The Mandalorian 2019 *****

mandoEven if they’re still open, UK cinemas will be screening the first episode of The Mandalorian to empty auditoriums; events have overtaken the four-month wait to see the new Star Wars tv show from the Disney+ channel. A world forced to seek entertainment indoors is likely to lap up Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni’s riff on familiar characters and settings, not least because it feels like the first Star Wars sequel not slavishly following in the dull Skywalker mythology of force ghosts and soppy soap-opera revelations, but kicks-ass in the world of bounty-hunters; if there was a cinema in the Mos Eisley spaceport, it would be showing The Mandalorian to a gaggle of rough customers.

In general, this blog hasn’t considered individual episodes for review, but we’ll make an exception here; the first blast of The Mandalorian gets everything right. Tonally, we’re borrowing from the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s as a bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) completes a violent mission and returns to his sponsors, firstly Greef Karga (Rocky’s Carl Weathers) and then The Client, played by the inimitable Werner Herzog. Herzog claims he’d never seen a Star Wars film, and it would be nice to imagine that he’ll think the whole saga is as terse, imaginative and gripping as it is here. Manga Lone Wolf and Cub seems to have been the inspiration, but Favreau’s show is very much in a groove of its own.

The Mandalorian heads off, after a bit of self-repair, on a mission, running foul of a farmer (voiced by Nick Nolte) and a droid with self-destructive tendencies (Taika Waititi); both of these interactions are genuinely funny, and built nicely to an action climax that reveals, in a moment of quasi-Biblical grace, that the child he seeks is baby Yoda, at the tender age of just 50. And so, with just one episode under our belt, we’ve got an empathetic hero, a mission laced with intrigue, and a whole lot of momentum moving forward; it really doesn’t look so hard to make a satisfying Star Wars story on the basis of The Mandalorian.

This is the Star Wars that fans have been waiting for since 1978; making good on all the promises the franchise has previously ignored. The US has already gorged itself on the Baby Yoda meme, but The Mandalorian is the kind of fresh, must-see tv that will successfully launch a new channel worldwide, and finally bring balance to the force after four decades.

From March 23 in the UK, see http://www.disney.co.uk/