Samuel Brace on The Mandalorian and what it might signify for the future of Star Wars…
Star Wars in 2018 has found itself existing in a strange old state of affairs. Of course, the die-hards, those enamoured with this world, with these characters, and the entire saga until this point, most of these people have been unperturbed by recent events. But with a few stumbles here and there, a few mistakes by Lucasfilm in terms of schedule, output, and really, one misguided casino scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the narrative around this biggest of brands has somewhat changed, especially if you live your life on the internet, as so many seem to do. If you get your takes, your news, and, ultimately, your opinions from Twitter, Star Wars will seem to have descended into catastrophe, it will have been travestied in a way the prequels couldn’t even manage, and you will likely have gathered the impression that Star Wars has reached its nadir. This is all, of course, nonsense. Solo: A Star Wars Story was certainly poorly timed and marketed, but the film itself was really rather good. Further, there is now a massive break until the release of Star Wars: Episode IX in December 2019, Lucasfilm/Disney seems to have understood where mistakes have been made and have come out and declared that things will be slowing down quite considerably – a smart move indeed.
For its surely rather obvious to those thinking clearly about things that we don’t need two blockbuster movies at the cinema each and every year. Hell, we don’t even need one. It seems to me that a biannual release schedule will more than suffice, allowing excitement to build and speculation to mount. As they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder. After all, it’s not like there will be a dearth of Star Wars content in the interim if such an approach were to be taken. Lucasfilm has the avid Star Wars fan more than covered with myriad books, comics, cartoons, and now – the catalyst for today’s conversation – live action TV shows, helping to keep audiences satiated. And this really is the perfect mixture. Star Wars fans, both hardcore and casual, can look forward to big blockbuster events every couple of years at the cinema and in the meantime, those inclined can explore the smaller stories, the more offbeat adventures, and lore building hijinks, via quality content that is there to be consumed for those who just can’t get enough.
But back to our catalyst. The reason why I am writing these words today is the excitement and tangible optimism present surrounding the news regarding The Mandalorian – Jon Favreau’s live-action TV series coming to Disney’s streaming service. The title release and synopsis gave fans an idea what this tale will be about, letting them know that they can look forward to a tale following a “lone gunfighter”, a Mandalorian in the galaxy’s outer reaches after the fall of the Empire. And then they dropped an image of the main character the following day, an image that truly triggered people’s imaginations, depicting our fully armoured Mandalorian, standing tall against a desert town background. To say the reaction to all of this has been positive would be to put it lightly. Star Wars fans love them some Mandalorians, a passion first birthed by Boba Fett in the Original Trilogy and most recently explored in Lucasfilm’s animated offerings. But to know that a $100 million live-action show will be the avenue for our closest and most in-depth look yet? And that the show’s main character will look like this (if the image is representative of the finished product)? Well, this has certainly been cause for celebration.
Of course, we would be remiss if we did not also mention the announced list of directors for the show. Just some of the filmmakers revealed to be helming episodes in the series include fan-favourite and animated maestro Dave Filoni and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, with these talents being two of the truly exciting names so far announced. This only adds fuel to the fire of fan excitement now building exponentially around this curious series. I think it’s fair to say that The Mandalorian has potential to spare. Will it be great? Well, of course, knowing the answer to such a quesiton would require divine foresight unavailable to us mere mortals, but the show certainly has all the ingredients necessary to achieve success. However, this early news surrounding The Mandalorian doesn’t just signal a bright future for the show itself. Not at all. I believe it to also be a harbinger of great things to come for Star Wars as a whole. Allow me to explain.
From what we’ve so far seen and know about The Mandalorian, it seems like, in another life, it could very well have been one of Star Wars’ anthology movies, if that cinematic venture hadn’t come to a sad halt with the financial disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story. So the fact that The Mandalorian is now coming to us as via a streaming service and as a multipart series no less, is exciting indeed. For this quite possibly could be a testing ground for bringing similar high-quality material to the platform in the future. If The Mandalorian is a hit, we very well could see ‘Star Wars Story’ type content rejigged and repackaged for Disney’s streaming service, bringing those smaller, less ‘important’, one-off stories to a place where they no longer have to worry about box office numbers and the pressure that comes with a theatrical release. What an exciting notion that would be. As films like Solo, while perhaps not being Star Wars international blockbuster material, certainly have a place in the world, so perhaps that place could be alongside the likes of The Mandalorian. Perhaps we could indeed see the Solo story continue here, as a mini-series? That seems like a pretty good idea to me.
Fans wanting and hoping to see more of Maul, Qi’ra, and other characters old and new who might not hold the fate of the galaxy in their hands per say, but still have fun, exciting, and interesting Star Wars stories to tell, could now have a platform to consume such tales, away from the casuals who just don’t care enough, or require that two-year break previously discussed. I believe this truly could be the best of both worlds. And that’s not all. If The Mandalorian was to find success, this will also help such stories on this platform attract the industry’s biggest talents – not like it’s having a hard time anyway – but showing actors like Donald Glover and talents of his calibre not yet connected to Star Wars, that content like The Mandalorian is possible and that the streaming service is as viable as say Netflix, will allow Lucasfilm to recruit more of the very best, and truly spread its wings and invest in some wonderful, high budget content to entertain fans.
Of course, first and foremost, the potential for The Mandalorian is good for The Mandalorian. Depending on the actual quality of the show and appeal of its main character, one can easily see – thanks to fan’s love of nearly anyone wearing the iconic armour – this individual becoming a true fan favourite among the Star Wars faithful. Not only will they enjoy watching his adventures in this particular series (perhaps seeing it continued in future seasons), but potential also exists to see this character’s backstory explored in other mediums. If we assume this character is in their 30s/40s, for example, and that the show perhaps takes place a handful of years after the Return of the Jedi, this leads one to wonder what he was up to in the preceding years. What other adventures was he a part of? Could we read about him as a child, in a novel perhaps, when the republic fell during Episode III? Could we see him learning his craft in the age of the Empire via a comic? If The Mandalorian works and captures the attention of Star Wars fans, all of these possibilities begin to manifest into reality. Surely Lucasfilm will at least be hoping for such a scenario.
While this is all speculation at this point, the truth of the matter is that The Mandalorian looks and sounds pretty darn cool. Once we have a cast list and then a teaser of some sort, we can begin to analyse things further still. But for now, this is great cause for optimism and I believe congruent with a tremendously positive future for Star Wars. To recapitulate the above ever so briefly: I believe it axiomatic that we don’t need a new film every year, as having those massive cinematic events in the distance is something to look forward to with great felicity. If we then have premium content like The Mandalorian (hopefully) to enjoy in the meantime, supplementing the comics, books, and animated shows for those who enjoy that sort of thing, well, the balance will be more than ideal, and Star Wars fans will be in a truly healthy place. I’m a cynic by nature but in this, I find myself more than optimistic. Here’s to optimism. It feels pretty good.