Movies & TV / Columns

The Mandalorian Disney+ Preview Event Report

October 29, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
D23 Expo 2019 - The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau, Pedro Pascal

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free report based on a screening of early footage for The Mandalorian that was shown at a press junket/launch event for Disney+.

Recently, 411mania had the chance to attend a Disney+ Launch Junket event for The Mandalorian. The new, upcoming series marks the first live-action, episodic Star Wars series in the history of history. Before a press conference featuring the cast and crew, Disney+ provided an early look at select footage for the film at The London Theater.

The footage that was shown was not for a complete episode. It was a number of sequences that looked like a group of scenes that looked like they will be scenes from the first episode. Later scenes looked to be selected from later episodes in the eight-episode freshman season. Season 2 is already well under way.

After seeing the first reel of footage for The Mandalorian at Celebration, I was totally blown away by what I saw earlier in the year. The new footage that was provided by Disney+ did not disappoint me either. I say with complete and utter candor that this is the Star Wars show that everyone has been waiting for. Full disclosure, I do not dislike the Sequel Trilogy. I thought The Force Awakens was a great film. But I’ve never been more excited about anything to come out of the Star Wars franchise in years than The Mandalorian. This is the type of show I dreamed about watching when I was a kid. Showrunner and series writer Jon Favreau and his talented team of directors, including Dave Filoni, have made it a reality.

Considering Disney+ is marketing itself as a family platform, The Mandalorian gets surprisingly dark and adult. It’s more evocative of the material of the Original Trilogy than anything that’s come out of the franchise in a while, especially, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. You can tell watching the footage that Jon Favreau is a kid who first discovered the original trilogy when he was young and became obsessed with it.

But more than that, The Mandalorian doesn’t just mix an aesthetic and style of the Original Trilogy, it also caters to fans of ye olde Expanded Universe, circa the 1990s, and yes, even the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. The Mandalorian is like a mix of the Original Trilogy, Expanded Universe and yes, there’s a dash of the Holiday Special in there. Additionally, the show is very well aware of the classic spaghetti westerns and samurai films that inspired the original Star Wars and plays to that style.

This show is Star Wars, but it’s a completely new set of characters. The locations are all new. It’s a great expansion and universe-building story for the franchise. Pedro Pascal spearheads the action as the show’s enigmatic lead, known only as The Mandalorian. I credit Favreau and Pascal for what they’ve created with this character. Pascal’s Mando is buried underneath an opaque helmet and armor, yet his performance still comes through impressively well. This is an understated character where Pascal does a lot with very little with simple moves of his hands, his posture and tilts with his helmet.

Carl Weathers looks fantastic so far as Greef Karga, the head of a bounty hunter guild who works with Mando. Weathers has this cool, grizzled charisma. He has no problem selling this material. No offense to George Lucas, but Weathers exhibits the type of natural acting and performance that the prequels were sorely missing. It’s the main reason why I generally prefer the more recent movies. It doesn’t look like the actors are trying to “act” and doing so badly. But Weathers easily fits into this role and sells it. Werner Herzog’s role equally elevates this show even more. Herzog is such a unique presence, and he’s got an unparalleled gravitas for days. Herzog, Pascal and Weathers easily look like they will be the standout performers in The Mandalorian.

A friend of mine, Nuke the Fridge’s Luis Lecca, made a good observation after the screening, mentioning that this is Star Wars with a “TV pace,” which I definitely agree with. That said, the production values look incredible for a TV product. Ultimately, I believe many fans were let down by The Defenders, Iron Fist, and later seasons of Daredevil for Marvel Studios because those shows didn’t really step their game up in terms of vision, scope, production values and visuals. The Mandalorian looks like it was able to overcome those issues to deliver a large-scale, blockbuster series to TV.

After audiences have been catered to with Game of Thrones for years, cutting corners with cheap, small-scale TV productions is not going to cut it anymore. For The Mandalorian, Lucasfilm didn’t skimp on not only CG visuals, but sets, locations, action set-pieces, costumes, props, and animatronics. This does not look like Star Wars on a budget. It looks like feature-level, epically scaled Star Wars. Once the show launches, audiences will understand why. The eye candy is there, but it’s not overdone on CG and visuals similar to the prequels, which was another element that massively hurt those films. The CG is more there to enhance the series and does not overshadow it. Based on the early footage screening, it looks like there will be an impressive amount of practical set, action, stunt and creature work.

Star Wars has been mired in controversy and online discussion as of late. Unsurprisingly, The Last Jedi was a very polarizing film that a lot of fans took issue with. Others are taking issue with Disney’s handling of the franchise. Oddly enough, it’s as if these fans have forgotten the issues that came up with the prequel trilogy or are quick to forget or dismiss them entirely.

All conjecture, discussion and debate aside, no matter how fans feel about Star Wars and the Sequel Trilogy, there’s a good chance there will be something from Lucasfilm and Disney in the near future that fans will find agreeable. There’s The Mandalorian on Disney+ in November. February 2020 sees the return of The Clone Wars. There’s a KS2O and Cassian Andor spinoff in the works, and a new Obi-Wan Kenobi series that will see Ewan McGregor return to the role for the first time in years. Evens fans who have rejected the new trilogy, if there’s nothing at all to like in The Mandalorian, a show that definitely caters to the older set of Star Wars fans, Star Wars just might not be the show for them anymore. If that’s the case, maybe Star Wars is best left behind to search for a new series or franchise to enjoy.

I said something after checking out the Disney+ panel and The Mandalorian trailer at D23 2019 that I believe bears repeating here, “Begun the Streaming War has.”