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What the critics are saying about Disney+’s ‘The Mandalorian’

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Pedro Pascal as the ever-helmeted Mandalorian.
Pedro Pascal as the ever-helmeted Mandalorian.

Image: Disney+

The Mandalorian, the latest addition (so far this year) to the Star Wars franchise, came from out of left field: a live-action series, fronted by an unnamed, not-yet introduced character, set to debut on Disney+. Centering the series around an unfamiliar character meant that showrunners Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni were wading into uncharted territory, while simultaneously tasking themselves with living up to the franchise’s larger-than-life legacy.

The Mandalorian, starring Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, and Werner Herzog, follows the life and times of a bounty hunter as he patrols outer galaxies in the Star Wars universe. The series’ premiere episode debuted on Tuesday, November 12 alongside Disney+’s general launch.

The reviews are in and critics seemed to have reached a consensus that a fresh take on the franchise released through a new medium is compelling and an interesting next move for Star Wars. 

With regard to The Mandalorian’s execution of the small-screen format, Mashable’s Chris Taylor cautioned that viewers “go into The Mandalorian merely expecting the first chunk of a roughly six-hour film,” but a “Star Wars movie” nonetheless. 

The character of the Mandalorian, and his story, is vague

Kelly Lawler, USA Today

Crafted around a protagonist designed to be obscure (he never removes his helmet, and even his voice is modulated into bland evenness), there’s little in the way of an emotional connection in the first episode… Mandalorian” captures the aesthetics of the “Star Wars” universe without understanding its heart…. Despite taking place in a universe millions of fans are acquainted with, “Mandalorian” doesn’t spend enough time explaining its own world. Attempts to establish a time and place are clunky. 

Sean Keane, CNET

Since these are unfamiliar characters, we can’t feel certain that anyone (beyond the Mando himself) will make it out. It’s pretty thrilling, since it never felt like Han Solo or Poe Dameron was going to get taken out with a random blaster bolt from some goon in the movies.

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

The Mandalorian is largely a blank slate; he’s mostly silent, always masked, but very good at what he does: hunting down and sometimes killing bail-jumpers and smugglers for money… Pedro Pascal’s Mandalorian is more of a quiet lone gunslinger in the vein of Clint Eastwood, speaking only when he needs to. There’s not a ton of depth… Pascal does good work, despite the restrictions of the masked role, playing the part with cool efficiency.

…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine 

The face of Disney+ is hidden inside a helmet — and the degree to which you can accept The Mandalorian’s thus-limited expressiveness may dictate your enjoyment of TV’s first live-action Star Wars series… Ultimately… your level of engagement may ride on how vested you can be in a character who will, reportedly, never remove his helmet…

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

The Mandalorian is off to a great start, and it’s perhaps the best proof yet that the Star Wars universe can lead to compelling content that isn’t packaged for kids or reliant on Luke Skywalker showing up… 

The Western influences are palpable

Sean Keane, CNET

Masterminded by Jon Favreau, the show smoothly introduces us to the dusty frontier worlds and shadowy cantinas the Mandalorian inhabits. We get enough mentions of familiar Star Wars terms and worlds to feel comfortable, but the tone reminds us we’re in uncharted territory…. The Mandalorian gets into a bar fight straight off the bat, and appropriately for a Western-influenced story a major showdown is always in the cards.

Kelly Lawler, USA Today

The series is more of an intimate space Western than the grand space opera style of the films, leaning into the dusty streets of the unnamed planets the Mandalorian stalks and images of him bursting through mechanical doors whether or not they want to open for him. 

The episode is visually stunning

Laura Prudom, IGN

To bring the scope and scale of Star Wars to a live-action TV show and have it look this good is a major accomplishment… especially considering that the show makes refreshing use of practical effects rather than CGI where possible…. from the creature work (accomplished with CGI, makeup effects, and puppetry) to the set design, costumes, and locations – demands repeat viewing to try and catch all the little flourishes that are no doubt hidden in the background of every shot.

Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

The show looks fantastic; Disney clearly spared no expense. Everything from the CGI for the spaceships and blasters to the elaborate sets and costumes feels right at home with the giant blockbusters that have made up the franchise so far.

The twist ending — whatever it may be — is satisfying and points to the narrative potential of future episodes

Matt Webb Mitovich, TVLine 

The nature of the high-value target being sought by the Mandalorian — revealed in quiet but dramatic fashion at episode’s end, and not to be spoiled here — speaks to a larger Star Wars mythology and thus brings with it some questions we can only hope the series will touch upon.

 Sean Keane, CNET

…the episode introduces a pair of fascinating mysteries. One relates to the Mandalorian people, and the other to the Client’s bounty — the latter of which will make Star Wars fans’ jaws drop.

Kelly Lawler, USA Today

There is plenty of intrigue when it comes to “Star Wars” lore, and a slight twist ending sets up a story that could involve bigger ideas from the film series.

The premiere episode of The Mandalorian is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.

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