this show delivers.
The Mandalorian isn't all action
The titular character has some serious childhood traumas -- including an apparent aversion to droids, but one that is not absolute. He also has tremendous respect for Mandalorian culture and traditions, many of which were nearly lost when the Empire (at first, the Republic) invaded Mandalore to oppose Maul's faction of Death Watch. It was many years before his people were free again.
By the way
The show is called The Mandalorian. It is not about Boba Fett, who is not a Mandalorian and is also not alive. Note that Jango Fett was also not a Mandalorian.
His ship is kind of terrible, and that's good
Some Star Wars characters have sleek, state-of-the-art, straight-off-the-production line personal shuttles. The ship that takes you around in the upcoming Jedi: Fallen Order video game is a used luxury yacht. None of that really fits The Mandalorian's vibe, and his ship is exactly the practical ship for one that you'd expect. You want a fancy ship, make a show about a Chiss secret agent.
That's not an exclamation of frustration, that's the name of the species of mounts that The Mandalorian and a helpful Ugnaught use to traverse some especially difficult terrain. Blurrgh's are an established part of Star Wars canon, most notably used on Ryloth by Twi'lek resistance fighters. They kind of look like a piranha crossed with a T-Rex.
The cinematography is gorgeous
Look, I'm no expert on filmmaking. I can tell you if something's good or bad but I can't name the different types of camera shots or the directors who famously first used them. But it's a lot of fun to watch something as simple as traveling from different angles. We would expect no less from this first episode's director, Dave Filoni.
It's all very ... Star Wars
Part of Star Wars is always, always a fusion of technology with the mundane. Look at how advanced a lightsaber is, when it's really just a very exciting sword. Similarly, this guy flew to this planet in an interstellar spaceship but now must tame and ride an ornery carnivore to his destination. Star Wars never does things halfway.
IG-11 is a treasure
He's voiced by Taika Waititi, but you wouldn't know that just by listening to him. IG-11 is a type of droid that has appeared in Clone Wars and elsewhere. Some bounty hunters are just droids who work solo. Some even use the money that they make to improve themselves. Good to remember that even the most rudimentary droids in Star Wars, even the ones designed for menial labor or to explode, are self-aware, sentient, and capable of suffering.
He's a little too eager to die
Endearingly, IG-11 keeps engaging a self-destruct countdown, because his manufacturor has programmed him to do so to avoid capture. This sounds like it's someone trying to preserve their manufacturing patent and it's a great detail as way as a great dose of comedy in a tense situation.
He's also very effective
The Mandalorian is a skilled shooter, but IG-11 seems to wrack up a higher body count. He's not The Mandalorian's droid -- they just run into each other and agree to work together for the time being.
SLIGHT spoiler ...
The moment that you see the assembled baddies roll out this cannon, you know that The Mandalorian's going to seize it in order to even the odds (and then some) against the enemies. And it's beautiful to watch.
The action is exciting
I'll confess -- as a Force-enthusiast, I wasn't sure what I was going to think of this series, given how none of the main characters shown in the pilot or teasers appear to be, say, aspiring Sith Lords or anything like that. But this show kept me on my toes. I straight-up forgot to eat my breakfast while watching the first episode.
Framing, also known as "ring composition," is when you structure the end of your story to superficially resemble the beginning. It's a great storytelling technique. At the beginning and at the end of the pilot, the titular character storms into a room through a door. Obviously, the second time, he has a new friend.
No big spoilers
We're not going to tell you what the bounty he's seeking was, for example. We will say that IG-11's suggestion was probably right (why are you booing me? I'm right). We'll also say that while there were very few speaking roles in this pilot, we look forward to hearing women speak in future episodes. Sometimes that's just how the pilot works out, but it would be great to see this show, at the bare minimum, pass the Bechdel Test.