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Earlier this month, select members of the press were invited to Hollywood to get a special sneak peek at The Mandalorian, the new Star Wars show that will premiere with Disney+ on November 12. SYFY WIRE was on hand at the screening and took plenty of notes so that we can let you know what we saw and how we felt about it.
First, we were asked to not reveal any spoilers or major plot points in the footage we saw, but the only things that seemed like they could be considered plot spoilers consisted mainly of the footage shown at Star Wars Celebration and you can read our coverage of that here.
The thing that jumps out the most in watching the footage is the distinctive tone that Jon Favreau's how strikes. The action is balanced with humor, against the background of an old western. Every step the Mandalorian takes, you can literally hear the shake of spurs, though his costume appears to be absent of any actual spurs. Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter himself seems to be a masked synthesis of Toshiro Mifune and Clint Eastwood; every move is deliberate and he speaks very little. Neither did he ever remove his helmet in any of the footage we were shown.
I would be surprised if he removes his helmet through the entire run of the series.
The balance between action and comedy was perfect for us, but those who like grim and gritty with no whiff of humor might not find what they’re looking for in The Mandalorian. Between pervasive references to the Star Wars Holiday Special and the innate hilarity of the titular character getting battered and bruised in fight after fight, the tone is as much comedy as anything else. The Mandalorian seems to be the best at what he does, but he still seems to get his ass kicked a lot.
The best interactions we saw were when the Mandalorian captures a bounty. The interplay between the bounty hunter and his prey kept a smile on our faces the entire time. The physical gags, the toilet humor (seriously), and the repartee were top notch and are going to keep people laughing through the series.
It is still very much an action-based story with very real stakes, even though those stakes still feel very nebulous based on the footage screened. At this point, we got the impression that something larger was at play, but we don't know what yet. He's a bounty hunter, so it should be no surprise that money is our protagonist's main motivation. And the Mandalorian seems to need money badly; it really is a tough time for the seedier parts of the Star Wars galaxy in the early days of the New Republic.
The action sequences in The Mandalorian are staged flawlessly. At least some of those we saw were staged by Dave Filoni; his ability to craft a sequence as stunning was well-known in the world of animation, but it’s really great to see that his skills have translated to easily to live-action.
There were two major fight sequences shown (amidst a lot of other bits and bobs) and both were pretty spectacular. The first was the bar fight we’ve seen glimpses of in the trailer. A pair of uglies, including the biggest Quarren we’ve ever seen, are hassling a fledgling Mithoril (this may or may not be the correct spelling). The Mandalorian enters the bar and picks a fight without saying a word and disassembles anything that gets in his way and it’s a thing of beauty. It hearkens back to the sort of fights that were so cool that they put a smile on our faces in movies like A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo.
Naturally, the highlight of the sequence is the Mandalorian slicing the Quarren in two with the help of the irising bar door, as we saw in the trailer. It’s even better in its full glory. Naturally, the scene is bloodless and they cut away at just the right moments during the violence, but never does it feel like they’re pulling a punch.
The other most thrilling action sequence they showed saw the Mandalorian face off against a giant creature that reminded us very much of the Reek from the arena battle in Attack of the Clones. In fact, the whole sequence evoked the same thrill (and with many of the same moves) as the face-off between Jango Fett and the Reek in the arena. It also has hints and flourishes from the fight between Jango and Obi-Wan Kenobi in that same film. It was refreshing to see that the Mandalorian was fallible and flawed and could get in over his head with a fight, even against a creature like that. Better than that, I was happy to see that there would be no prequel fans left out in the cold with this series.
The show is just cool. It exudes cool.
I was worried that it would be a one-note show that really hammered on one specific feeling that would play on the nostalgia to make us all feel like 13-year-old Boba Fett fans again, but there’s depth and meaning here that makes this a winner.
It was curious, however, that none of the footage shown featured IG-11 (Taika Waititi) or Cara Dune (Gina Carano). Greef Carga (Carl Weathers) got some screen time, as did Werner Herzog’s unnamed Imperial, but the rest of the supporting cast was nowhere to be seen.
Except Nick Nolte.
We did get treated to just a glimpse of Nolte’s ugnaught character, Kuil. He wasn’t in much footage, but the impression I got from his character seemed to be a mix of the tavern keeper from Yojimbo and Takashi Shimura’s Kambei Shimada from Seven Samurai.
It’s going to be a lot of fun to see him in more of the show and to see how he fits in the overall picture.
Other than brief asides and a streamlined version of the Celebration tease, the new footage showed really favored action more than anything related to the story. They told us to shy away from spoilers in our coverage, but there didn’t really seem to be any new details we could spoil.
Overall, the show looks fantastic. It has the right blend of nostalgia for every era of Star Wars, a tone that speaks to the classic blend of western and samurai films that Star Wars does best, and a cast and crew that just loves this stuff.
Episodes of The Mandalorian will begin launching on November 12 with the activation of Disney+.