The Return of the Space Western

Riley Blanton welcomed Peggy Eisenhower, Christy Morris, Michael Morris, and Bryan Young to the Marriott (A601-602) for a discussion of the soon to launch live-action series The Mandalorian, which will be part of the Disney+ streaming service. The series, created by Jon Favreau, will be set after the fall of the galactic empire and before the rise of the First Order. While the panel couldn’t determine an exact location for the series, evidence from the trailer suggests Tattoine, which would represent a homecoming of sorts.

The Mandalorian is the man with no name who is, perhaps, a gun for hire. In the trailer he’s seen being offered a very dangerous and challenging job that, despite the size of the payment on the table, causes him to pause. The world in which he lives is a post-Imperial badland in which lawlessness reigns. As Chris Morris pointed out, this is a world in which allegiances will be in flux and a general lawlessness will dominate the landscape. There are still isolated remnants of Imperial units and structure trying to exert some degree of control. This too can be seen in The Mandalorian, but the focus of the series will be on the people on the outskirts of the main conflict. These are the folk Morris referred to as the “in betweeners.”

The world of The Mandalorian is a used universe. Everything looks worn, used, and dirty. Are the characters using worn Imperial equipment as members of the empire or simply folks who purchased (perhaps from Jawas) abandoned Imperial equipment? The panel didn’t know and the audience will have to wait until November to find out.

The model of the classic western film is fundamental to understanding the series and how it came to be. Series creator Jon Favreau argued that Star Wars begins as a space western. The cantina is the bar in the western town, replete with the dust-covered patrons, a barkeeper, and the obligatory shoot out. His desire is to tell the stories of the folks in the cantina and that will drive the series.

The Mandalorian is a serious character so for levity he has a sidekick in IG-11, an assassin droid easily mistaken by fans as IG-88. This raises the issue of known characters from the films and the “Legends” corpus in this series. The panel expects it to be limited, reserved for special moments. There was a great deal of discussion among the panel over who among the established characters might the audience see in the series. Young anticipates a possible tie-in to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and wonders if the job the Mandalorian is offered isn’t actually a search for Rey’s parents/family. That all remains to be seen but what fans can expect is a great deal of “Legends” material to make its way into the series because Favreau and Dave Filoni are fans of that material themselves.

With an 8-episode first season and a second season already in production, Disney is betting on The Mandalorian to serve as a key driver to the success of its new streaming service. This led then to the question of content and rating. The panel was asked about the level of mature content that will appear in the series. Young is already a bit concerned about some of what he’s seen and actually would like the producers to back off a bit. Eisenhauer brought the perspective of stock holder and parent to the discussion by pointing out that Disney will need to be very careful with the content if they are going to market the series to young children. She clearly felt it problematic for Disney to market the program to children under thirteen if there was going to be even moderate levels of violence, adult content etc. It’ll be interesting to see how Disney walks this particular tightrope.

With it’s many images paying homage to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and A Fist Full of Dollars, The Mandalorian clearly seeks to tap into that cultural fount. It is also tapping into the spirt, fabric, and fiber of the original Star Wars films, not just in terms of content but in production techniques as well. A new vessel will appear in the series called the Razorcrest. The original intent was to use CGI to create her digitally but Industrial Light and Magic artists thought it would be cool to build an actual model, in the tradition of the artists and craftsmen who built models for the original films, so a group of artists began meeting in a garage to create a model of the ship. It was so wonderfully done the decision was made to use models throughout and to film them the way the crew filmed the model ships in the original movies.

We’ll know all the details about The Mandalorian when it premieres this fall.

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