Although The Mandalorian hasn't even completed its first season on Disney+, it's already being praised by both critics and audiences as one of the most notable entries in the Star Wars franchise for its ability to recapture the magic that longtime fans experienced while watching George Lucas' original trilogy. However, The Mandalorian is not just as good as that trilogy --some might argue the series is better than the films Lucas produced.
If you think that's a bold statement to make, you're right. There's no doubt Lucas has accomplished a lot as a filmmaker. With Star Wars, not only did he break through the limits of visual effects, he created a lasting franchise that continues to entertain and inspire. That said, when it came to dialogue and its uses in a cinematic feature, screenwriting was simply not Lucas' forte.
The legendary filmmaker himself has admitted as much multiple times in the past. If you need any proof, look no further than the prequel trilogy, much of which is filled to the brim with exposition surrounding the complex politics of the galaxy or even the emotional states of the films' characters. We aren't just talking about the intricacies of trade disputes being the focus of the opening crawl in The Phantom Menace, although that does seem to highlight Lucas' problems with exposition as a whole. We're focusing on dialogue.
Look at Attack of the Clones, for example. One of the most common complaints audiences had was the clunky dialogue that polluted Anakin and Padmé's romantic subplot. The film bombarded audiences with scene after scene of both characters spilling their heartache and conflicted feelings onto everyone around them in the most melodramatic way possible, culminating in one of the most awkward scenes in the entire saga, in which Anakin professes to Padmé that, "You are in my very soul, tormenting me," which sounds more like the words of an awkward, angst-filled teen than an arguably disciplined Jedi in training, or any actual human being for that matter.
Even the original trilogy, with all its charm, was at times littered with ultimately needless expository dialogue, hidden behind the talents of its cast. It was clear that Lucas had already mapped out this new sci-fi world and was too eager to fill the audience in on all the minutiae long before it would be relevant. This was particularly apparent in scenes such as the meeting on the Death Star in A New Hope, which was almost entirely constructed from descriptions of a world that audiences would see later on and bore no real relevance to the individual film's plot.
There are a lot of things about the bygone era of the Star Wars franchise that fans will always love. Underneath the clumsier aspects of the original and prequel trilogies lies a beautiful blend of sci-fi and fantasy that clearly still has the power to captivate new audiences, all of whom are willing to overlook Lucas' narrative faults simply because of how wondrous the central ideas are. That is exactly where Jon Favreau's The Mandalorian is able to outdo the trilogies that shaped it.
In the few episodes that have been released, the star character has uttered just a few brief lines. He's a cold, calculating killer wandering the galaxy in search of his next bounty, all seemingly done so he can earn all the pieces of his Beskar armor. However, hidden beneath the metallic helmet and stoic demeanor is a grief-stricken heart. Without a single word directed toward those qualities, the first two episodes of The Mandalorian are able to convey all of that about its main character.
Favreau and his team instead illustrate almost all of those qualities through action alone. We see the bounty hunter freeze his captive in carbonite without hesitation, we see him disintegrate almost half a dozen Jawas, but between it all, we also see him care for and defend a seemingly helpless baby. There are so many different sides to the Mandalorian and none of it is ever awkwardly pointed out in needless dialogue. That extends to the current state of the galaxy in the series, with regard to the shattered Empire.
At this point, you might be wondering about the sequel trilogy. Many might argue that it too utilizes classic elements of the old Star Wars franchise without all of the verbal fumblings.
That's true... to a point.
The films of the sequel trilogy, though aided in part by classic Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan, lack the same unified vision of Lucas' trilogies, which is what helped to make Star Wars special in the first place. Films such as The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Solo and Rogue One all build off of Lucas' world but attempt to introduce new styles and voices to the franchise. Some of them are able to do so elegantly, others try to shift the tone and texture of the franchise too dramatically and separate themselves from the franchise, either visually or tonally.
Still, on top of everything The Mandalorian accomplishes, the series is also able to perfectly capture the essentials of the original Star Wars trilogy, and not because half of it is set in one type of desert or another. There seems to be the same balance of intrigue and sardonic humor that fans have grown accustomed to in Lucas' work, only it's notably more refined. Simply put, the bounty hunter doesn't have to tell us if he hates sand -- we'll see it.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. The first two episodes are streaming now on Disney+.