TV

The First Reviews For ‘The Mandalorian’ Are In And It’s A Mixed Bag

"Yeah it’s John Wick with hyperdrives and that’s fantastic."

Disney Star Wars The Mandalorian

Disney had a lot riding on The Mandalorian.

After all, the high budget series had to quell two worries. On one hand, it had to prove that audiences were not totally tired of Star Wars after the box office failure of Solo. On the other, it had to prove that the streaming market was big enough for Disney’s new service, Disney+, to make a splash in an increasingly crowded, content-saturated world.

Did it achieve either? So far, the jury’s kinda out.

This Is A Gift For Star Wars Die-Hards

Whether or not The Mandalorian will convert Star Wars neophytes to the cause is kinda beside the point — this thing is catnip for Star Wars fans. Megan Crouse of Den of Geek notes it is “crowded with cantinas and monster-plagued spaceports”.

In fact, when summing the first episode up, she ties it to the broader mythos of the franchise. “I found The Mandalorian to be a fun Star Wars adventure, with plenty of room to grow,” she writes.

In fact, all of the writers skirt around a spoiler-heavy character reveal that will be sure to get diehards of the franchise talking. Whatever criticisms writers might have, they don’t accuse the thing of not paying enough attention to Star Wars lore.

The Mandalorian Looks Damn Fine

It’s worth noting that none of the critics are saying that The Mandalorian is a total disaster, and even the harshest reviews admit that the show does have the occasional magical element going for it. For instance, in a roundly negative review, Chris E. Hayner of Gamespot concedes that the show has significant visual chops. “Favreau and his creative team have gone to great lengths to make this story feel like a Western set in space,” Hayner promises.

For her part, Emily Todd VanDerWerff reckons that the best thing the show has going for it is a sense of world-building.

“The snowy sweep of the planet where the first episode opens has a chilly, ass-end of the universe feel to it, and even when the action shifts to a location that might best be described as ‘Did they film these exteriors in Arizona?’ there are enough cool critters and interesting characters to compensate for yet another vaguely desert planet in a universe brimming with them,” VanDerWerff notes.

Elsewhere, Scott Mendelson of Forbes reckons that the show’s production values are “top shelf”, with particular praise being reserved for a late-episode shootout. “The money is on the screen,” he writes.

But if that sounds like faint praise, that’s because it is. Mendelson’s criticisms are many: he calls the cinematography flat, the dialogue “not that sharp”, and the plot meandering and boring. The late-in-the-game spoiler (that he takes great attempts not to reveal) doesn’t wow him for a minute, and mostly he spends his review wondering where the point of any of this lies.

At Worst, Its Thoroughly Pointless

That theme of pointlessness runs through all of the reviews.

VanDerWerff locates the problem in the characters, who she views as largely redundant. “They’re all — and I mean all — played by recognisable faces,” she writes. “And they’re all ciphers. The Mandalorian goes hard on creating an atmosphere and building its world, but it doesn’t seem particularly invested in fleshing out any of the characters who might exist in that world.”

Charles Bramesco of The Guardian agrees. For him, the biggest issue is the blankness of the lead character, played by a besuited Pedro Pascal who wears a mask made famous by original trilogy character Boba Fett.

“The character’s identity remains concealed and any link to the Fett lineage blessedly unremarked upon, but it does contribute to his overall impression as a nonentity,” Bramesco writes. “Even Casey Affleck’s performance from behind a linen sheet in A Ghost Story had more nuance and emotional conveyance than the blank non-stare of the Mandalorian’s mask.”

But maybe the worst crime the series commits is the way that it wastes Werner Herzog. Herzog, the acclaimed German director, is one of the most charismatic and important screen presences that we have. The idea that the show makes him pretty boring is the most damning indictment of the project at all.