Mixed reviews for 'Star Wars' spin-off series 'The Mandalorian'

Ben Arnold
Contributor
The Mandalorian (Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Despite some early technical issues, Disney launched its ambitious new streaming platform Disney+ yesterday, and with it came its flagship show, the Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian.

Helmed by Iron Man and The Lion King director Jon Favreau, it's become perhaps the most hotly-anticipated chapter in the Star Wars series, with an intriguing cast and premise – taking on the shadowy world of the bounty hunter.

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Early footage shown to a handful of critics last month garnered high praise, however, Disney elected not to organise widespread press screenings ahead of the first episode premiere, citing concerns over 'spoilers'.

But now critics have seen the first episode, the reviews are in... and they are, at best, mixed.

(Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

Though it's being judged on a single episode so far – and by streaming series standards these days, a short one at barely 40 minutes long – there's not much in the way of all-out celebration.

Look and feel-wise, it appears to have hit the spot, with fan service easter eggs everywhere you look, but so far critics are finding it hard to love, not least because our hero – played by the impossibly handsome Pedro Pascal – is masked throughout.

Notes Vanity Fair: “Without a backstory or facial expressions, how do you build an audience rapport with a character? In the pilot, The Mandalorian has one idea: General space-Western badassery.

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“If you love watching a bunch of armored space soldiers shooting at each other with blasters, you’ll have nothing to complain about. But — sans history, motivation, or facial expressions — it rings a bit hollow, lacking the achingly human element of the Star Wars universe.”

Adds Screencrush: “He’s just a cool dude doing cool things. The Mandalorian will surely be fleshed out over the season ahead. But when you compare the depth of this guy to the kinds of complex, layered protagonists we’ve gotten used to on cable and streaming TV, he kind of stumbles coming out of the blocks.”

In a two-star review in The Guardian, it's been dubbed 'a dusty disappointment'.

(Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm)

“Favreau sets his latest effort apart by assuming the cinematic language of the spaghetti western, a genre that looks and feels sufficiently different from what’s come before. But while the series’ pilot episode achieves a certain distinctness, it lacks in distinction; it is its own thing, and yet not much of anything,” they write.

Vox was similarly unimpressed.

“The Mandalorian, Disney+’s big-ticket original series, set in the Star Wars universe, isn’t bad,” it writes. “It also isn’t good. It’s not much of anything, truth be told. It’s a brand extension, a flag planted in a new corner of a Star Wars universe that feels a lot like old corners of the Star Wars universe.

“The Mandalorian is perfectly fine entertainment. But it’s also fundamentally empty entertainment and not a great harbinger for many Disney+ original programs to come.”

The LA Times calls it ‘long on impressive special effects and alien shootouts, and short on a fresh story line beyond the usual unwitting hero with a mysterious family tree’, likening it to ‘a trip to Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge without the long lines and screaming children’. 

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But not all were discouraged.

Births. Movies. Death. added: “Clearly, there is a lot we don’t yet know about The Mandalorian, but I am in. I like Star Wars, I love Westerns, the creature work is great, and it offers us a look at the weirder corners of the Star Wars universe. Furthermore, it’s refreshingly simple. This is more Bosch than Westworld.”

Esquire also enjoyed the work between Pascal and droid bounty hunter IG-11.

“The dynamic of these two is fantastic, with IG bringing out some much needed humanity from the Mandalorian, as the droid continuously attempts to self-destruct. Here's to seeing more of these two going forward,” it writes.

IGN liked it too: “While it's still early days for The Mandalorian (and episodes 2 and 3 will be far more tangible proof of concept than the premiere) there's certainly enough potential in this character to guide us to previously unexplored corners of the galaxy for years to come, and that's a thrilling prospect.”

Thanks to an intriguing twist at the end of episode one, most critics seem open to giving the series further inspection as Disney releases the show week by week (the second arrives this Friday), but these early signs seem to suggest it has much work to do.

And for us in the UK, we'll have to wait until March 2020 to see it, when Disney+ arrives in the UK.